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A guide to project management for startups [examples + tips]
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A guide to project management for startups [examples + tips]

Discover how to do project management for startups, with methodologies, examples, and tips to improve agility and productivity.

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It seems like there's an overwhelming amount of information online about the “best project management practices for startups.” It might lead you to believe that all you need is one robust project management system in place and world domination is within reach. 

However, it’s about more than just a single tool—good project management is about creating an ecosystem…Making the right choice of processes, tools, and methodologies can seem daunting, but there's no one-size-fits-all for your startup's unique challenges and dynamics. 

Startups always have something going on, which means it's easy to fall into the trap of context switching between priorities, projects, and tools, instead of thinking proactively. That’s why leaders of highly collaborative startups need airtight processes they can rely on to help teams be more productive and not duplicate work or effort. 

This guide is designed to help startups create scalable, repeatable processes so they can become more agile and efficient. You'll learn how to reduce the friction of shifting between multiple projects and tools and how to foster a transparent environment where every team member is in the loop.

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Here’s why effective project management is vital for startups

Startups often operate in a fast-paced and dynamic environment, usually with small teams and limited funding. Without proper project management, things can quickly spiral out of control. Here's why: 

  • Limited resources. Startups often operate on shoestring budgets with a lean team. Managing projects with limited resources can be challenging, so careful allocation and prioritization to maximize efficiency is a must. 
  • Uncertainty. Shifting priorities, market conditions, and evolving customer needs can throw a wrench into carefully laid plans, so you need to be able to adapt fast.
  • Communication barriers. In a small team where roles and responsibilities may be in flux, ensuring clear and effective communication can be a challenge. Miscommunications can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and, ultimately, project failure.
  • Time constraints. Rapid development cycles and tight deadlines can lead to rushed decision-making, potentially compromising the quality of work. For startups, effective project management becomes essential to balance speed with precision.
  • Scaling challenges. What worked for a team of five might not be suitable for a team of 50. Project management practices need to evolve to accommodate the changing needs and scale of the organization.

Next, let's dive into four popular project management methodologies you can use as the foundation for managing your projects—and staying competitive. 

Project management methodologies for startups

Each methodology below offers a unique approach to project management. What works for a Fortune 500 company may not be the best fit for an agile startup. With that in mind, we’ll look at some common project management strategies and how to adapt them for startups.


Agile is an iterative and flexible approach to project management and product development that prioritizes collaboration, adaptability, and customer satisfaction through the delivery of small, incremental releases. 

Agile is like the startup's playbook. Startups can quickly adapt to changes in the market, prioritize tasks based on immediate needs, and deliver a minimum viable product (MVP) for rapid testing and improvements.

Agile methodologies like Scrum or Kanban, which we’ll talk about more below, can help startups manage their work in short cycles, allowing them to pivot quickly in response to market changes.

While some large corporations have embraced Agile, its emphasis on cross-functional teams and quick decision-making can clash with traditional hierarchical structures.

Here's how you might start an Agile approach to project management: 

  1. Gather your cross-functional team
  2. Create a product backlog, with a prioritized list of features or tasks
  3. Plan your work in fixed time increments (aka sprints) 
  4. Conduct daily stand-up meetings to discuss progress, challenges, and plans for the day
  5. Work on small, incremental product releases
  6. Hold a sprint review to showcase what was accomplished
  7. Use feedback from each sprint to adapt and refine your approach
  8. Keep the customer or end-user involved throughout the process 


Scrum is a popular Agile framework that helps startups manage complex projects by breaking them into smaller, manageable tasks. It promotes collaboration, transparency, and regular reviews.

Scrum can be particularly effective for startups dealing with software development or product design, where incremental improvements and regular feedback are critical.


Kanban focuses on visualizing work and optimizing workflows. It can be useful for startups that want to reduce bottlenecks, improve efficiency, and maintain a steady pace of work. 

Startups can implement Kanban boards in tools like Asana to break projects into component tasks, track work in progress, and respond quickly to changing priorities.


Lean principles are a natural fit for startups aiming to do more with less. Startups use lean methodologies to eliminate waste, optimize processes, and deliver value to customers by testing products with real users. This helps startups avoid wasting resources on features that customers don't want. 

Use techniques like Build-Measure-Learn (BML) cycles and validated learning to continuously refine your product based on customer feedback and market insights. Lean value stream mapping exercises also help you visualize the entire project process. This lets you identify areas where you can eliminate waste, optimize flow, and improve overall efficiency.

Pro tip: Combine elements from different project management methodologies to suit your project needs. For example, a product team building a new app might combine Agile project management and Lean methodologies.

- First, they build an agile, cross-functional team including developers, designers, marketers, and customer support representatives. 
- Then, to help them visualize the flow of tasks and manage their work, they decide to use Kanban boards. Since tasks move through different stages, from ideation to development to testing, this helps bring transparency to the workflow. 
- Lastly, they incorporate Lean methods like minimizing batch sizes. This lets them deliver small, incremental updates to the application regularly—and get feedback fast.

Real-life examples of project management for startups

Sometimes, you need the pros to show you how it's done. Let's take a look at examples of successful project management in two top-performing startups. 


The company's cross-functional teams and Agile approach have played a crucial role in its ability to rapidly adapt to market changes and scale its operations globally. 

For example, when the short-term rental industry was hit in 2020, they launched Online Experiences, enabling people to book virtual experiences with various hosts. The wide variety of experiences (i.e. cooking, concerts, how-tos) at different price points meant there was something for everyone. 

By using an Agile framework to pivot to changing user needs, the company capitalized on the trend of people’s increased use of video conferencing. This let Airbnb tap into a new market and stay competitive.  


Intercom, a customer messaging platform, showcases effective project management through its iterative development processes. The company prioritizes customer feedback, conducts regular retrospectives, and uses Agile methodologies to continuously improve its product.

For example, in the early stages of building Intercom's WhatsApp integration, they realized it was taking customers a long time to start using it—with no clear answers as to why. 

Product development teams used an Agile approach by making changes to their product in small increments. This helped Intercom understand that it had spent too much time focusing on features and not the pathway to using those features. All of this let the company fix its onboarding process and build one that better matches its customers’ real-life needs. 

5 Tips for effective project management for your startup

Now that you've seen how strong startups use these strategies to improve efficiency in project management, here's what you can do to stay flexible and aligned during projects.

1. Use collaborative tools to reduce context switching

Context switching between multiple apps, notifications, and messages pulls you out of focus work and can hurt your team's productivity. This is especially true in a startup environment where people need to stay on top of many moving parts, and all at once. 

Visual collaboration platforms like Switchboard can help with this by organizing project information all in one place. Just add your project management tool, virtual whiteboard, Figma designs, and sprint planning agenda. Then, get straight to work without integrating or downloading anything. Everything is multiplayer so you can work side by side on anything—without waiting to share screens.  

With persistent rooms that save your work, you can also go back into the room to check the project's status or grab a file you need when working async. This lets you move projects forward meaningfully and save time switching between tabs and tools. 

Project management tool and in-app chat in a Switchboard room
Switchboard is your source of truth for projects—just hop into your dedicated room to find project files, meeting recordings, and status updates—whatever you need for your project.  Source: Switchboard

2. Over-communicate key messaging

People need time to absorb and act on information. Don’t expect to be able to say something important once. Instead, you need to tailor communications to the message you want to get across, the audience, and the channel it's delivered on. 

This means you need to use the right real time and async communication channels and tools to keep information relevant and accessible. You also need to make sure everyone knows where to go to find that information. For example, by storing it in your persistent Switchboard room. 

Here's what else you can do: 

  • Develop a communication plan. This should outline key messages, target audiences, communication channels to use, and frequency of updates. This makes sure any communication is intentional and covers all necessary aspects of the project.
  • Use project management software. Platforms like Asana, Trello, or Jira can help consolidate project updates, timelines, and milestones in one place while improving collaboration management
  • Provide frequent status updates. This can include weekly or bi-weekly reports summarizing project achievements, challenges, and upcoming milestones. 
  • Use visual aids. Visual communication like infographics, charts, and timelines can make complex information more memorable. It's also especially effective in conveying project timelines and milestones.
Pro tip: Use Switchboard to reduce notification overload. Put memos, documents, visuals, or project updates in your dedicated room and have people go check it out async. They can always find it, so there’s never any need to go digging through Slack threads to find files or information. This means you can over-communicate async without overwhelming, and skip any unnecessary meetings. 
Switchboard room with project proposals, memos, action items, and scheduling
Switchboard makes it easy to over-communicate without overwhelming your team—and improve team collaboration. Source: Switchboard

3. Have fewer, but more meaningful meetings

It's crucial to encourage a culture of preparation when it comes to meetings and equip people to do more than just turn up. If meetings aren't moving projects forward in a meaningful way, then people should feel empowered to cancel them. This can save you tons of time and resources and keep everyone more engaged. 

To help people understand the hidden cost of meetings, Shopify created a meeting cost calculator that proved their average 30-minute meeting with three employees at the company costs between $700-$1600

To have fewer, more productive meetings, it's important to understand when async working makes sense for your team. For more on this, check out our article on creating an async work culture

Switchboard makes async project work possible because it acts as a shared operating system, bringing people, applications, and conversations together. This way, you can get more done asynchronously. When you do need to meet, sharing materials in the room before the call lets people get up to speed async, so they’re ready to get to work when the meeting starts.  

If you're working within an Agile framework, you can create a persistent sprint planning room in Switchboard and fill it with your product roadmap, backlog, tests, and issues. This way, everyone has what they need to move the project forward, and there's no confusion about where things are when catching up async. 

4. Be an active listener

Workflows and processes need to make sense for the people using them. Collect feedback regularly and in different formats to understand project management success from different perspectives. 

Here's how you can collect feedback from your team: 

  • Create regular surveys or questionnaires. Decide on the frequency and give team members, stakeholders, or project participants the option to submit feedback anonymously if they feel more comfortable. 
  • Conduct retrospectives. Use a structured format to review what went well, what could be improved, and action items for the future at the end of each project phase or iteration. 
  • Set up a poll. If you're using Switchboard, you can set up a poll in your project room and have people answer you in real time or async. This makes it easy to hone in on feelings about specific project details or general inquiries. 

5. Use AI to save time

From automating workflows and prioritizing tasks to sharing information between apps, artificial intelligence (AI) can save you time and improve efficiency. Many online collaboration tools for project management have AI capabilities built in, so you may not need to sign up for that separately.   

Let's investigate how you can use AI based on your collaboration tools: 

  • Project and task management. Tools like Asana use AI to analyze task deadlines, dependencies, and historical data to suggest which tasks should be prioritized. It can also analyze team members' workloads, skill sets, and project data to suggest the best way to allocate resources.
  • Document collaboration. Leverage AI using tools like Notion to automatically categorize and organize content. For example, to analyze the content of notes and documents, automatically assign relevant tags, and categorize content by theme.  
  • Visual collaboration. Switchboard’s AI assistant automatically produces short, actionable summaries of any web pages, transcripts, sticky notes, or documents in your dedicated room. It's also a conversation assistant, so you can get ideas, answer questions, and find inspiration when brainstorming or meeting. This means you can have your meeting notes in the room as well as your project tracker and ask questions like "Did we talk about all the overdue tasks in our meeting yesterday?" It also means all your tools and documents in the room can “talk” to each other, which saves you a ton of time gathering and summarizing information from meetings or project work sessions.
Switchboard user activating Switchboard AI
Switchboard AI summarizes meeting content and lets you ask questions—speeding up project work async and in real time.  Source: Switchboard

Project management for startups: Be more efficient, get ahead 

There’s always something going on in a startup, so it's easy to keep switching between priorities, projects, and tools. To make the most of your limited time and resources, you need efficient ways of managing project progress. This includes finding the best project management tools and methodologies to suit your team’s needs. The latter might include Agile, Scrum, Kanban, or Lean.  

As well as picking the right methodologies and tools that reduce context switching, try having fewer, more meaningful meetings, being an active listener, and using AI to save time. All this makes for more efficient project management. 

With Switchboard as the base of your project management tech stack, you can unite all the people, apps, and information you need for your project in persistent rooms that save your work. This lets you work more async, cancel more meetings, and make the ones you do have more productive. Because Switchboard saves your work and makes everything multiplayer, you can also combine Agile, Scrum, Kanban, or Lean project management methodologies in the same room.  

Manage projects more efficiently.  
Switchboard unites all the tools, people, and files you need in persistent project rooms that save your work.  
Learn more

Frequently asked questions about startup project management

What is project management for startups? 

For a startup company, project management provides a structured system that resource-strapped startup teams can streamline to build products and deliver services with greater efficiency. 

Project management for startups typically involves making sure projects align with growth goals and resource management, creating project plans, developing communication guidelines, using project management methodologies, setting KPIs, and learning from mistakes and bottlenecks. 

How do you plan a startup project?

To plan a startup project, you should start by validating that your idea for a product or service solves a particular problem for your target audience. Then you'll need to build a solid business case for your investors, board of directors, or co-founders, ensuring that it’s going to contribute to a worthwhile ROI for the company. Once your project is approved, you’ll need to define the scope, goals, and KPIs; build a team; assign a budget; identify risks and barriers; and decide which methodologies to use. 

What is the difference between project management and project planning?

Project planning is the initial phase of a new undertaking, and it involves mapping out the project objectives, scope, strategies, tasks, and timelines a team should adhere to. Project management, on the other hand, is the continuous process of guiding, monitoring, and executing tasks until a project is complete.

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Manage projects more efficiently.

Switchboard unites all the tools, people, and files you need in persistent project rooms that save your work.