On October 4, 2019, Will Koffel will take to the stage as keynote speaker of this month’s First Fridays, presented by Google for Startups in partnership with the DMZ.
As Google Cloud’s Head of Startup Ecosystem for the America’s, Will Koffel has been leading technology-focused startup teams for over 20 years. His keynote talk will be focused on the topic “Making Tech Decisions”. In advance of the event, we sat down with Will to ask him some questions.
DMZ: Will, can you tell us a bit about your professional background and how you became involved in the startup ecosystem?
Will Koffel: I’ve been deeply embedded in the startup ecosystem my whole career. While completing my Computer Science studies at MIT in 1998, I joined the founding engineering team at Akamai Technologies, experiencing the original dot-com boom (and bust!) from a front-row seat. I’ve been a 6-time serial CTO and startup founder since, and I’ve worked with hundreds of startups as an advisor, investor, mentor, and consultant. My most recent startup, Qwiklabs, was acquired by Google Cloud in 2016. I was then presented with the unique opportunity to work at Google and help build and support the startup ecosystem I’ve been passionate about for 20 years.
DMZ: In your leadership role at Google, what are you currently focused on achieving or advancing?
Will Koffel: We believe that Google Cloud offers the best suite of infrastructure and services for most early-stage startups. We’re focused on raising awareness of Google Cloud and its unique offerings for early-stage startups (like superior developer experience, DevOps with Kubernetes, BigQuery and other data tools, Firebase mobile, and top ML/AI solutions).
One of the key ways we do this is by partnering with accelerators and incubators like Ryerson DMZ, who refer startups directly into our program, pre-approved for up to $100,000 in Google Cloud credits to start building.
We’re also committed to working with startups to remove barriers they may face by providing technical expertise, community networking events, introductions to other teams at Google, and by increasing their visibility in the ecosystem. First Fridays is a great example of this.
DMZ: What are the most important challenges and opportunities facing startups today, especially when it comes to agile product development and technology decisions?
Will Koffel: Many of the challenges that startups face haven’t changed since I was getting started in the 90s, like how to hire great talent, how to close that first critical enterprise customer deal, and how to decide where to focus limited resources in a seemingly endless backlog of feature requests. Each of those topics warrants a separate interview of its own!
When it comes to selecting technology, startups face a wide assortment of choices. They are trying to choose from among the many open-source tools, the landscape of inexpensive and polished API-first services, and from multiple great choices for fully-managed public cloud infrastructure and advanced machine learning/AI solutions.
The biggest challenge for early-stage startups is uncovering the best practices for how all these tech puzzle pieces fit together. Deciding where to adopt cutting-edge tech, and where to anchor on tried-and-true approaches has never been more difficult. The tech choices many startups make today represent a bet they’re placing on the future of their product and business agility, so getting good advice from a tech lead, their community, and their vendors is paramount.
DMZ: What can attendees expect to learn during your First Friday keynote talk, “Making Tech Decisions”?
Will Koffel: I’m so fortunate to work in ecosystems all over the world, and Toronto is one of my favourites, where we see great engineering expertise, plenty of investor attention, and emerging companies creating real value. We’ll be digging into some of my favourite themes and practical advice, including Developer happiness, offloading the undifferentiated heavy lifting, opportunity-driven development, and maintaining technical optionality for the future.
We’ll also discuss anything that attendees want to explore! There’s plenty of time for Q&A, which is always the best way to surface the shared issues that are top of mind for startup founders and tech leaders.
First Fridays Canada is presented by Google for Startups. Visit the website for more information and to sign up: FirstFridaysCanada.com
About Will Koffel:
Will has been leading technology-focused startup teams for over 20 years, as a serial venture-backed CTO, founder, and application developer. In addition to his operating roles, Will has served as an advisor, consultant and mentor-in-residence for many Boston area startups. He joined Google in 2016 by way of a startup acquisition, and is honoring his startup roots by bringing the best Google Cloud solutions to great early-stage companies. Will received B.S. degrees in Computer Science and Music Composition from MIT. He lives with his family in greater Boston.