A tale of two worlds: Alex Oliveira’s insights on startups and big companies

We recently had the privilege of welcoming a special guest to our company meeting: Alex Oliveira. As a Computer Science graduate from MIT, co-founder of a profitable startup, and a Senior Product Manager, he achieved impressive milestones in his career. We were thrilled to have him come and chat about his experiences and insights, and we wanted to share some of the key takeaways and highlights from the event. We’re very grateful for Alex’s willingness to come and talk with us, and we hope you enjoy reading about our experience!


Alex told us a little about his journey from studying Computer Science at MIT to launching a startup with a colleague. Initially, the startup aimed to share photos and videos with families but later pivoted to creating photo books. They developed a simple app that allowed users to create photo books directly from their phones and iteratively improved it based on user feedback. They also focused on optimizing the ads and achieved positive ROI, which led to increased distribution and success. After running the startup for six years, Alex wanted to have the experience and knowledge of working in a big tech company. They appointed a new CEO for the startup, and Alex left to work at Meta on the Growth team.

Small company vs. big company

Alex brought to the conversation the main differences between working in an early-stage startup and a larger company such as Meta. As we can imagine, each faces different problems based on size.

In a startup, the main problem can be finding product-market fit and iterating quickly, whereas, in a larger company, a significant issue is solving communication problems and getting everyone on the same page. Working in a larger company involves longer planning horizons, communicating with different teams, and working with different disciplines, such as Data Science and User Research.

Remote work

Alex started working at Meta right before the beginning of the Covid pandemic, so he got to see the shift to remote work and distributed teams. He told us how the company had to adapt quickly and the advantages and disadvantages of working remotely. He also talked about the importance of personal relationships and face-to-face interactions in the workplace and how virtual reality technology could be used to create shared spaces for remote workers to interact. While the technology may take some time to develop, it is possible and could be a valuable addition to remote work.

Team collaboration and goal alignment

On the subject of teams working together and integrating their efforts in a big company, Alex told us that the Product Manager plays a key role in understanding other teams’ actions, communicating objectives clearly, and aligning roadmaps for greater impact.

The team’s collaboration can happen in a top-down approach where leaders provide guidance and set overarching goals, and also in a bottoms-up approach where individual contributors identify opportunities and provide input.

Insights for startups

We wanted to know some insights about best practices for startups. Alex brought to us that not all practices from larger companies apply to startups. But there is great importance on long-term planning, effective communication of vision, and valuing experienced hires. A big challenge for founders is identifying their knowledge gaps and hiring accordingly as the startup grows.

User Testing and Innovation

Alex also discussed how large companies and startups approach user testing for disruptive technologies. He said large companies might struggle to change direction due to complex team relationships and may ignore potential opportunities. Startups, on the other hand, can iterate quickly through trial and error.

To wrap it up…

We briefly explored startup funding amidst economic uncertainty, as well as the culture within Silicon Valley. Sadly, we ran out of time and had to wrap it up.

Having Alex as our guest speaker was a fantastic experience. His insights into working in small and large companies provided valuable knowledge for everyone, which we can use in our professional and personal lives.

We appreciate his time and willingness to share his experiences, and we hope to continue learning from experts like him in the future.

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