Meet Daniel Norman, CTO of güdTECH

For me, the best part of 7CTOs has been the focus emotional intelligence and embracing vulnerability; not just for the fee-fees, but as a legitimate means to achieve better business outcomes. Good culture is such an important part of our success. It doesn’t come from inside a cracker-jack box, it comes from values of radical candor, kindness, and respect.

Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of different meetups, trying to connect with people, not just on a technical level but also a personal level. It’s been a great relief to find a group where you can really get to know people who can relate to the challenges of technology management.

Having a venue where you feel comfortable talking about the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a CTO is quite a thing indeed. Over the course of my membership, I’ve learned many things about myself, my organization, and how to better position my team for success.

So with that in mind, I’m happy to have the opportunity to talk a little bit about my company, and what we’ve learned. My partner Sam Moses (CEO) and I co-founded güdTECH in August 2011.

But give me a moment to explain how we got there. I was fortunate enough to land a job at Qualcomm at 19. This of course had a deleterious effect on my college career, but it was great for my professional life. I worked at Qualcomm for a few years before joining the mp3.com crew in 2000. It was an exciting time through the dotcom boom-and-bust cycle, and indeed quite educational.

From there, I joined the DrJays.com tech team in 2004, where I met Sam and we became steeped in the eCommerce space. We worked together for more than seven years, building an in-house system to run the various DJNetworks web properties, fulfillment centers, and call center. It was a formative experience, running the full technology stack for such a large retailer, shipping internationally, and competing with the likes of Karmaloop.com.

Sensing a huge market opportunity, Sam and I departed in 2011 to start a new technology company, and apply our experience towards building an exciting new product: RetailOps is a SaaS product for retailers, online, brick-and-mortar and everywhere in between. Providing a full set of tools to run back-office and warehouse operations, from the C-suite to the warehouse floor; purchasing, receiving, inventory, product management, shipping, reporting and beyond. Our target market is retailers with annual gross sales from $5 million to $250 million, but our platform is sufficiently robust to handle retailers well in excess of this initial focus market.

In the space of less than five years, we’ve gone from a two-person angel-funded startup, to a flourishing technology company servicing some sizable retail businesses, and competing with the likes of Netsuite, SAP, and Demandware.

Here’s how RetailOps works:

The basic idea is to take the inventory you have, or have access to, and to make it available to all of your sales channels. Amazon, eBay, Magento, In store, etc. This could be inventory you hold in your warehouse, inventory on the shelf at your brick-and-mortar stores, or inventory which a vendor will ship to you, or on your behalf. This is known as “Omni-Channel” Retail.

Buyers use RetailOps to write purchase orders for items they wish to stock, and they are automatically transmitted to the vendor. RetailOps also automatically writes “JIT” and “Dropship” purchase orders in response to customer demand.

Sometime later an eighteen-wheeler pulls up at your warehouse receiving dock. RetailOps then facilitates the labeling of the pallets which are being offloaded, and the buying/finance teams are alerted that they’ve arrived.

The product gets prioritized for processing, unpacked, labeled, and logged into the RetailOps inventory management system. Photographed, and then described, its description data is automatically pushed out to all sales channels.

Orders coming in from these channels automatically select the most cost efficient route, considering shipping cost, vendor fees, and the value of customer perception for exceeded expectations.

I saw a cool example recently, where a customer order came in for one of our customers that really exercised the system. They’re a furniture retailer. The order was worth about $6,000 with 25 items on it. This one customer order attached to twelve different Just-in-time purchase orders destined to “cross-dock” at three different distribution centers, and five dropship purchase-orders destined to the customer, all generated and transmitted automatically. There were about fifty-thousand possible routes for this order, and RetailOps selected the optimal one, considering all costs, both direct, and indirect perceptual costs.

This process is sufficiently new that Gartner has only just recently coined a term for it: Distributed Order Management or DOM.

We’re constantly evolving our product; adding features, and streamlining process flows. Most recently, we added vastly improved point of sale application. Now you can go into a physical store and the sales counter is directly tied into RetailOps. We have online retailers all over the country, but now we’re coming to a mall near you. Found the shoe you want, but in the wrong size? That’s ok, we’ll ship it to you. Order online for instore pickup? No problem, we’ve got that too.

As for me, like most CTOs of growing companies, I’m out of the day-to-day coding, and much more immersed in management. A broader, overarching tech focus — forest instead of trees — to decide what’s in, what’s out, how to scale the platform, what designs make sense, and build-vs-buy decision-making. That’s what takes up the majority of my time.

We’re based in downtown San Diego, which is starting to become quite a technology hub. güdTECH has hosted a number of meetups, our machine-learning meetup was probably the most popular, but the San Diego Rust meetup is gaining traction as the language becomes more popular. It’s a great way for us to get people together who like talking about the same stuff we do.

Of course I’m going to be biased having grown up here, but I love San Diego. It’s a fabulous city with such distinctive neighborhoods, mediterranean climate, and a unique culture. Having beaten cancer as a child, growing up in Poway as an awkward, geeky kid, and coming out of my shell in my 20s, I have taken much solace in the kindness, and inclusiveness of the technology industry I have come to know.

Some mornings I enjoy walking to the office from my home in Hillcrest to clear the mind. When time permits, I like to pop up to the mountains for snowboarding, too. Because they asked me name my favorite movie, I’ll tell you it’s Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb. – “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the war room!”

I appreciate your taking the time to read about my experiences. If we’ve not yet met through 7CTOs, I would welcome the opportunity. We collectively have the power to make change at a grand scale, not only through technological innovation, but also by fostering kindness and vulnerability in our professional organizations. 7CTOs is the best crucible I’ve yet found in which to forge the greatest possible version of ourselves, and our respective technology organizations. Thank you.