The Circinaut FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions: Scroll down or click a question to learn more.

Services

What are "Fractional CTO" services?

What kind of website development do you do?

Can you do due diligence for a potential funding or acquisition?

Will you maintain my website/application?

Are there services you won't provide?

Can you make me an AI that does XYZ?

Will you host my website?

Tools and Platforms

We're a C++/Java/C# Shop! Can you still help us?

What are your platforms of choice?

Which cloud platforms do you use?

How do we work together? What tools do you use?

General Questions

Don't you HAVE a job? How can you do this, too?

Where are you located?

Can you spend your days in our offices?

Pricing

Why would I use a retainer over just paying for your hours?

Your rate seems high. How about half that?

What is your smallest increment of time billed?

How much do you charge?

Services

What are "Fractional CTO" services?

"Fractional CTO", "Virtual CTO", or "Part-time CTO" services offer CTO-level expertise without the need for a full-time commitment.

Ideal for startups and small businesses, this approach provides holistic tech leadership, from strategic planning to hands-on development. Instead of juggling a full team or multiple vendors, you gain a single expert who streamlines your journey from idea to live product. In essence, you get the benefits of seasoned leadership, ensuring your project's success, all while optimizing costs and flexibility.

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What kind of website development do you do?

Normally, my services around website development are less about building simple websites and more in terms of "web applications" that have special requirements.

For example, a client needed extremely fast performance on a huge number of pages for SEO, but also has a ton of information to manage-- so I built them a React-based Next.js website to pre-render pages from a CMS that I set up for them.

Another client has a complex, proprietary business assessment algorithm that required the implementation of an intuitive UI, as well as a back-end application to manage profiles, scores, and other information about the users.

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Can you do due diligence for a potential funding or acquisition?

Absolutely. However, I typically constrain myself to doing a technical assessment and leave financial or market analysis to experts in those areas.

I will typically request and review documentation, interview key members of the team, and probe deeper on issues that might raise concerns.

My report will then give my unbiased opinion of their teams and their strengths and challenges.

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Will you maintain my website/application?

Yes. Most of my clients stay with me for years. If you're a legal, medical, or financial company, you probably don't have (or need) a tech team on your payroll. You just need someone you can call with questions, for new features, or when something goes wrong.

I offer retainer, project, and hourly services. I prioritize retainer clients over project work. I prioritize project work over hourly work. I prioritize hourly work over my personal projects.

You can sign up for the right-sized contract that gives you the time and priority that's right for you.

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Are there services you won't provide?

Aside from the illegal, I can't provide services to ad agencies that are direct competitors to my primary employer. I would also say that there are some services for which I am just not a good fit.

I would avoid engagements that require specialized knowledge in blockchain, desktop applications, or game development, for example.

Finally, I don't believe that I am the most cost-effective choice for clients with simple static websites or Wordpress sites.

In general, it's usually best to discuss the situation. I will be very happy to let you know if I don't believe I can give you the best service given your requirements.

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Can you make me an AI that does XYZ?

Yes. I probably can.

Most often, though, the first question we want to answer is "What is the problem you're trying to solve?"

Recently, there's a tendency to think of AI, and in particular, generative AI like ChatGPT as the easy solution to solving all difficult problems.

The truth is that generative AI is a tool that is amazing at some things and downright terrible at others. The challenge in developing AI (or any) applications is to figure out how to best solve your problem and then use the various tools out there to do it in the most cost-efficient, effective way.

If it turns out to be AI, great! It really is a fascinating set of tools to work with.

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Will you host my website?

I very often host my clients' projects for a while in the prototype stage and after they go live. As part of a retainer, I can provide hosting on an ongoing basis, but there are pros and cons to this solution:

Pros:

  • I can usually host the site as part of your retainer with little or no additional cost to you. I will only charge if your site has particularly expensive hosting requirements.
  • If I'm hosting it, I know how to fix it better than anyone. For a complex site that can make a world of difference.

Cons:

  • There is basically no SLA. As a part-time consultant, I do not have the resources to service your site 24/7/365. That means that if the site goes down, I'll do my best to get it back up as soon as I can.
  • As much as I value my partnerships with my clients, I understand that no one likes to be beholden to one vendor. If I win the lottery and wander off**, you might wish your site was hosted by a company or provider who specialized in that.

**I'm not going to do that, but you know what I mean.

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Tools and Platforms

We're a C++/Java/C# Shop! Can you still help us?

I am happy to act as an technical advisor to companies, regardless of the platforms on which they've chosen to build their businesses. I have years of experience with both JVM and .NET platforms.

That said, my current hands-on platforms of choice are typically Javascript/Typescript/node for backend applications and UIs and Python for data analysis. I sometimes use Ruby or Elixir for API development.

If your platform is decided, and your needs are heavy on the hands-on development of more "enterprise" type platforms, I may not be the best fit.

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What are your platforms of choice?

Most often, as of late, I develop in TypeScript (basically a dialect of Javascript) or Python, depending on the task.

I am currently a big fan of Remix, a React application framework) for web development. My UI work is almost always some form of React, and React Native or Flutter for mobile development.

For AI development, I will use either Python or TypeScript and, occasionally, LangChain-- a developing AI application platform.

For back-end services, I will default to Typescript and node, Ruby on Rails, or Elixir's Phoenix.

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Which cloud platforms do you use?

I am very comfortable, and have years of experience, working with all of the Big 3 cloud providers-- AWS, Google, or Azure. Left to my own devices, I will probably pick AWS, since it's the one with which I'm most familiar, but each case has to be evaluated on the requirements and cost.

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How do we work together? What tools do you use?

It is amazing how many tools are available for remote collaboration today. I typically rely heavily on Zoom and Slack for communication.

For project management, I typically use either Trello or Asana for their easy project boards. I am very comfortable with JIRA, but it tends to be a little complex for smaller teams.

Most of my design partners prefer Figma these days.

For documentation, I have most often been using the Google office suite, though I have no particular preference or aversion to the Microsoft office tools.

I am happy to learn new tools to fit in with your established way of doing business.

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General Questions

Don't you HAVE a job? How can you do this, too?

Yes, I do! I am a full-time CTO during the day. The work I do through Circinaut is done part-time on evenings and weekends.

How do I do that? Well, truth is, I have a very hard time "sitting still". I enjoy learning about new people, businesses, and technologies.

A 20-hour virtual CTO engagement is just five hours per week, on average. Most people spend that much time scrolling the reels.

My clients understand that my day job has to come first in scheduling, but that I rarely find myself over-booked since I limit myself to just a few ongoing clients at a time.

Also, I don't watch TV and drink a whole lot of coffee. You'd be amazed at how much time just that gives you.

You can read more about my motivations, aside from making some dough, for this "side hustle" in my blog.

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Where are you located?

Circinaut is located in the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon. While I enjoy working with local companies, most of my clients are from up and down the West Coast.

With Zoom and cloud technology being what it is, there's no reason I can't work just as easily with clients in any part of the United States.

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Can you spend your days in our offices?

All of my work is done remotely.

I strive to be as responsive as possible, but it is not possible for me to work from your location. I occasionally enjoy traveling to visit clients, but I have also had several clients who I've never met in person.

While I do the vast majority of my work in the "off hours", I am able to attend occasional Zoom meetings during the day if necessary and if they are arranged in advance.

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Pricing

Why would I use a retainer over just paying for your hours?

There are three reasons to choose a retainer over hourly:

  • First, a retainer is approximately 20% less expensive "per hour" than my hourly rate, assuming you fully utilize the time allocated for your retainer. The retainer is not an "hourly" service, but I strive to provide approximately equivalent time and attention to your work.
  • Then, if you are on a retainer, I will often use the remaining allocated time to perform research, upgrades, or maintenance work that might not get completed otherwise. Like most things, regular maintenance can prevent costly repairs and upgrades down the line. My retainer clients get my regular attention to ensure smooth operation.
  • Finally, I always prioritize my retainer work over my other work. I do sometimes have to refuse hourly work if I don't believe that I can complete it after I have provided my retainer and project clients their time. Clients appreciate the security of knowing that they have me "on-tap" if needed.

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Your rate seems high. How about half that?

No, thank you.

In all seriousness, I publish my rates to provide transparency so there's no sticker shock or uncertainty about the "deal" you got.

While we can always negotiate on scope and services, I do not negotiate on my rates. I believe that my services are a great value for the benefits they provide, and I completely understand that there are less expensive resources out there that might be a better fit to your budget or philosophy.

They won't be as good, but they're out there.

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What is your smallest increment of time billed?

When I am billing hourly, I bill to the half-hour. There aren't a lot of things I can do that take less than that, and the overhead involved makes anything less impractical. If the work is substantially less than that-- truly quick messages or even a fast bug fix-- I don't charge anything.

This is one reason I prefer working on a fixed-price or retainer basis so that this isn't an issue. The overhead of tracking time only serves to reduce the efficiency and flexibility of my work.

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How much do you charge?

I generally start at $250/hour for hourly work, but I prefer to work on a retainer or project basis to avoid having to track time and make decisions on the basis of hours. I find that it's better for everyone-- no surprises for you and no "minute-pinching" by me-- if we agree on a fixed fee, and I deliver an appropriate product or level of availability based on that fee. It ultimately costs less per hour and is a more efficient way of getting work done.

For whatever reason, my retainers have historically been either five or twenty hours per month in size, with five being more common. My minimum is two hours per month.

Projects range all over the map depending on the scope.

I do my best to price and deliver projects with zero surprises. When things do happen that require adjusting our agreement, you will always receive plenty of notice, explanation, and options for handling it.

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