Founders Need Technical Advisors

A strong relationship with a technical advisor is a necessity for all early-stage founders who are building technology products — whether you are using a contractor, off-shore team or full-time staff. In later stages, your technical advisor can continue to be a trusted ear for you and a useful resource for your own growing technical team.

 

So how do you get help?  It’s going to come in the form of a Part-Time CTO or a Technical Advisor.  The difference really is amount of time they are engaging and it may vary during the life of a startup.

 

A good technical advisor will provide benefits including:

 

  • Where/when/how to bring on development talent
  • Help manage development
  • Making technical choices (Choosing a Programming Language and Framework for Your Startup)
  • Advising on Technical Direction
  • Vetting and interviewing potential technical hires
  • Leveraging experience to suggest the best tools and services you can trust
  • Ensuring the right stuff is being built in the right order, protecting you from spending in the wrong places too early
  • Picking a development methodology and process that helps you work effectively with your development team and keep your product build on schedule

 

 

Where To Find a Technical Advisor

 

When you look for a technical advisor, you want to find someone who has deep technical experience, especially in areas you care about (i.e big data, user-generated content, mobile applications). But skip the techies who are coming to you with an agenda. You don’t want them pitching their pet technologies but rather offering the best solution for your unique business.

Often, you can reach out to strong technical leaders (CTOs usually) at other startups. Pitch them on your idea, let them know why you need their help. A genuine interest in cultivating the best technical operation you can goes a long way towards making us want to help you.

You are looking for part-time people in these rolls so you often are finding people who already are employed somewhere else.  If you need a strategic advisor, contact me and I will connect you with someone from the group.

 

Show a genuine interest in the tech and execution side of your business. 

 

We get excited by your entrepreneurial curiosity, and we’re proud of the tech and product experience we bring to the table. Ask us questions, dig in deep. We’re here to discuss with you, not to lecture at you. It’s not useful for anyone if we are spoon-feeding generic answers across the table.

 

How Do You Structure the Agreement?

 

Unless they’re a formal advisor, the agreement can be very straight forward. A simple one-page agreement that details exactly what you’re asking them to do, the amount of time they agree to spend per month / week, and the compensation being offered. Here’s a link to a really simple agreement template you can use as a starting point.

As with all other agreements, ensure that there is an assignment of intellectual property and confidentiality included in the agreement. After all, they’re going to be seeing a lot of your company’s product and internals. And, as always, I’m not an attorney and what I use may not be right for you. Have your attorney review all agreements.

 

How Do You Find a Technical Advisor?

 

The best way to find an advisor is through referrals from friends / other advisors. I don’t recommend that you try to do this yourself. Ask your advisors / investors who they know that might be interested, and ask for a warm introduction. Make sure they are a fit for you personally (you get along) and professionally (they have a number of years of experience in leading companies where you’re trying to go).

If you find the right advisor, it should be no more than a few hours a month for them to keep you on track. You can always increase the engagement as needed if there’s more pressing / urgent needs.

 

Compensation

This is going to depend on the specifics of the work.  When advisors need to jump in and spend significant hours on a particular issue, then likely cash compensation is going to be required.  If it stays at a few hours per month, then using something like Founder Institute’s FAST agreement probably makes sense.  Just make sure its clear what the expectations are going into any engagement.

 

 

 

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