previous | contents | next

Technology Balance Sheet Rules 137

This rule determines whether the start-up's risks have been transferred to an outside vendor and then assesses the overall risk in using such a vendor. Information about the vendor's past performance is required, especially evidence of its reliability in meeting delivery schedules. Founding a company predicated on the availability of a component that a manufacturer has never before built is always risky. The new venture gets no points for picking the best technology or engineering the lowest cost if it is then unable to obtain a key part or unable to obtain it on time or in manufacturing quantities.

The evaluation of vendors and components is an excellent position for a seasoned engineer, by the way. Such individuals know which components and suppliers are high- quality and reliable. New engineers, on the other hand, tend to believe specifications.

The general qualifications of the CTO must parallel those of the CEO, because he or she is the "clock" and "standards setter" for engineering. The CTO should have a track record of both technical and managerial accomplishment. The CTO's technical back-ground must be solid enough to gain the engineers' respect and confidence in his or her technical decisions. The CTO's managerial skills must be strong enough to deal with conflicting egos, limited resources, and all the other trials and tribulations that a manager faces. This individual should be especially talented at recognizing, selecting, and encouraging top-notch engineers.

As stated previously, the product architect is likely to be the most critical person within the engineering function. His or her key job is to guide the product's introduction and evolution over the course of its lifetime, and a track record of success in past endeavors is the strongest possible recommendation. In some cases, several architects may be required as a product is broken into various parts, but the boundaries of each architect's responsibilities must be clear, and the architects must be capable of functioning as a cohesive team.

In one sense, this rule relates to the question of whether the company has the "right tech" (i.e., an appropriate level of technology). If the technology upon which the venture is to be based is so "far-out" that only a handful of technologists skilled in that art are available, the firm is likely to have serious staffing problems. On the other hand, if the

previous | contents | next