Build Fireproof Technology Products

How I Got to Now

I came out of college in the 90’s with an accounting and finance degree, and no real love for computers or technology. It didn’t take long, however, to figure out that the internet was where the future was, and I needed to get involved. I did everything I could possibly do in computers, from building machines to running cable to even running a technical help desk.

In 1999, I got the chance to learn how to write code. The company I was working for put me on a product team and I worked with some really smart people building next-generation back-office retail products. I fell in love with building software. It was for me just like accounting and finance. There was a problem to be solved, and there was always an answer, and I got to create it from scratch. It was like magic.

As the CTO for Bandwidth during the rocket ship years where we had 300% growth year after year, I got to learn from the inside what it takes to scale technology inside a high-growth company. I’ve since started my own app company, run a tech incubator, and had the privilege to come alongside amazing companies as an advisor all over the world. I’ve been very, very fortunate.

The Workers are Few

We live in a remarkable time. Things that used to take hours or days when I was first getting started now take seconds. Our capacity for creating new products has never been greater. The barriers to starting a new technology company are lower than at any time in history. The wrinkle in all of this is that it’s never been harder to find qualified people to build all of these new products. It’s estimated that there are about 11 million software developers globally, or about one in every 700 people on the planet. Think about that for a few seconds. Then consider the odds of actually finding, in that comparatively small haystack, the precious few who actually know what they are doing.  And by know what they are doing, I mean not simply a technical understanding, but can put themselves in the shoes of the business and make decisions that align with the business needs.

Staring Into The Abyss

As founders and business owners, we give birth to our precious new babies. We take money out of our savings accounts. We borrow from friends and family. We stare into the abyss and say “I’m going!” But we can’t do it alone. We need other people to help us actualize our dream, particularly if we’re not developers ourselves.  We ask around. We look for the elusive “technical co-founder” or perhaps a software services company that can help. As we start talking to these people, we realize “I don’t even speak the same language. How am I supposed to choose?”  We call advisors or friends and ask for their help, all the while time is slipping away. We feel the urgency to get moving.  We make the best possible decision and decide to “just go for it.”  We hand over our baby and a large chunk of our company or a wad of cash and we hold our breath.  We feel powerless and ignorant.

Lighting the Match

We are swept into a world of terms and practices that we’ve maybe read a little about, but that sound mostly made up: Agile, kanban, sprints, standups, user stories, QA, unit tests, MVPs, APIs, clients, backends. The process seems so foreign that we often throw up our hands accept that we’ll get where we need to go because, after all, these people we’ve teamed up with are pros. They know how to build software. Right? And besides, we have the rest of the company to build. We have to find customers. We have to not starve or run out of money. It feels a lot like hope, not as much like confidence. Are we really getting what we’re paying for? Are these people working in our best interests or theirs? In spite of our doubts, we press on because that’s what founders do. They persevere.

The decision to press on with lack of clarity often lights the match that starts to burn your company’s hard-earned capital, and dooms many startups to the dustbin of history before they’ve even had a chance to succeed.

What If It Could Be Different?

What if you could actually understand what’s happening as your product’s being built, not by having to learn how to code, but by having a deep understanding of how the process is supposed to work for you as the non-technical founder?

I’ve seen so many startups get the short end of this stick that I’ve decided to do something about it. I’m taking all of the learnings of the last 15 years and sharing them here with you. Together we’ll explore topics such as:

  • What difference does the language we choose make?
  • How do we ensure that we won’t be held hostage by our contractor?
  • What’s this thing called Agile?
  • How soon is too soon to talk about our idea with strangers and potential customers?
  • Do we work on the hardest problems first or last?
  • What’s all this talk about APIs and REST?
  • How should we think about testing our products?
  • What do we do when the tech team moves the goal line?
  • and much, much more…

Getting Fireproof

I talk a lot with companies about not lighting money on fire. My mission is to help you make your technology startup fireproof. I can’t promise you that your idea will succeed, but if you are better informed about how to get your product built, I can promise you that you’ll have more money around to answer the really hard questions.

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