Thursday, March 3, 2011

Free Startup CTO Consulting Sessions

As of September 2017, I've been part of several hundred sessions with startup founders (typically pre-seed to B) who need advice from an experienced CTO.

Many of the founders of these companies are surprised to learn that I'm willing to review what they are doing (maybe an hour) and get on the phone for an hour with them and provide free advice.  Generally I can provide quite a bit of help in that brief time.  And I try my best to point them to resources that can help them longer term.  Of course, I provide part-time CTO services.  But the reality is that I engage with about 5 new startups each year which means that I end up working with less than 5% of the startups where I provide these free consulting sessions.

In talking with a colleague who also does Acting CTO work, he said that he also does this kind of free consulting sessions and offered to help me if I didn't have enough time - which sometimes happens.  As soon as I posted this, I was contacted by two other colleagues also willing to jump in as needed. Now the LA CTO Forum is behind this.

What Is This?

The simple answer is that there are two a few of us experienced CTOs ready and willing to:
  • Spend an hour reviewing what you are doing
  • Spend an hour on the phone with you to try to answer key questions
We can help answer a lot of different questions.  Sometimes it's just a reality check on your current situation.  Maybe you are wondering if you have a Weak Development Team?  Do you have a Startup Founder Developer Gap?  Is there some key Homework you need to do?  Is it a sourcing question around whether you need a Startup CTO or Developer or both?  How can you more effectively work with your developers?  The list is very long.

The couple hours of our time is free with no obligation. 

If answers will take more than this time, we will do our best to point you in the right direction.

How Does it Work?

You need to send us an overview of what you are doing.  This overview (executive summary) needs to include:
Product and Business
  • What is the product?
  • Who's the customer?  How does the product solve a pain?
  • What's the business model short-term and long-term?
  • Who are the main competitors?  How are you different?
  • What are related products/companies?  Who might be partners?
  • What's you believe is your biggest technology risk, if any?
  • Who's involved?  Are there other Founders?  Send brief bios.  Part-time, full-time?
  • What's your experience in this space?
Current State of the Business
  • What have you done to date?
  • Do you have legal in place (Founder Agreements, Corporation, etc.)?
  • Do you have your financial models done?  Are you in good shape from a CFO perspective? 
  • What do you see as you next big milestone?  What do you need to achieve to get there?  When do you need to have it done by?  What do you expect to get out of it?
  • Is the functionality of the system defined?  Wireframes?  Functional specifications?
  • What product, market testing have you done so far, if any?
  • Have you raised capital? Or how are you funding the next few milestones?
Key Questions
  • What do you want to achieve in talking with us?
  • Do you have specific questions?
Send your overview to me (Tony Karrer):

Based on the type of business, we will distribute it to someone who is most appropriate.  You will get a response via email to schedule a time to talk.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will we sign an NDA?

No.  You need to be able to share with us without an NDA.  If you can't tell us the details of what you are doing without an NDA, it won't make sense for us to talk.  If we were to engage in paid services with you, then issues about disclosure, confidentiality, work product, etc. will definitely be handled.

I'm looking for free (equity only) development, should I contact you?

No.  We can likely provide technical strategy help at little to no cost, but hard core development generally requires that you have found someone to do it for you for equity or that you have some capital available (think $50K+).  See Equity-Only CTO and Equity-Only Developers for more on this.

I need a life-sciences CTO, can you help?

No.  Unfortunately, we are web, mobile, software, database guys.  We can help across a wide variety of types of systems, but once you get into hard core sciences (designing a new compound, bioengineering, etc.) or hard core engineering (new devices) then the CTO (Chief Scientist) means something else entirely.

Do I have to write up the overview?


Can you help me get funding?

If you primary questions right now are how to raise capital, that's not us.  Longer-term we likely can help with that as we can help evaluate your technical approach.  However, there are lots of other people who help companies raise capital.