Talking to Todd Outten

Todd Outten, one of our Hatch CTOs, talks to us about his passion for start-ups and how to avoid typical start up technology mistakes by thinking carefully about the role of your CTO…

1. Why do you feel passionate about supporting startups?
It’s the innovation. As long as there is a problem in the world, there’s an opportunity for someone to solve it. I find the process of going from an idea to a ‘thing’ in the universe very fascinating. I believe that every challenge is an opportunity, every pain point has an aspirin out there waiting to be discovered, to be developed and to me, it’s those elements that make them [startups] very intriguing to be a part of.

2. What are the most common technology mistakes that you see startups make?
I think that most technology mistakes come into play when non-technical founders try to fill the gap on the technology side. When looking for technologists or their founding CTO, startups often seek the smartest coder and to me, that is not the role of CTO. The primary role of the CTO is to have responsibility over translating business needs and business language into what the technology is going to look like and why.

The CTO also needs to have strong execution capabilities which means not only being a builder but also being able to orchestrate and develop a team. This person is going to set the technological vision of the entity and I think that the significance of this is often downplayed.

3. How do you think that startups can ensure that their CTOs have these essential skills when cash is a constraint?

Efficient use of capital.
Part of our value proposition is the efficient use of capital for the start-up which allows for early engagement of key resources early on. Instead of hiring someone and having your money go to their salary or consulting fee, with the start-up studios like Hatch, you’re able to get access to a team with very little capital.This allows you to stretch your money in the early stages of development.

4. Having worked at larger and more established companies like Sony, what have you learned that’s helped you with your own startups?
Believe it or not, it’s not easier for larger, more established companies than start-ups. They just have a little more resources. The larger entities that I’ve worked with have put a much stronger emphasis on customer service than what I see startups doing and I think that’s largely due to the
fact that startups are largely undercapitalized.

5. How do you think that small businesses can keep up and make the most of the tools that are available to them?
Whatever vertical you’re in, it’s important to be close to your industry associations and go to their meetings as that’s where technology vendors go. Even though you might be competitive in nature, I always find it helpful to have a relationship with my competitors where we can talk about things that aren’t directly competitive but are able to trade tips and experiences.

More about Todd…
An engineer by trade, Todd spent the early stages of his career in Hollywood designing technology for digital production and working for the likes of Sony Pictures Imageworks. Along the way, he wandered up to Silicon Valley to start his first company in the mid-nineties. Having fallen in love with entrepreneurship and innovation, he was instrumental in setting up five startups with Rogue Startup (his own) being his sixth.

Also passionate about giving back to the community, Todd is involved with The ITEM
– an organization that works to introduce more people from disadvantaged minority backgrounds to entrepreneurship through seminars and other educational opportunities.