How difficult is it to find a qualified CTO in the start up business? For some of you it maybe a piece of cake to find an experienced developer that can build a solid web infrastructure with an public and private facing API while at the same time managing your scalable cloud backend and is at all times ready to top it off by building native web apps for both android and iPhone. Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have found someone like this and perhaps they have the balls of steel it takes to jump on board with a start up and the stomach it takes to eat meal after meal of ramen noodles while waiting for that check to come it. If you have then you might consider yourself lucky. After asking around it looks like people with that particular skill set are not easily found.
For those of you that know me I have start ups in my blood. I have started and crashed many businesses but most recently I have had some success with one, Schematical. This success(though nothing in the shadow of the juggernauts such as Facebook) has lead to certain opportunities. It’s interesting how success breeds more opportunities. Other start ups started to approach me with questions ‘How did you do it?’ which soon turned into ‘Could you help us do it?’. Some even went as far as to ask ‘Would you like to come join our start up?’. One or two even interested in acquiring Schematical so as to get the massive library of code I have been assembling since college.
So many brilliant start ups driven by passionate talented teams it quickly became tough to decide. Between that and the fact I was having a great time running Schematical and knocking out big brand name win after big brand name win I quickly became overwhelmed. ‘How can I pick just one start up to work with?’ and then it hit me. A discussion I had attended when I was at SXSW that had one of my personal heroes Tim Ferriss. The discussion was titled “Advise This!”. I could become an advisor. I had always wanted to open up and incubator(and mark my word I will) but I have the majority of my financial resources wrapped up in Schematical at the moment so I lack that particular resource. That doesn’t mean I can’t advise.
For a much smaller percentage of the business then a traditional investor I could offer the startups the resources I did have:
- Access to libraries of code that did everything from replicating Facebook’s graph API to rapidly prototyping a native app. Tracking every click on a web site to my AB testing software.
- Training in how to run your tech department. Training such as my proven project management style designed specifically for start ups based on Facebook philosophy of ‘Move fast and break things’.
- Dedicated load balanced servers on my server farm in the scalable Amazon Cloud so they can scale up and down according to demand
- My own personal knowledge on web architecture, product development, UX design
- My connections to investors, Schematical’s high profile big brand clients, and other start ups.
Using all of this I figured it would be possible to take a start up with even the most entry level of developers and teach them to be efficient deadline hitting machines. It’s not just about taking an entry level developer and turning him into a CTO overnight, No! It’s about adding a level of stability to the start up. Let’s say we get your developer trained and he decides to jump ship. The process we put in place using the project management system, the standardized code libraries that your software is now built on and the fact that you are now partnered with me to help quickly train and acclimate a new replacement will prevent your start up from dying a quick painful death should the developer decide to go work a 9-5 two weeks before your next product launch.
If you really think about it investing in a startup with just cash is old fashioned. The best investments are made with real value. It’s the lean startup in action; Thank you Eric Rise. How do we build and test our minimum viable product faster and smarter. Its not by throwing more cash at it. How about we try matching a proven developer with libraries of proven production ready code with a team of passionate driven individuals. If we do it right we can have a product ready before the first can of red bull wears off and the entrepreneurs are even hitting the end of their first wind.
Think about it code is reusable, after we write it once its free(minus my licencing fee of course which is waived as long as I have a stake in the company).
How about server space? Existing start ups are wasting time asking ‘Where are we going to host it?’ ‘Okay now I have to set up a new server, how long is that going to take?’ ‘Oh crap we got mentioned in that big blog, now we need to scale like crazy. How do we do that?’.
All of that takes up time. Time and money. If we just set it up in the cloud on an image that was built for production and hooked to a load balancer none of those questions will waste your team’s time when you should be asking ‘How can we create a better experience for our clients?’, ‘How can we market this better?’ or ‘What are we going to do with all of the money we are making?’(I wish…).
So with all that said now is the time. Carpe Diem – If you’re a startup looking for help getting your dev team organized, recruiting, technical advice on all things SaaS related please feel free to contact me. If you are an investor or an incubator I would love to talk to you as well. Together let’s innovate and change the world.