Getting your CEO and other leaders to buy into re-engineering platforms is no small feat, but our guest today has done it four times! Matt Ferguson of Zeeto tells us the ins and outs of company-wide agreement on major platform retooling.
Matt is a former Montana native with a love of horses and math, the latter of which led him to into the tech world. Here about that transition and much more on today’s edition of CTO Studio.
In this episode you’ll hear:
- Why people answer questions when they are online.
- How can you break out of the software paradigm, and why should you?
- Why is retrofitting not a great strategy?
- What does it mean to “forklift out”?
- Why is the CTO role not what some people think it is?
- And so much more!
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Today Matt is the CTO of Zeeto, a company in the ad tech space. They think of their company as a bidding platform to place advertising. Both advertisers and publishers are able to sign up. Most importantly they ask a lot of questions to get your ads in front of a specific type of person, that’s how they target for you. They are the only company doing something like this right now.
As a publisher working with his company goes like this: you would imbed a specific piece of code that would then display a question’s interface. That piece of online real estate enables his company to ask questions. For example they may ask if someone is planning to travel this year, or sell their house this year, etc.
Zeeto’s revenue comes from collecting money from the advertisers and then paying the publisher, taking a small revenue share along the way.
As far as the specific technology they are using, it’s a platform that was written before he joined and was done in PHP. It was quite successful and helped the company become a multi-million dollar organization. But they decided to reinvent the tech, make it more scaleable so the company could go big – and that was why he joined the team.
They wanted to reinvent the tech because adding new features, and new ad types had become harder. Also, the data modeling wasn’t flexible enough, it wasn’t multi-tenant so they had to stand up more servers and databases for each new customer. And the cost implications of all of that was too high.
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They knew they could get to a platform that would run at 1/10th the cost and be multi-tenant, and be more scaleable so he assembled his team off-site for 3 days. They went through a decision process of laying out fundamental architecture and making platform technology choices through a matrix analysis of what was in the market, what was too cutting edge and getting the team to agree on the boundaries.
It was a democratic, and transparent process to see why they made the decisions they made. They didn’t want people to step in six months later and say well it would’ve worked if we had done X. Everyone knew how the decision was made, and what the criteria were for making the choice.
Matt opted for a retreat that included everyone who was going to work on the product, not just senior leadership. He was new to the company and was curious to get to know what everyone was passionate about, and were good at. Matt tried to do as little speaking as possible so he could figure out who were the leaders, who would become owners and identify the folks who could take technical leads or drive the project personally or interpersonally.
What advice does he give on re-engineering a project? The biggest thing is to get an admission of where you are as fast possible, and buy in from the CEO about what it’s going to take. He’s replaced a major platform four times in his career and after the 4th time he’s learned starting over is the right strategy, especially if the platform is older.
Technology moves so fast. Consider the amazing transitions we’ve had over time from off-site data centers to the cloud to now being server-less. Those are at least 3 fundamental changes in hardware alone!
On today’s show, we also talk about what specific technology they used in the new platform for Zeeto and his recent communication accomplishments for the company’s teams. You’ll hear Matt and I dive into all of that and muc more on this episode of CTO Studio.
Zeeto web site
Matt Ferguson on LinkedIn
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and The Age of Amazon, by Brad Stone