CEOs of AI Products: Product Management at Applied Intuition

May 1, 2024
1 min read

Applied Intuition provides software for companies building safe and intelligent machines. That vision is simple, but executing on it requires answering complex questions:

  • What problems should we focus on? Autonomy development requires curating data, generating synthetic data, running simulations, validating systems, and more. And that’s “just” autonomy. Modern vehicles are increasingly software-first “iPhones on wheels.”
  • What technologies should we leverage? Modern software best practices are actively impacting vehicle development, and generative AI and other emerging technologies are now further transforming AV/ADAS, autonomy tooling, and in-vehicle experiences.
  • What should building and selling solutions look like? We need to engineer solutions for never-before-solved problems and figure out how to communicate novel business value.

The Product Manager’s (PM’s) job is to solve these problems. At Applied Intuition, we have a unique approach to PM’ing, built on three pillars:

  1. PMs are true CEOs of the products
  2. PMs are deeply technical and lead AI technologies
  3. PMs get things done and exemplify Applied Intuition’s fast-moving, customer-focused culture

The goal of this post is to dive into these pillars, explain what PM’ing at Applied Intuition is like, and connect with potential Applied Intuition PM candidates – those highly technical PMs who want to be CEOs of AI products.

Pillar #1: PMs as CEOs of the Products

The most important and overarching responsibility for a PM at Applied Intuition is to be the CEO of the product. At some companies, the “PM as CEO” framing is a stretch. At early-stage startups, the CEO is the CEO. At single-product companies, PMs own features, not products. At big tech companies, armies of PMs jointly support products. But Applied Intuition is a multi-product company where everyone up to the CEO and CTO, both former PMs themselves, expect PMs to be directly responsible for product success.

What do Applied Intuition PMs do to drive success? The short answer: anything and everything needed. The slightly longer list of tasks is: understanding the market, deciding what to build, delivering to customers, and running the business.

Understanding the market

Applied Intuition PMs make decisions that are consequential, impacting engineers, go-to-market plans, and the products themselves. So it is vital that PMs deeply understand the market and make decisions that are correct.

By far the most important way for Applied Intuition PMs to understand the market is simple: listen to customers. Applied Intuition is fortunate to work with 18 of the top 20 global automakers, the U.S. Department of Defense, and leading equipment manufacturers across construction, agriculture, and mining. And when we work with customers, we don’t just “throw products over the wall.” We visit customers, conduct quarterly business reviews, run weekly office hours, and answer questions in shared messaging channels. Each of these interactions is an opportunity for PMs to make the customer successful and make our products better.

Deciding what to build

Once Applied Intuition PMs understand the market and develop a hypothesis on “why,” they then need to define “what” through strategy, roadmaps, release planning, and resource allocation. This is the most “traditional” aspect of being a PM at Applied Intuition, but there is one unique aspect to call out: PMs and engineers collaborate extremely closely on both product and engineering.

Since Applied Intuition’s products are extremely technical, PMs need to go deep into engineering topics ranging from simulator design to vehicle architecture to cloud scaling. At the same time, engineers are strong at both engineering and product. At some companies, PMs are the “voice of the customer” and engineers just care about building. At Applied Intuition, everyone is oriented toward the customer, with engineers working directly with customers as well.

Delivering to customers

Applied Intuition PMs are responsible not only for defining and launching features, but also landing features and delivering real, quantifiable value. This is true at a feature level, but it is also true at a more strategic level. At Applied Intuition, PMs build out their products and should constantly be going onsite with customers, collecting use cases, updating roadmaps, drafting joint execution plans, and helping make both the customer and the product successful.

Running the business

Applied Intuition PMs spend a lot of time on the above technical and customer responsibilities. But Applied Intuition PMs are, ultimately, judged by the success of their products in the market, so we spend a lot of time obsessing over and driving the business of our products.

When it comes to running the business, the first responsibility of the Applied Intuition PM is to define a clear go-to-market strategy: what markets we’re targeting, our positioning/differentiation in those markets, and how we’ll sell into those markets. Once the strategy is clear, then comes time to sell. PMs are expected to close the first deals by being hands-on themselves—conducting discovery calls, building decks, drafting statements of work (SOWs), and closing. This is not the core part of a job of a PM at a Series A startup where the CEO is the CEO. Nor is it the job of a PM at a big company where PMs own features. But it is a huge part of a PM’s job at Applied Intuition.

Pillar #2: PMs as Leaders in AI Technologies

If the first pillar of product management at Applied Intuition is about being a great CEO of a product in general, the second is about being a great CEO of an AI product specifically

Applied Intuition’s goal with AI is to apply cutting-edge technologies to build differentiated products. In practice, this requires PMs to be uniquely skilled in three AI-specific considerations: understanding evolving technologies, timing adoption cycles, and ensuring trust & safety.

Understanding evolving technologies

The years leading up to Applied Intuition’s founding in 2017 saw a flurry of technical breakthroughs. In 2012, Krizhevsky et. al. proved the efficacy of neural networks for internet image classification, DeepMind demonstrated superhuman performance on Atari in 2013 and Go in 2017, and self-driving startups and OEMs alike both invested heavily in AV/ADAS. This shift required a corresponding shift in tooling; Applied Intuition recognized this, and built a successful business around it.

Since 2023, a new wave of generative AI technologies is evolving even more rapidly than the prior wave. In AV and ADAS specifically, these technologies are impacting both the AV/ADAS stack and the development tools. For the stack, AI is now not only used heavily in perception, but increasingly in prediction and planning, and, potentially, for full end-to-end systems. For the tools, we see the rise of radiance fields, world models, and learned behavior models. And beyond AV/ADAS, AI is enabling new consumer experiences within the vehicle (e.g., asking your vehicle to move forward in its parking spot).

Applied Intuition PMs need to understand these technologies, build next-generation solutions that help our customers, and ensure that Applied Intuition provides the best software products for this generation of AI, just as Applied Intuition did for the previous generation.

Timing adoption cycles

All that said, Applied Intuition’s customers are not research groups who immediately adopt new technologies and deprecate old technology. Applied Intuition’s customers are OEMs who need to deliberate with how/where they introduce new technologies into complex vehicle programs.

Applied Intuition PMs thus have to marry an understanding of technologies with an understanding of our customers, and then support our customers with best solutions for their programs and goals. As a trusted software supplier to our customers, this often involves not only listening, but co-developing plans with our customers.

Ensuring trust & safety

As Applied Intuition PMs work with customers to deploy the right AI tools for the exact AI technologies they’re developing, there is one especially unique consideration in our business: trust and safety. It is one thing for an AI model to hallucinate an incorrect chat response when a user asks for baking tips. It is entirely different for an AI model to exhibit unknown or incorrect behavior for a 10-ton autonomous truck driving down the highway at 60 miles per hour.

Applied Intuition’s mission is to accelerate the adoption of safe and intelligent machines, and safety is at the core of everything we do. So wherever Applied Intuition PMs are developing products, but especially AI products with potentially variable behavior, they need to fully understand risks, thoroughly mitigate them, and support customers in building strong, thorough safety cases.

Pillar #3: PMs as Applied Intuition Culture Carriers

The first and second pillars of PM’ing cover what the PM is responsible for. But Applied Intuition is a values-driven company that invests a tremendous amount of time and energy into how we work together. Applied Intuition has 10 core values, but the first two are the lifeblood of the company: speed above all things and never disappoint the customer.

Value 1: Speed above all things

When candidates ask what makes a PM successful at Applied Intuition that might not be required elsewhere, the answer is always: speed. Working at Applied Intuition is an exercise in constantly challenging how fast you can make decisions, take action, and deliver value. As PMs, we bring this mindset to everything from discovery calls to pitch deck build-out to product requirements documents (PRDs) drafting to proof of concept (PoC) execution.

In practice, this execution speed is just as important as the products themselves in terms of getting value to customers and winning in the market.

Value 2: Never disappoint the customer

While Value #1 asserts a focus on speed, it might be more accurate to say the focus at Applied Intuition is on velocity, because velocity has direction, and every action at Applied Intuition is directed toward one thing: customer value.

Applied Intuition PMs do not sit around, armchair philosophize about the future of autonomy, and build things that might be cool. Applied Intuition PMs do constantly seek customer interactions to learn about problems, validate solutions, and drive customer success. This can sometimes mean joining a call with a Japanese OEM in the evening, taking a call with a Swedish OEM in the morning, and then presenting back to the customers the very next day. But Applied Intuition PMs get energy from working with customers and delivering value.

Join the Team

At Applied Intuition, we have a fast-growing portfolio of impactful, revenue-generating products. To keep pace, we are always looking for ambitious PMs who want to be CEOs of their products, lead next-generation AI technologies, and be a part of a fast-moving, customer-focused culture. If that describes you, please reach out. :) 

See our open PM roles at