Featured image of post The Wide World of the Fractional CTO

The Wide World of the Fractional CTO

Over the summer I found myself serving as fractional CTO. What is it and why would you need one?

Since leaving Stratasan (acquired by Syntellis) in March of 2023 I started out doing some advisory and technical due diligence work for investors. I’m still doing advisory and diligence work, but I’ve also found demand for my help as a fractional CTO.

What’s a fractional CTO?

You might as well ask, “What’s a Chief Technology Officer (CTO)?” It varies a lot from company to company (based on size, structure, and type of product) but in general Wikipedia has a satisfactory (although wordy) answer. If I had to boil it down, I’d say that “the CTO makes sure that the technology strategy aligns well with the business strategy and executes the technology strategy.”

A fractional CTO does much of the same thing, but on a part-time (fractional) basis, often working with more than one company at a time. Just like a full-time CTO, a fractional CTO will often specialize in one industry or company stage of growth.

In my case, I work often with startups and early stage companies in the healthcare sector. There are three things that make my career relevant to this particular niche:

  1. I have a amassed a wide range of experience in the healthcare sector across nearly a quarter century (I got my start in 2000).
  2. I have spent most of my career in startups and early stage companies in New York and Nashville, and have myself been a co-founder with a successful nine-figure exit. I know excatly what it’s like to wear all of the hats, find product-market fit, and scale a team!
  3. Given my experience with technical due diligence (on both ends of the transaction), I am familiar with the markers that investors are looking for in a company.

The confluence of these three areas of experience have left me well suited to serve as an advisor to the non-technical founders and leadership of startups.

Technology strategy has a give-and-take relationship with business strategy My job is to fully understand and internalize the business strategy, determine technical feasibility, and then build a roadmap that combines the two.

What kinds of things do you do as a fractional CTO?

Honestly, it’s all over the map (hence the title of this, “the wide world”!), and that’s one of the things that I love about it. Here are some examples of projects that I have done over the summer:

  • Diagnose the current reality (what we have) and identify gaps based on the business strategy (what we need) and build a roadmap to get there. This has ranged from early stage startups (the whole business runs in an Excel spreadsheet!) to scaling growth companies.
  • Advise companies that are looking to hire their first full time engineer and subsequent team members. This covers everything from sourcing leads, interviewing, hiring, and then advising them while they ramp up.
  • Perform a “pre-sale inspection” for early stage companies. In short, I evaluate them as an investor might do in order to best prepare them for a transaction.

I write more about the variety of things I do here.

Usually, any engagement with a company lasts only 2-3 months. My goal is not to embed myself in an organization forever: I’m there to help build a plan, get things on track, and coach the team as needed.

How do I know if I need a fractional CTO?

There are a few signs that it might be useful to bring on an fCTO:

  • Your primary product is a SaaS tool, but no one on the leadership team has technology experience. A fractional CTO can work on your side of the table to make sure that the technology roadmap supports the business strategy, that any outsourced development work is not incurring unnecessary technology debt, and to keep the momentum going.
  • Your development lead is highly technical, but not strategic. An fCTO can help your team think more strategically and balance the technology roadmap with the business’s needs.
  • You need a CTO, but you can’t afford one full-time. A fractional hire may be what you need to fit your budget.
  • Your technology roadmap has gone off track. You need an experienced leader to diagnose the problem, recommend new processes, and get things back on track quickly.
  • You anticipate a business milestone (e.g., a round of funding, an aquisition, or a major new product). An experienced fCTO can help you avoid pitfalls and build a plan for success.

I need a fractional CTO! How do I get in touch?

Shoot me an email (brian at this domain). I am always happy to chat, and if I’m not a good fit I may know someone who is!

Header generated by Bing Image Creator on October 26, 2023.

“a man working on a laptop on top of a globe of the world in an impressionistic style”

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