Paul Nebel - MEng PhD MBCS

Virtual CTO & Business Advisor BCS Professional Member logoEuropean Flag

I am a specialist in the creation, design and build of innovative, technology-led Businesses, Products & Services:

My primary focus has been innovative technology startups but the processes, tools and skills I have acquired by working with more than 50 of these startups from a variety of industries including safety, transport, proptech, cleantech, energy, agriculture, fitness and smart cities can be applied just as well to companies of any size wishing to innovate.

I have been a professional Full-Stack developer for over 20 years.  I have occupied a variety of roles in that time, from developer to team lead to technical architect and consultant. The projects I have been involved in cover a wide range of technologies including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Node.js, JavaScript, TypeScript
  • Python, Django, Wagtail
  • React, Redux
  • Next.js, Gatsby.js
  • RESTful APIs
  • Microservices
  • Containerisation
  • Continuous delivery
  • Minimum Viable Product development
  • Graph databases (Neo4j, OrientDB)
  • SQL & NoSQL databases (Postgres, PostGIS, MySQL, SQLServer, MongoDB)
  • Object-orientation (Java, C#, Ruby, Smalltalk)

Making innovation possible

By definition, an innovative technology startup is testing assumptions that haven’t been tested before relating to products, services, technologies and/or markets. Most of the founders of these startups have never created a new, innovative business from scratch before. This can, at times, feel like an overwhelming task.

I have worked with over 50 early-stage technology startups, helping them to design innovative new businesses. I use this experience to help define an approach and choose the appropriate tools to guide startup founders to a position where innovation is possible. I spend much of my time facilitating workshops to develop such things as:

  • Customer Personas
  • Value Propositions
  • Assumptions & Hypotheses
  • Business Canvasses
  • Unit Economics
  • Service Design Blueprints

The aim of these workshops is to reduce uncertainly and achieve clarity and credibility for the founders. My personal experience, combined with what I have learned from working with these startups, makes it possible for me to ask the questions that founders can’t or don’t want to ask of themselves but which must be asked to avoid costly mistakes or delays.

Making technology serve the business

One of the keys to achieving clarity is to understand where you are and where you need to be, which are often two very different things. My role as a Virtual CTO & Business Advisor is to help startups work out how best to get where they need to go in the most efficient and effective way. This often requires a very different approach to the one founders thought they would be taking, at least in the first instance.

Defining assumptions, creating testable hypotheses from those assumptions and measuring outcomes is a particular skill and one in which I have a great deal of experience. There is a temptation for technological businesses to provide technological answers to every question. I believe that a good CTO is responsible for identifying and building only what cannot be purchased and only if it is absolutely necessary.

I’m interested in helping founders create shiny new businesses, not to play with shiny new technology.

Optimising effective execution

Many people believe that good ideas are the key to good businesses. It is mostly true that a good business starts with a good idea but ideas are ten a penny - execution is what really counts. For effective innovation to occur requires effective execution. To execute effectively you need appropriate targets, high agility and the desire to learn. It is often the case that failure is an extremely effective tutor. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I believe that taking an approach where potential failure is embraced is far more effective than seeking perfection.

I believe that creating prototypes is a better approach than creating ‘products’ for a startup. It allows founders to act before they have all the answers and to test, explore and sell and idea. By failing early we avoid wasting time on wrong choices and can progress incrementally towards a complex and appropriate solution.