StartUp & Incubator Engagement PROPOSAL
The most personally and professionally rewarding projects we have worked on have been the early-startup ones.
The entrepreneurial adrenaline, intellectual challenge, and freedom to craft innovation in your very own way, will be eclipsed only on the day your business turns profitable, and maybe on the day when the first term-sheet lands in your inbox.
So, we asked ourselves: “Whom do we want to work with, given a choice?” and the answer was obvious: “Startups and entrepreneurs!”.
We want to provide real, tangible value, at no risk and preferably minimum cash outway to a startup, yet support a long-term pipeline of projects that we get a chance to work on in the long-run.
We came up with what we call the "Startup Engagement Package".
We often meet entrepreneurs that do not come from IT, software or electronics hardware technical background, or have somewhat limited real-life experience. They are faced with a dilemma – to roll the dice and bring in a personal acquaintance with relevant skills, or look outside for proven, experienced professionals?
Both approaches present problems – they require a commitment to be made to an individual, and it is difficult to set the expectation that you may need to part ways after only a few months, for one reason or another. (We have also found that in most cases, it is not a good idea to make your cousin’s brother-in-law, who “builds apps”, your CTO.)
Other material considerations are the credibility and gravitas of someone less experienced when the time comes to pitch to prospective investors, or the equity you may have to part with to bring in a “brand name” technologist.
We offer an alternative engagement – one that requires no long-term commitment, no equity, and no cash outlay.
We will work with you to put together everything you need to prepare the technology portion of a fundraising package. We always stand behind our work – if needed, we will be happy to present next to you in front of a VC partner meeting and field questions about delivering, operating, and scaling the technology portion of your business.
We have 30+ years of experience with dozens of VC, PE fundings, and IPOs that we have been involved in. We will give you the benefit and credibility of a technology risk mitigator that is “the next best to a sure thing”.
Our goal and value proposition is to remove technology risk as a top-of-mind consideration and objection from a potential investor and to let you focus on the important stuff - how to build, market, and sell your product and idea.
At no cost and without any implied commitment to A follow-up or long-term, engagement
We do believe in mutually beneficial self-interest, of course, and would like to ask for three things:
We think these to be the most important points to consider:
Time is precious – especially to an entrepreneur. Therefore, we commit to producing usable output in a matter of a few weeks - not months. Our target engagement duration is 20 calendar days, allocating roughly 1/3 to discovery, 1/3 to design, and a final 1/3 to elaboration/iteration (aka wordsmithing and bug fixing). If give us the time we asked for and we are not done in a month, expect a written root cause analysis and post-mortem of this failure.
Be specific on how the deliverables are produced. Set the dates and milestones of the engagement project plan up-front, have all parties commit, and adjust as necessary.
Help only where help is needed and wanted.
We would like to set clear expectations of what you will receive – a technology product design and development package. Twenty calendar days are usually not enough to deliver an MVP, but they are (usually) enough to produce a clear set of designs and development plans and sometimes a “toy prototype”.
Typically, the set of artifacts we deliver include:
Collected and elaborated key use cases and user stories/journeys.
Often, these already exist in some form and they are critical to anchor and focus the product roadmap. In our experience, 80% of the capabilities of a product can be expressed in fewer than a dozen high-level, key use cases.
Wish list. It is critical to not ignore the vision of “what can be”.
While it is impossible to develop an MVP that contains every idea you have, it is equally important to understand where we may drive to in the long term, so that we do not paint ourselves into a corner that prevents us from exploring these ideas.
High-Level functional UI Mockup
Some wireframes at a minimum, possibly further elaborated, but without a final graphics design and style guide. Here we also collect examples of UI/UX that you like and dislike as well as examine competitive or similar products and solutions.
we will work with you to select the best combination of traditional SQL, columnar, NoSQL, XML, graph, and/or key-value store technologies. Once a selection is made, we will produce one or two iterations of a data model as a traditional ERD, JSON schema, or high-level ontology. We offer deep data expertise – when our graybeards talk “full-stack” they reminisce about work done on Informix / Illustra object-relational database kernel data-blades on Sun workstations circa 1995, or even Prime mainframe hierarchical databases, that 40 years ago looked surprisingly like MongoDB (who once upon a time when they were an unknown startup called 10gen were our client).
Depending on the entrepreneur’s preferences (if any) and their prior experience we will propose at least two options for an application stack. For example, Apache-Tomcat-Java-Spring-REST-Angular, Nginx-golang-GraphQL-Vue, or maybe .NET-python-Typescript-React, or some other combination of technologies.
We focus on stability, sustainability, productivity, and availability of skilled developers, rather than the latest buzz words and unicorn brands.
Open Source Considerations
We will suggest open source software that we believe is both functional and long-term stable and supported, with licensing that does not paint your business in a corner down the road.
We may propose that you consider open-sourcing portions or all of your own code. We bring some in-depth experience in the field – once upon a time, we worked with the original and possibly the first truly successful “professional open-source startup”, JBoss.
If your project will require public or semi-public APIs we will prepare a SWAGGER bootstrap and layout the major endpoints or draft a GraphQL schema.
Today we tend to choose from combinations of public and private cloud infrastructures – AWS vs. Azure or maybe a tier-2 provider like Oracle, Digital Ocean or Google, containerized deployment technologies, and microservices vs. self-managed application processes.
A key consideration here is to map the cost of growth vs. the hard and opportunity costs of time to market. On some rare occasions, we may propose a hybrid cloud and/or an edge computing infrastructure.
Having a credible, well-thought-out roadmap is a must. We typically produce a weekly calendar, based on sprint + release milestones to MVP, with proposed staffing and associated types of skills that we expect will be needed.
Cybersecurity and DevOps Considerations
Not surprisingly, these are now significant items that should be clearly addressed – for example how many environments will the project require (production, stage, QA, development, and pentest, or maybe just development and production?).
We will also discuss business continuity and disaster recovery here.
We will help you determine the appropriate level of investment in quality that is cost-effective at the early and later stages, and the tradeoffs of adding quality control infrastructure and processes earlier or later in the product development lifecycle.
We will offer a sample budgetary proposal for implementation to MVP that can be used for soliciting RFPs and as part of an investor deck.
We operate with complete transparency, honesty and demand the highest standards of professional and personal ethics. We strive for a balance between confidence, driven by professional experience, and ego-free decision-making.
When we select and recommend technology stacks and toolchains, we consider our clients’ existing investment in team, technology and infrastructure. We try to understand the expertise, priorities and focus of the product management, IT and software teams and the CISO office. We consider the costs of hiring local talent and, of course, the business’ budgetary considerations both in the short and long term.
Our project management style does not promote or subscribe to a single methodology. With our smaller teams, startup clients and internal projects we align with the agile manifesto and scrum development styles. We are also perfectly at home on the other end of the spectrum, working for Critical Infrastructure Providers in regulated industries and with agencies that require us to operate in CMM and ISO:9k environments.
Every project we engage in considers the trade-offs between requirements management, real-time milestone tracking, performance and scalability considerations, branch-by-feature source control, pull-request driven peer code review, continuous integration, test automation, DevOps, business continuation/disaster recovery, cybersecurity and the cost of support, operations and planned technology obsolescence.
We ask a lot of questions, and often make a lot of suggestions and proposals. We do this because we want to understand what drives your business to success and try to eliminate the noise and distractions of irrelevancies. When working with us do not expect to hear an immediate “Yes” to every ask. You can, however, be confident, that by the end of the conversation, your product team will have understood, embraced and committed to a course of action that your organization has set and is comfortable with.
We believe that it must be easy to do business with us. We embrace the “one hand to shake, one throat to choke” style of client relationship management. At a minimum, we offer a dedicated technical program manager, who resides (not just works) close to your time zone and interacts with communication fluency.