Mike Slinn
Mike Slinn

Technology Evaluation & Due Diligence

I have performed technology due diligence for investors since 1985. I evaluate both open-source and proprietary projects. I assess software development organizations and individuals, including processes, technology, and I also lead code reviews. I have years of experience evaluating projects and teams, and I am a well-known Scala mentor. I often collaborate with others when performing an evaluation. I normally work via video conferencing, but I also work in-person, on site.

For assessments, I do not perform original research, I merely report on the subject company as I find it. I offer the following types of evaluations.

Quick Sanity Check

If you are thinking of investing $25,000 USD or more in a software project, but you are concerned if it is real, this service might be of interest.

For individuals and small businesses that are interested in a small investment, I offer a quick, inexpensive sanity check. The other assessments I do cost more and take longer, but provide more information. This quick sanity check merely attempts to answer the question: “Is this project real?”

To answer that question I look at the published open-source code, often found on GitHub, GitLab, or Bitbucket. I examine the git history logs and look at the code, then opine on whether this seems like a real project or a scam, and whether the project is actively being worked on. For this service, I report back every day with my findings. In this way clients control the budget one day at a time.

Preparing for Investment or Sale

Need help with building a winning technical team, establishing just the right amount of process, or streamlining the technical architecture and roadmap?

I have helped prepare technology businesses for sale or investment for over twenty years. Notable successes include sales to IBM, Microsoft, AltaVista (itself purchased by Yahoo!), and NBC Interactive, and investments by wealthy individuals and VCs.

Starting from a funded initial assessment, I discuss my findings, and then I suggest options for moving forward. I can act as an advisor, interim CTO, or interim VP Engineering.

Full Technical Due Diligence

For this type of engagement I focus on assessing the technical team and their work, as well as their interfaces with other teams such as marketing, sales and senior management.

For example, I ask product managers about their understanding of their competitive landscape by requesting their market research and then asking questions about product positioning and product roadmap. As another example, I ask about penetration tests (how has security been tested?) I sometimes make recommendations for change during a follow-on assignment.

In my written report, I can address the questions that investors typically have, including:

  • Can the engineering team consistently deliver quality results on time and on budget?
  • Is the product team able to address the market effectively?
  • Can the sales team connect with customers?
  • Is the entire management team effective?

Clients can request the assessment scope appropriate for their needs, and pose questions for me to address. Costs vary accordingly. I offer the following assessments of technology, processes and people.

Technology

  • Source code, including build scripts, test suites and benchmarks.
  • Failure mode analysis.
  • Diagrams (architecture, org charts)
  • Lists (code library licenses, release dates, support tickets, equipment inventories)
  • Certifications (SOC II, HIPAA compliance, PCI)
  • Spreadsheets (budgets, historical spend)
  • Patents and trade secrets
  • Demonstrations; if there are multiple customer personas, I ask for demos on them all.

Processes

  • Methodology (Scrum, Kanban, pair programming, code reviews, etc.)
  • Coding standards
  • Deployment automation
  • Production monitoring
  • Security policies
  • Product management
  • Messaging
  • Road map
  • User stories

People

Depending on the assignment, I might examine everyone's role in the company, or my review might be restricted to the technologists. I interview everyone within the purview of the assignment, take photographs, get an up-to-date copy of their resume, and ask for individual roadmaps, when available. An individual roadmap is a document that outlines each person's responsibilities, strengths, weaknesses, and the metrics used to measure their success.

Next Steps

I can generally indicate price once scope is defined. For best results I should meet everyone in person, so travel should be budgeted for. Please let me know what the timeframe might be for your project.

Technology Team Effectiveness

More, Better, Faster, Cheaper Results From Your Engineering Team

In just 5 days I can tell you:

  • Is your software development group using technology effectively?
  • Is your group suffering from any of the most common pitfalls for software development teams?
  • Are your brilliant young developers stumbling into unrecognized or underestimated problems?
  • Suggestions for your technical strategy for the F/OSS world.

For the first 4 days after signing an NDA I will assess your code; this won't take appreciable time from your staff. My written report, delivered at the end of the 4th day, will include:

  • Summary of findings from my code review.
  • References to specific code and suggestions for alternative approaches as appropriate.
  • Resources and recommendations to address specific issues found.

On the fifth day I normally lead a group review of my findings, and discuss options for improvement. Discussions can include such topics as design, development, testing, deployment, and technical strategy.

I can also review processes internal to engineering, and between engineering and other departments such as product management if desired. Followup mentoring is available.

I have been teaching software engineering in person and online for decades, and have performed technology assessments since 1985. I have helped many individuals and organizations develop proprietary intellectual property effectively. I focus on people, processes and technology. My engineering expertise, developed over many decades, is not confined software development, but includes distributed systems theory and practice, artificial intelligence, blockchain, effective engineering practices, technical strategy, product management and technical marketing.

“You Moved Us Forward 8 Months!”

The VP Engineering of a startup, who oversees 20 programmers, had this to say at the end of the final day of a Technology Team Effectiveness Assessment: “You moved us forward 8 months!”

Imagine your entire engineering department being relieved of many months of learning through trial and error. Can you afford to miss out on the benefits of my Technology Team Effectiveness Assessment?

Blockchain

I gave a presentation on August 28, 2018, at the 6th Annual Santa Clara Global Big Data Conference. In the presentation I discussed how I evaluate blockchain infrastructure companies. This presentation should be of interest to investors and employee companies that develop software related to blockchain.