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Do You Really Want to Be CTO?

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You finally did it: after years of building software for someone else, you took the leap and joined a startup. Now you’re building software for yourself. All the risk (and a 30% stake in the rewards) is yours. Then comes the day when your co-founders ask that fateful question: “What title do you want?”

You’ll be tempted, my friend, to reach for that brass ring, to claim the right of First Techie, to confidently say, “Why, CTO, of course!”

Hold on there, Tiger.

Sure, it looks great on a business card and your mom will be impressed, just as soon as you explain to her, for the hundredth time, what you do. And it will be nice to go to the next tech meetup and tell strangers that you’re the CTO for that tech company that they haven’t heard of (yet). And for a while those will be the only changes. But wait, there’s more.

Do you like meetings? Because you’re going to be attending a lot of them (and even hosting a few yourself!). Investor meetings, strategy meetings, planning sessions, inte…

Wanted: Someone to Make My Life Easier

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The job posting reads:

Hands-on Director/VP of EngineeringLooking for someone to build the engineering team for our fast-growing startup. Must be able to hire and inspire a high-performing development team, build the organization, and define new processes to support a larger team and a more complex product. Must be hands-on with our chosen technology stack and able to code at least 20% of the time. Should be able to grow as we grow, taking on more leadership while remaining a technical leader. Email CTO@mystartup.com with your resume and Github address.


It’s one of many that I see in the Denver area as overwhelmed CTOs try to clone themselves to support their company’s growth. With limited budgets and unlimited demands on their time, these leaders look for a “twofer” hire: someone who can lead the engineering organization without taking a seat away from a working developer.
At lunch with some local CTOs, though, the conversation around the table tells a different story:
“It feels like …

The Giving Season

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I've spoken a lot about giving to others and the impact that it's had on my life. Around this time last year, I encouraged people to join me in pushing back the darkness in the world by "turning on the light," giving gifts to their neighbors, friends, and even strangers without expecting anything in return. When the world seems bent on evil and destruction, you have two choices: you can get angry and add to the noise or you can fight back with love. My family and I choose the latter, and I hope that you, gentle reader, will do so as well.

I try to do find ways to give and to help others all year long, but there's something about the last six weeks of the year that calls to me to do more, give more, spread more light. This week, I thought about why that is and I came up with three reasons:
It's the Holidays Whether or not you want to attach special meaning to the December holidays,  time of year is special in America. We're bombarded with images of happy …

The growing funding gap

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“Pre-seed is the new seed.”
“We need to see traction before we can write a check. Come back when you have a product and customers.”
“We don’t do sub-500K rounds anymore. If you want less than that, talk to your friends and family.”
There’s a growing gap in the funding market, and early-stage companies are finding it more and more difficult to raise the money they need to get their products off the ground. Those that do spark investor interest face constant pressure to think bigger, ask for more money than they need, and commit to accelerating their company’s growth before they’re ready. None of this is healthy. I’ve seen this trend in the Boulder/Denver market over the past couple of years and I’ve confirmed it with friends and peers in Boston and the Bay Area: VCs and angel investors are moving up-market, de-risking their investments by waiting until a company has already proven its viability by releasing a product and winning its first few customers. Meanwhile, most entrepreneurs’ frie…

Announcing Da Primus Consulting

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"Give First."

These words drew me and my family to Boulder in 2009. We were drawn to a place that favored community over cutthroat competition, support over secrecy, where one company's success was a victory for everyone. We came here to join a small but rapidly growing group of people who wanted to tackle wicked problems and change the world through entrepreneurship. And boy, am I glad that we did.

"Give first." It's more than a motto: it's a way of life that looks at the world not as a Darwinian experiment but as a system that returns what you put into it. If you sow generously, then you'll reap generously. If you're only here to harvest, then you'll find that the resources eventually dry up. "For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Give, and it will come back to you. And if it doesn't, then that's OK, too, because you helped someone who needed it.

Giving has always been a big part of my personal life, an…

You Have to Give to Succeed

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Giving is a way of life in my family.  I've talked before about how we make this a priority in our lives and our finances, and we try to make it a part of our everyday lives as well.  For years, when anyone left the house for the day, they would leave with the words "Be a blessing!" in their ears.  We want to be more than good people; we want to be a blessing to the world, and every part of my personal life is tuned toward that purpose.

Work?  Not so much.  Putting other people first at home is one thing, but doing it at work always seemed to be the fast track to a career in doormats and punching bags.  When your boss has Sun Tzu's  The Art of War on his desk, maybe graceful capitulation isn't the best strategy.  So I learned to keep my generosity at home and to be more strategic in my dealings at work.

I had a certain image in my mind of what a "giver" looked like: nice, soft, beaten down, carrying some girl's books to school while she walked arm…

When to hire a CxO

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In my last article, I told you that you don't need a CTO yet, and I received some interesting responses.       In one discussion, someone pointed out that this doesn't just apply to CTOs but could really include any C-level position that the founding team doesn't already have covered.  I agree: I chose to write about the CTO role because it's closer to my experience, so I end up discussing this function with startup teams, but you could just as easily say, "Don't hire a CFO yet."  As this person pointed out, you need to take care of the functions that are covered by these roles, but you don't need to create the titles until they're absolutely necessary.

So let's assume you took my advice (because you really should).  The logical next question is: when should I hire a CxO?  The actual timing varies by your company and situation, but here are some pointers to tell you when the time is right.

When the hat gets too big "We all wear a lot of …