Richard StanfordCTO, entrepreneur, consulting problem solver

Experienced CTO, four-time company founder, pragmatic technical leader, and distributed systems architect with experience growing startup and early-stage growth companies to deliver tangible business objectives and revenue.

Recent Answers

Legally or physically?

Unfortunately, the reality is that you just have to assume that everyone who has access to your code has a copy of it on their home PC. They probably don't, but there's very little that you can do to stop them if they wanted to. Think of it this way - have you ever met someone in sales who didn't have a copy their rolodex and some good sample contracts at all times?

The "good" news here is that just having IP is not enough. Software development is so fast and efficient these days that even starting with code, unless you have some very particular formulae (and if you do you should keep them somewhere else with limited access to that code), most of your code is not particularly relevant. To anyone wishing to compete with you its probably fairly simple to copy your product, but much harder to copy the business itself. If you have reasonable employment agreements you can probably make the risk of copying greater than the benefit that a new competitor would get by doing so, and that's often the best you can do.

That's both a blessing and a curse. I've started a few successful "product" companies that relied on SaaS software and would be happy to discuss it further if you like.

Find out what about your company structure is giving them concerns. Is it your business type? Do you not have enough insurance? Are they asking to look at your financials? Its not uncommon, in big partnership cases that hinge on the balance sheet, to have an angel provide a short-term investment to shore everything up (although ideally that will happen before you share the data with your prospective partner) - I know that I've done that before.

If people at the other company really want the deal to happen, it will happen. If you're unsure to exactly what the blocker is, your best bet is probably to ask whoever your internal advocate is directly. Without that information you're likely to spend a lot of effort in solving the wrong problem.

It depends greatly on the industry. If it is seen as a B2B convenience by your customers, especially if you don't see any real value in using it to reduce churn, then pricing should remain the same so that monthly clients don't feel like they're being screwed. If you're trying to push people towards it for your own convenience because of cashflow or other issues, I'd say that the "common" SaaS practice seems to be offering two months free per year (so it would go down to $2,499/yr. Anything less than that and you're asking your customers to pre-fund you for no benefit to themselves, which won't work very well.

A lot depends on the business. Are you starting off with a contract or taking a customer with you? You might be fine (don't forget that you've almost certainly underestimated your startup costs though).

One of the more successful restauranteurs I know, conversely, told me that the secret in his business is to plan to have no revenue for 12 months and then no income for another 12. If you can do that, you'll be fine for the long term as long as the food and experience isn't terrible. Even great restaurants can take a very long time to build a clientele though.

I would say though that - again, depending on the business - you'd be better off using your savings or going into debt than having a side job. Being able to focus everything on your new venture is a huge factor; also, knowing that you have to make those 12 sales calls because your income depends on it can really be a motivational kick in the right way.

When you have an idea, the idea itself seems incredibly valuable and a common fear is that someone else will jump on it before you do.

In my experience though, especially after multiple startups, the more you look around the more ideas you can find that - while not perfect - are certainly good enough to launch a business from. Without solid execution, however, they have no value other than engaging dinner table speculation.

Share your ideas. If they're deep enough to build a business around, the time you've spent thinking about them will be more than valuable enough for someone serious about execution to not try to cut you out of the deal. If they're trivially copied then they probably don't have much value compared to the massive amount of work it'll take to launch and sustain the venture around them.

Sorry if that's not what you're looking to hear, but I'd say that the NDA dance at this stage will turn off more people (especially investors who hear lots of pitches and can't afford an inadvertent "you stole my idea" accusation when they go with an alternate pitch six months later) than they're worth to you.

We help our customers design and build apps - traditional and mobile. One of my personal favorite tools for prototyping is a notebook and pen, followed closely by a good big whiteboard. Its not "sexy" or "modern", but there's something about the act of actually drawing designs out with your hands that can really bring a new element to the design process.

As for the tool selection, without knowing what sort of app you're considering any recommendation would be premature. Feel free to give me a call, or post some follow-up information (could be vague - is it an action game or a contact management solution for example).

Even more than some of the other answers, I'd ask you to consider how much you believe your idea is worth. If it's substantial then do you really want to sign over 30-50% of the future profit in exchange for your technology? And if its anything other than a substantial amount of equity for a high-probability high-profit venture, why expect someone with critical skills to sign on to the project?

Even with 12-18 months of runway at 80% market salaries you'll probably have to offer some moderate equity to entice someone to take on the risk, hours, and uncertainty of a startup compared to a solid professional gig.

You can almost always call your city and state tax offices, they're generally happy to help educate you and make sure that you proactively comply with any regulations. There's no need for you to try to guess or google the answer when they've got a staff that's ready to to provide the canonical response.

On a little bit of a different note, I'd add that getting a good night's sleep and making room in my day to work out for an hour or so dramatically increases my productivity. Not necessarily my total hours - but my highly productive hours.

Assuming that you're in a position where your results are generally limited by your own abilities, if you can work things so that you have 3-4 1 hour blocks in which you do nothing but focussed production you'll likely find yourself far ahead of the pack. At that point, feel free to give yourself those other "working" hours back rather than using them to twiddle your thumbs on a keyboard.

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