The Fractional CTO
I help early-stage start-ups and small teams get the most out of software.
My specialty is Python, my preference is open-source technology.
For the past 20 years, my life has been web and software. The actual story goes back further.
My career has focused on project management, agile methodologies, development (open-source technology), and leadership roles including CTO.
I support start-ups and small teams with energy, pragmatism, and a desire to have always fun.
"Most startups don't need a full-time CTO to handle strategy." --Tony Karrer
Every business needs a single point of contact for technology strategy and infrastructure. Someone to help shape and execute a shared strategy and roadmap. Few businesses have the "key player" with decades of experience in technology. Surrounded by smart people only a few can process technology considerations and infrastructure strategies.
Proper tech strategy and foundation increase productivity as well as the ability to compete and win. Collaboration with all sides of an organization ensures business drivers are accounted for and influence strategy.
I deliver as a Senior Developer, Scrum Master, Project Manager, and CTO providing a succinct layman’s version. I also carry the technical acumen demanded by engineering teams and modern software methodologies.
Software is a large budget operation for all organizations. Start-ups in particular require critical alignment of spend and business objectives early on. Value, expense, budgets, and ROI definition contribute to direction, services, and the roadmap.
As the translator between business speak and technology terminology, I reduce cross-disciplinary and costly support dependencies by aligning technology to company values and needs.
Need a senior technology professional who understands your objectives and provides alignment of technology towards those objectives?
As FCTO I provide decades of understanding to align early-stage and small teams with technology demands.
- Expertise: Experienced technology leader
- Confidence: Trusted partner for early stage growth, transition, or advising
- Scope: Multi-company, multi-industry perspective
- Objective Results: Transparent and strategic approach to delivering reality
- Accountability: Align spend to objectives, measure and define ROI
- Dedication: Business focus on driving and feeding technology
- Servant Leader: Mindful of risk, tech debt, and operational timing
- Advocacy: Liaison and intermediary for staff, stakeholders, and vendors
- Value: Increase agility, improve the process, support teams for greatness
Common Start-Up or Small Team FCTO Scenarios
- Need to invest, but no expertise in the field, and mistakes are costly
- Development is producing but lacks discipline, predictability, or transparency
- Strategic decisions are blocked because technology lacks proper guidance and context
- Problems delivering on milestones or poor performance are threatening fundraising goals
- Lacking the budget for a full-time, salaried, and benefit-laden CTO but need the strategy and expertise nonetheless
- New projects or features lack management and technical guidance
- A period of change, growth, or acquisition requires interim and effective professional assistance
“With the goal of eventually attaining world domination, adding a CTO is a critical component to consider.”
Areas of expertise
- Vision, strategy, and road mapping
- Scalability, maintainability, and planning
- R&D and evaluation
- Development/code/staff management
- Development methodology
- Deployment and delivery
- Risk management
- Operation, security, and compliance management
- Objective alignment
- Strategy and communication
- Partnerships and strategic opportunity
- ROI evaluation and budgeting
- Contract review and negotiations
- KPI definition and reporting
FCTO Frequently Asked Questions
What is a fractional CTO?
An FCTO works for a business for a fraction of the time, on a fraction of the projects, and for a fraction of the cost, compared to a traditional full-time CTO.
What are some benefits to my organization or start-up?
Your organization gains the same expertise and capability without the associated salary and benefits commonly associated with the role. Additionally, you get an outside perspective on your current technological strategy and allows your team to gain experience from a different point of view.
The role of the FCTO is less likely to get bogged down in the politics of a company's executive team. In this position, it becomes easier to recommend courses of action in a straightforward, matter-of-fact way with the utmost focus on your company, product, and team.
Throughout my career, I have always found it easy to talk to stakeholders. The deeper technical and professional connections kept with software teams provide the foundation for good code, employee retention, and organizational momentum to surpass goals and milestones.
What are common areas where an FCTO can assist?
The FCTO is the summation of many roles and tremendous experience. At any stage of operation, a definition of the correct strategy for the business with regards to technology and software determines success. The ability to provide a secure and scalable application that is mindful of third-party technology and dependencies is money not spent later fixing huge mistakes.
Often I find help is welcome and beneficial in less glamorous areas, such as process definition. Having all the "ducks in a row" for both in-house and outsourced teams makes onboarding faster and contributes to hiring the right person. Also common in smaller teams and early-stage start-ups are third-party vendors, a source of lag and possibly unnecessary expense that is easy to treat.
I also act as a turnaround agent addressing strategy, business operations, and the spend to bring recommendations with speed and certainty. It is very common to have to rescue a project, team, and even organizations.
Why can't I make these decisions?
You can. You may also succeed. But you also have other things to take care of in your particular wheelhouse. Often it is best to stay focused on the expertise your organization requires from you. Small teams and start-ups need leadership to be focused and know when, why, and how to outsource correctly.
The IT landscape changes very quickly and it is often that I may have faced a similar challenge on another team. A full-time tech executive is limited to one point of view of their company and may not have the exposure to modern approaches and current technology.
Is there a competitive advantage?
Yes, there is! I have seen firsthand how my experience can be a competitive differentiator. Experience, skills, and drive make up for missing elements in a given organization. The ability to deliver immediate value through experience at a lower cost elevates your team and organization.
I can provide guidance to the person who is next in line to become the CTO, setting up the foundations, procedures, and cultural norms for technology. This includes agile coaching, refined iterative management, and incremental work towards large shared goals.
The ability to present to stakeholders and investors, and also "throw down" with the developers is a competitive advantage. As a single source and destination for technology, I design and execute your technology strategies, manage IT, serve on committees, and present the bad and good news.
Pragmatism and experience provide guidance to adapt to the right emerging technology. I take the buzz out of buzzwords and aim to standardize our shared mission-critical technology endeavor.
How can a fractional or part-time CTO operate on a 5-year plan?
I can not work in 5-year timelines, such as a full-time and 100% dedicated CTO is expected. Instead, I can provide interim progress, support, infrastructure, hiring, and the bones necessary to hand over to a full-time, long-term CTO properly vetted by the existing team, leadership, and stakeholder. I keep the trains running and progress moving at a fraction of the cost to allow for the best possible long-term hire.
Some organizations lack direction and clarity for all the tech under the hood. All companies have increased software dependencies and need at least a part-time executive professional (FCTO) to manage, plan, and execute with confidence and experience.
Often the 5-year plan includes funding or a raise. By having an (F)CTO investors and VC endeavors run smoother and securing funding becomes easier. My innate sense of community and product alignment to the technology gets money in the bank.
I don't expect to immediately have a 5-year view of an organization, but I can support short and long-term goals, control costs, build teams, and create the accountability necessary for successful technology use.
Is it even effective if the FCTO is only there for two to six months, or part-time?
Many companies need a kick start, an outside view, a manager, or Scrum Master to work towards long-term goals.
In the early stages, guidance can save monumental amounts of money as you grow. Moving languages, frameworks, or similar underlying technological migrations and pivots are very costly. I know for a fact that 10 hours per week can change outcomes considerably. The expense is nominal compared to the long-term investment in your organization.
Why start-ups and small teams?
I have never been a fan of large organizations and prefer a fast pace. Most of my work experience is freelance and for smaller companies (mostly start-ups). I have been employee #1 and developer #1 several times. In the early stages, I flourish and embrace what can be an ever-changing landscape. I provide a calm and steady hand on the wheel with a dedication that fulfills me as a human and employee.
Most of my interfacing with large corporations (Adobe, 3M, Starbucks, Coca-Cola) has been either as a developer or a project manager for the "little company". Small teams use more of my skills than any large company. The ability to learn quickly, pivot as needed, and make decisions rapidly speaks to an innate proclivity towards start-ups, small teams, and occasionally a moon-shot project.