I’d love your feedback on this idea that’s been floating around in my head. Most of the companies and founders I spend time with are either in formation- or early-stages, pre-Series B. All of these companies are very product-focused, and rightfully so. And, as these companies start to gain success (at this stage, measured by traction), they are more open to non-technical hires to help drive internal processes to move even faster. At the same time, hiring someone nontechnical is a big decision. It’s hard to quantify impact. It increases the burn during uncertain times. There’s cultural fit, of course. But, these teams want to move faster, and have resources to spend.
My idea is a part-time COO — or, what I like to call “COO as a Service” (COOaas). In some cases, this is what I do now. Since I’m operational in nature, but working with companies where it’s too early, perhaps having a trusted COOaaS helps early-stage teams study and improve their procedures, deadlines, and more, without the hassle of bringing on a full-time hire. The conventional wisdom is (1) don’t hire people on contract, but focus on building a team; and (2) the first few non-technical hires must pass a high bar. These make sense, but the cost is that if no one assumes the COO role at these companies (say, when the CEO/founder is focused as the lead PM for the moment), then things may not move at a speed that is needed, or things get overlooked procedurally as companies lead up to launches and scaling concerns.
What do you think? Have you seen any companies use this model, or ones that should consider it? [Separately, I started thinking about this a month ago and started this Quora thread to collect the names of the most promising COOs in the startup world today.]