How to Increase Product Velocity

A guide to shipping products faster than your competitors.

On a misty Saturday morning in Vienna in October 2019, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya ran 26.2 miles in a once-inconceivable time of 1 hour 59 minutes 40 seconds, unofficially breaking the world record.

I know what you’re thinking: what can product development teams learn from marathon runners? Turns out — a lot. You don’t just get up and run a sub 2h marathon. You design your life around it. You put in the work. You lean on coaching. You surround yourself with the best. The same is true for competing in the business world.

In today’s startup environment, speed is everything. It’s not just about building things faster, it’s about decreasing the cycle time of learning and reducing the cost of being wrong. With the right focus, training, and support, teams can accomplish incredible things in short periods of time — like the moon landing (134 days) or the production of COVID vaccines (300 days).

Simply put, having the best product is not a competitive advantage. Everything can, and will, be bested. Having the best product development velocity and culture is what it’s all about.

In this article, we’ll explore the core learnings of elite marathon runners that can be applied to product development. Here’s how we’ll break it down:

  1. Acquire Raw Talent

1- Acquire Raw Talent

“It starts with you. It’s no other person.” — Kipchoge

The single most important ingredient in peak performance is the people: the raw talent, potential, and mindset. Simply put, if you don’t have the right people, nothing else matters.

It’s no surprise that some of the best runners come from Kenya — a mix of higher altitude training, lower body mass index, strong mental fortitude, and a culture of running. While we are all born to run, some of us were born to run faster.

  1. Set a high bar for talent as a core value. This requires investment and patience. You need to start with an exceptional founding team and be picky with every single hire.

The best want to work with the best — so this will become easier and have massive dividends over time.

2- Commit to Huge Goals

“Don’t make excuses. When you have decided to do something, do it. No excuses.” — Kipchoge

Marathons are quite simple. 26.2 miles. Kipchoge’s goal: complete in under 2h. The distance and the time are completely arbitrary — but large and clear. And yet, once the human mind fixates on a goal, the rest becomes irrelevant. Nothing is more powerful than clear, motivating goals to power high performance.

  1. Energize your team. When you believe in the impact of your work, you will work smarter and faster. Make each individual understand how their effort contributes to the company’s success and therefore their success. If you can’t, it likely means the work is not important — cut it out.

You run a marathon by running 1 mile, 26.2 times. Don’t overcomplicate things.

3- Set the Pace as a Team

“You cannot train alone and expect a faster time. 100% of myself is nothing compared to 1% of the whole team.” — Kipchoge

Shipping software is hard because it takes a team. You need research, product requirements, designs, back end systems, front end experiences, infrastructure, testing, product marketing, legal and compliance, data and analytics, operations, etc. Keeping these teams informed, aligned, and in lock step is as challenging as it is essential.

  1. Define your pace and pacemaker. In every race, there is a pacemaker — an individual who is setting the pace for the rest of the group to follow. Being a pacemaker is tiring and provides leverage for the rest of the team who can simply follow. Assign pacemaker duties to the most driven and organized individual on the team —their role does not matter.

To achieve peak performance, you need to separate reporting structure from team structure.

4- Stay Hydrated

“To win is not important. To be successful is not even important. How to plan and prepare is crucial.” — Kipchoge

The number one rule in training is don’t get injured. To avoid doing so, you need to build your way up to peak performance and keep a pulse on how your engine is performing. There are many facets to this:

  1. Know yourself to avoid burn out. It starts with you: understand when you are at your best and design systems around this. Take care of yourself: your mental and physical state. Identify areas of weakness or opportunity and define training plans to build strength in these areas.

5- Put in the Work

“This is a really simple deal: work hard.” — Kipchoge

There is no secret to outperforming teams — they simply work harder. Once you have the right people, the right goals, and the right team structure, you need to simply execute. To do so, you need to relentlessly focus on doing the work.

  1. Reward impact, not politics. This is much simpler to state than implement — but it’s worth stating nonetheless. If your performance reviews reward the wrong behavior, your team will behave poorly. Incentivize contribution above all else. Avoid busy work and face time at all costs.

Ask yourself what you can do today, and get it done. It’s that simple.

6- Love What You Do

“When you smile and you’re happy, you can trigger the mind to not feel your legs.” — Kipchoge

As Kipchoge said: No Human is Limited. Yet, we are still all human. The greatest runners are the greatest because of their love for running. Loving what you do is not only important because we spend much of lives working — it makes you better at what you choose to do.

  1. Train managers to be coaches. Instead of telling your directs what to do, give them the tools, context, and skills they need to succeed. Coaches are on the sideline — observing, giving feedback, and tweaking the team. They invest in developing their people. The execution is up to the players.

Instead of telling your directs what to do, give them the tools, context, and skills they need to succeed.

At Ramp, we have a value called “Win the Marathon, Sprint by Sprint”. It means that we focus relentlessly on our near term goals, without losing sight of the finish line far away. In under 18 months, we’ve built the most powerful and loved spend management platform on the market — outcompeting large competitors with a fraction of the team.

Here were some of lessons I learned along the journey. I hope they help you with yours, wherever the road takes you.

Special thanks to Nidhi, Michael, and Samay



I enjoy building products that try to make the world more equal. Head of Product @Ramp.

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Geoff Charles

I enjoy building products that try to make the world more equal. Head of Product @Ramp.