Fireside Chat with Heatseeker’s New Chief Product Officer, Rutger Coolen

Neya Abdi
June 21, 2024
min read
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“High-tech enterprises, like Meta and Apple and Google and anyone of that caliber are building their own experimentation infrastructure. But everyone else isn’t. Everyone else is going to be using Heatseeker.”

After spending 8 years at Atlassian, where he participated in the software company’s rapid growth, Rutger Coolen is returning to his startup roots as Heatseeker’s new Chief Product Officer. He sat down to answer some questions about why he joined Heatseeker, his vision for the product, and what famous product he would’ve loved to help develop.  

Answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Why did you decide to come work at Heatseeker?

I need a problem that I’m really passionate about and that’s what I love about Heatseeker. We want every team to understand what their customers want, before they build it, so they can build the right thing. We want every product team to succeed. That is a super powerful mission, with the potential to impact every company in the world – and all their customers.

What makes this problem – testing what customers want before building it – interesting to you?

I’m a product person and I have experienced this problem myself for over 15 years. Running growth experiments always required expertise from across the company and was time-consuming. But now with generative AI we’re building a product that makes growth hacking and market insights so much easier and faster that anyone can use it.  

The scale of the problem is exciting too. We’re solving a problem that can help every product and service company in the world. High-tech enterprises, like Meta and Apple and Google and anyone of that caliber are building their own experimentation infrastructure. But everyone else isn’t.  Everyone else is going to be using Heatseeker.

Why do you believe the market needs Heatseeker right now?  

During my time at Atlassian, I saw the evolution of agile. It took two decades for nearly every company to embrace agile. And lean principles are next, just ten years behind agile. A lot of the successful startups that came out of Silicon Valley have used lean methods, but what about the rest of the world? We believe the market is ready now to embrace lean product development broadly, and Heatseeker will enable that.  

Plus, generative AI enables us to do get market insights in a much faster and better way. And now – with the rapid improvements in AI – is the right time to build AI-first products.  

What’s your vision for Heatseeker?  

When many startups start, they get a few people together – an engineer, a designer, and so on. Then they start building a product. There's a lot of focus on the products and then a lot of these teams have the challenge of doing customer discovery, getting out there and finding their customer. At Heatseeker, it’s been done the other way around. Kate and Fi [Heatseeker co-founders] are awesome at customer discovery and getting people in and testing and doing exactly the kind of growth experiments that we’re turning into a product with Heatseeker.

What I’m excited about is to turn all these customer learnings into an amazing SaaS platform where customers run experiment after experiment, because they get so much value from it.  

The other thing I’m super excited about is making the AI better and better. We want customers to be amazed by how easy it is to run an experiment or how insightful the experiment results are.  

What is it from your heritage at Atlassian that you’re interested in bringing to Heatseeker?

With PMs at Atlassian coming from all the big tech companies, there was a lot of knowledge that was shared across the company in terms of best practices. Atlassian builds products for product developers, so they wrote the playbook on this, so to speak. I’m excited to be serving this same user group again and I’m also looking forward to supporting our teams by creating our own Heatseeker rituals and playbooks, so every team is listening more deeply to the voice of their users and making data-backed decisions.

Your official role at Heatseeker is Chief Product Officer. How do you define your personal leadership style?

I often refer to Drive by Daniel Pink. It's a great book on building high-performing teams through purpose, autonomy, and mastery. Mastery means bringing in the right talent, purpose comes from having a powerful mission and being close to customers, and autonomy is about creating the space for the team to excel. This has really shaped my leadership style. I focus on hiring the best team, crafting a strong strategy together, obsessing over customers, and ensuring clear goals and expectations so the team can do what they do best: build an awesome product.

What excites you the most about building new products?

To see customers using the product and achieving their goals. That shows in different ways. Sometimes, it's a customer interview where you hear a great story. Or it can be the numbers. Seeing that people adopt the product organically, start using it, and start subscribing because they get so much value.  

Product management is like being an inventor. You have a problem and then you work with a team to learn from customers and to build a new solution. I always thought when I was little that an inventor was someone who sits in their garage and builds some sort of machinery. Now I realize that all product teams are inventors. It was my childhood dream to be an inventor, and it took me years to realize that as a PM that’s what I am now.  

How have you used growth experiments in the past?

One of my favorite examples from my time at Atlassian is that we did all this customer discovery, built the prototypes, did these growth hacking experiments, and then we realized, “Oh, actually the thing we thought we needed to build, we don't need it.” Instead of spending months engineering something that's wrong to build, we spent nothing because we decided not to do it. One of the most powerful outcomes of Benefits Tests is finding benefits that are not as beneficial as you thought they would be. And then you can focus on the right thing instead of the wrong thing.  

If you could have helped develop any product in history, what would it be?

One of the most impactful inventions I've seen is the iPhone. We all know how that shaped the smartphone we all depend on now. The real game-changer wasn’t the phone itself, but the App Store and the SDK. These enabled millions of developers to build solutions for everything. Now every app that you need – it's there. I’d love to have been part of the team that enabled apps on the iPhone. The team that built the platform.  

Ultmately this is also our vision for Heatseeker. That it becomes a platform for market insights, and growth experiments. A platform where every business “heatseeks”, so they know what the market needs before they build it.

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Neya Abdi

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