There’s a misconception that people in tech aren’t big on networking and connecting socially. Our guest today has busted that myth and shows us the power of community building with CTOs.
Dr. Tony Karrer is one of the founders of the Los Angeles CTO Forum, and is also an inspiration to me. He’s built multiple start-ups, is currently the CTO of several companies and holds a doctorate from USC.
Listen in to hear his wisdom on the topics of community building, scaling up and scaling down and much more on today’s CTO Studio.
In this episode, you’ll hear:
- What is a fractional CTO?
- What lesson did he learn from scaling in the dot com era?
- When do you know if you need a CTO?
- Is there a way to ensure you find the right advisors?
- How do you know if a CTO is a first class citizen of their C suite?
- And so much more!
We begin today with Tony telling us how did the LA CTO forum came to fruition. There is a small group of people who founded it over a decade ago. Back when InfoWorld was running a national conference for CTOs and creating local CTO groups.
Doing so inspired a group of people – Tony included – to form their own local CTO group in the LA area. Originally there were 8 of them, and they would gather together to talk about their problems and get ideas from each other. Their original group met in 2001, and they’ve been growing ever since. In fact, they still help each other today. Tony tells us about how someone from within the group helped him deal with the recent GDPR updates.
We also talk about the ebb and flow of this group and how he decided to stick with this idea for so long. Of course, the core reason is that it provides to him tremendous value in return. While the group ebbs and flows, its core is always there and always strong. Staying in that core group doesn’t feel like it’s a chore for him: it’s a great group of people who provide incredible value to each other and to the larger ecosystem.
And that commitment has paid off, they are a well-known group in and around Los Angeles. They’ve become so big they have also expanded to neighboring areas like Santa Barbara, Pasadena and Orange County.
Our next topic is TechEmpower: Tony was a CTO at two start-ups in the 90s and TechEmpower came out of those experiences. He would get excited about the strategy and how the company should leverage technology. In both instances, he realized once things got going with the company there wasn’t a whole lot of strategy left to execute. Instead, it became all about coding.
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He knew he was passionate about the strategy and wanted to do more of that, so he wondered how to make that happen.
It was the tech boom at the time and everyone wanted to have a start-up. So he opted to do three of these at a time, and he quickly realized his next problem: he needed people to help him build those three start-ups and everything that went along with them.
Soon he had tapped out his pipeline of people, and was soon faced with the formidable task of hiring the right people. It seemed like a natural solution to build up a staff of his own. He was teaching Computer Science at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) all during this experience, As a teacher, his former students and currently graduating students were a natural resource. From there TechEmpower was born.
In its earliest days, TechEmpower was run out of a lab at Loyola Marymount.. Before long there were 10 people working at LMU’s lab. This was during the summer so when the department head saw so many students working in the lab, he asked Tony what they were doing. Tony told him the truth, explaining he had provided them with some work experience opportunities. The department head took it in stride, but a week later a memo was issued saying no commercial enterprises were allowed in the labs at LMU!
Tony followed the new rule, moved the group off campus into their own space and continued growing the company. Today TechEmpower does CTO consulting, architecture consulting, due diligence, tech reviews, and the like.
Also on today’s episode we talk about his other company, Aggregage and their CTO Universe. You’ll also hear the top 5 CTO concerns from his community and the San Diego CTO community, plus much more on this edition of CTO Studio!