Sutro's experience at FutureAdvisor


In late July, we set out to find a client for a consulting engagement. We were introduced to a number of companies through the YCombinator founders list, and within a week, we had a signed offer from FutureAdvisor and were set to fly to San Francisco to work with their team. Here's the story of how it all happened.

Finding the perfect fit

The importance of finding the right company to work with can't be overstated. When speaking with potential clients, it is always tempting to accept the first offer that comes our way, as holding out for a better deal feels risky.

We talked with a number of strong companies in a wide variety of spaces (all YCombinator-backed), and in the end received four offers.

FutureAdvisor stood out from the rest. Their team was incredibly professional and mission-driven, had just raised $15M in a Series B backed by Sequoia Capital, and were working on a valuable service for a growing customer base. We were looking to take on a challenging, impactful project at a great company, and it didn't take long to come to an agreement with them.

The team

A few weeks later we landed in San Francisco, set to work with their team out of their downtown office.

FutureAdvisor's engineering team consisted of six full-time developers - tiny relative to the amount of work on their plate. They were a strong team of talented individuals with diverse backgrounds, ranging from self-taught hackers to MIT CS graduates, following agile methodologies on a modern tech stack.

The first day set the tone for the rest of our engagement. Compared to other companies we've worked with, their on-boarding process was extremely well prepared and efficient. Thanks to Lead Engineer Clyde's uncanny ability to explain every nook and cranny of FutureAdvisor's architecture, and our familiarity with their stack, we were up and running almost immediately.

Our project

Sutro's mission is to help companies where they're hurting most. Since their start in 2010, a critical portion of FutureAdvisor's customer acquisition funnel had evolved into an outdated application that was hard to maintain. We set out to rebuild this component from scratch and set their team up with a modern framework and roadmap for building rich client-side applications moving forward (we'll write more on technical lessons learned in a future post).

The outcome

When we left FutureAdvisor, we had accomplished everything we set out to do ... and more.

Sutro got up to speed fast and delivered more than we asked. We were facing a feature backlog, and wanted to refactor the process for on-boarding customers -- a crucial piece of the funnel. Mike and Andrew meshed well with our team, got to know our technology and our people, and worked great together. They were responsive, highly productive, and they told us everything we needed to know once the project was ready to go. We were lucky to have them on the team for six weeks -- it was a great experience. - Rafik Robeal, Engineering Lead @ FutureAdvisor

Final thoughts

In retrospect, our experience with FutureAdvisor was overwhelmingly positive. It's difficult to summarize in a brief post, but a few things stood out:

  • Sutro was able to deliver value from day one.

    • Our work shipped to thousands of paying customers and had a measurable impact on the company. That feels great. At very early-stage startups, there's a chance that your work will never see real users. At large companies, your work gets lost among thousands of concurrent projects. FutureAdvisor was the perfect middle ground: Big enough to affect people on the outside, and small enough to make a difference on the inside.
  • We learned from our client.

    • Sutro looks for companies that have talent in every department. During our engagement with FutureAdvisor, we worked closely with their world-class marketing and product management departments, absorbing knowledge at every step.
  • The people were awesome.

    • At the end of the day, the people a company manages to hire determine its success. At FutureAdvisor, everyone was good at what they did, and everyone - including us - was happy to be there. Not every company can say that, especially as they get bigger, but it's really great when it happens.

What's next for Sutro

Next, we'll be working closely with Framed Data, a YCombinator backed company focused on predictive business analytics. Framed Data represents a leap forward in accessible data science. Framed is working on a platform that will become invaluable to companies trying to stay ahead in an increasingly data-driven world. Needless to say, we're excited for the challenge.

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