Topher Williams, Product Manager in San Diego, CA, United States
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Topher Williams

Verified Expert  in Product Management

Product Manager

Location
San Diego, CA, United States
Toptal Member Since
July 3, 2019

Topher is an executive and entrepreneur with more than 15 years of operational, technology, and product management and development leadership experience across a breadth of industries with specific expertise working with startups. He's always been a person who prefers a great deal of variety in his work—whether that's solving different problems facing an organization or working with several companies in different markets.

Project Highlights

MomCo App
Led product management and development activities through 7 quarters of >30% user growth and $300,000 in seed funding raised.
eCommerce Data Analytics Platform
Led the product design and development for eCommerce analytics tools—enabling client YoY revenue growth >400%.
AI-Powered Interactive Mobile Fitness Game Development
Spearheaded the development of a prototype mobile game, leveraging prompt engineering to train ChatGPT for unique, AI-driven character interactions.

Expertise

Work Experience

Founder | CEO

2017 - PRESENT
Synogent
  • Provided CTO-for-hire services for more than a dozen early-stage businesses, focusing mostly on product management, pro-forma financial modeling and business case development, and product development.
  • Developed product development services business and leveraged on-shore and off-shore development partners to bring countless MVPs to market.
  • Gained industry experience across many verticals, including clients in cannabis, heavy industrial, consumer and business software applications, IoT, healthcare IT, and others.
  • Worked on projects covering a wide array of technologies including web and mobile technology stacks (MEAN/MERN/.NET), cloud and serverless architectures, RFID and embedded applications, and integrations with countless private and government APIs.

Co-founder | CEO

2017 - PRESENT
Article Innovations
  • Grew the annual revenue to more than $500,000 in the first full year of operation.
  • Oversaw and was responsible for the day-to-day general management of the business operations (HR, operations, finance, and so on).
  • Managed the commercialization and product development of several SaaS products for the Amazon third-party seller eCommerce market.

Mentor

2016 - 2017
Canopy San Diego
  • Provided entrepreneurs with feedback and insights in their path to fundraising and other business challenges they faced.
  • Presented lectures on financial modeling and business models.
  • Advised and coached entrepreneurs in industries ranging from SaaS to consumer goods and digital media.

CTO | Acting CFO

2015 - 2017
MomCo
  • Developed the financial models, business strategy, growth and risk mitigation plans, pitch decks, and due diligence materials; also participated in fundraising, due diligence, and other investor meetings.
  • Regularly created comprehensive and concise investor update communications that effectively communicated the company's financial and operational performance, strategic direction, and growth prospects to our stakeholders.
  • Defined and implemented business key performance indicators (KPIs) and product analytics (including behavioral analytics), data collection, and mechanisms and processes.
  • Leveraged data for product roadmap decisions (growth hacking), strategic decision-making, and operational improvements. Implemented the customer service playbook and procedures.
  • Managed financial statements, investor roster, and payroll procedures through CPA, bookkeeper, and legal team collaboration. Implemented employee benefits and health insurance programs, ensuring compliance with labor laws.
  • Worked with the legal team to create and negotiate agreements such as convertible debt funding, IP licensing, and employee contracts while also handling contract reviews, revisions, government filings, and other correspondence.
  • Led the development, maintenance, and support of mobile apps, web platforms, and back-end infrastructure. Managed seven offshore engineers and three local contractors. Implemented agile development processes.
  • Worked with the CEO to develop sales forecasts and goals, sales collateral, and other marketing materials.
  • Performed extensive pricing, competition, industry, and mergers and acquisitions research. Led product management (concept testing, market analysis, and product testing with clients) in developing new business products.
  • Supported quarterly app user growth of over 30% for seven consecutive quarters. Improved the monetization of the platform and revenue growth from $0 to $30,000 (monthly) within the first quarter of sales.

Lead High-tech Analyst

2012 - 2016
Tech Coast Angels
  • Performed due diligence activities for early-stage (angel) funding rounds on behalf of angel investors.
  • Conducted market and financial statement analysis, validated business models and assumptions, reviewed tech/IP and growth strategy, and created a summary of findings and analysis, including term sheets and other data, with associated opinions.
  • Recruited, trained, and oversaw the development of new analyst interns in the high-tech space.
  • Held office hours to discuss the roadmap to funding and other business challenges with entrepreneurs.

CTO

2015 - 2015
SingldOut
  • Worked with the management team to develop the product strategy, participated in investor meetings, and developed pro forma financial models.
  • Developed logistics processes around shipping, receiving, and processing of customer DNA samples.
  • Oversaw the development of customized web application (dating website) with proprietary DNA-based matching algorithms. Onboarded the development team with no interruption to product delivery. Technologies included AngularJS, MySQL, Express.js, PHP, AWS EC2, and RDS.
  • Designed and executed numerous multi-variate studies to improve user signup/conversion and engagement metrics and to optimize pricing models.
  • Supported a $500,000 capital raise from angel investors.
  • Transitioned product development to onshore without any interruptions.

Senior Engineering Program Manager

2008 - 2015
Lytx
  • Reviewed due-diligence materials relating to engineering and operations in buy-side M&A transactions and technology licensing.
  • Contributed to corporate strategic planning committees.
  • Researched, identified, and managed strategic technology partnerships.
  • Developed a new business model to service the transportation network company (e.g., Uber, Lyft) industry; pitched business opprtunities to Uber executives.
  • Managed product development programs with budgets in excess of $15 million and more than 40 engineers.
  • Oversaw the execution of outsourced development contracts to ensure contract performance by working closely with product management teams to ensure development teams delivered the right value at the right time. Technologies included embedded Linux, OpenCV, C/C++, C#, MS SQL, RESTful web services (.NET), embedded hardware, CDMA, GSM, and WiFi wireless technologies, USB OTG.
  • Created processes and managed the roll-out of Agile engineering methodologies to hardware, software, and firmware teams.
  • Developed manufacturing technology solutions and transitioned manufacturing operations from the US to China without any supply-chain disruptions.
  • Developed global logistics systems and highly scalable architecture, linking real-time production information across five countries.
  • Conceptualized and developed a new business model for the TNC industry and successfully worked through relationships to get an opportunity to pitch executives at Uber.
  • Implemented Agile development practices across engineering teams, improving estimation accuracy more than 100% and greatly improving development predictability and visibility.
  • Delivered three longterm (more than 18 months) development projects to market with cradle-to-grave technical ownership.
  • Generated technology solutions for manufacturing and reverse logistics to support a 300% growth rate at 30% reduced cost.
  • Innovated manufacturing and product changes reducing field failure rate from more than 5% to less than 0.5%.
  • Co-authored three technology patents (all issued).

Analyst

2013 - 2013
Senoma Group
  • Led deal-sourcing activities in conjunction with a managing partner.
  • Searched for acquisition targets using databases such as Manta, PrivCo, and Bloomberg.
  • Provided detailed segment research in sectors ranging from healthcare IT to visual voicemail providers.
  • Developed investment hypotheses for more than a dozen potential acquisition targets.

Founder | CEO

2006 - 2011
Metropolitan Management
  • Founded a B2B SaaS company providing call center sales management tools. There were no employees initially; bootstrapped product development.
  • Closed sales with multiple Fortune 500 companies, managed relationships, and supported customers.
  • Managed engineering teams in three countries, bringing three SaaS products to market.
  • Closed deals with AT&T and Time Warner Cable as well as other small businesses.
  • Completed work that ensured we were cash flow positive within first quarter of operations and triple-digit growth annually with recurring revenue subscription model.

Software Project Manager

2003 - 2006
Nokia Mobile Phones
  • Led a team of engineering specialists spread over four continents.
  • Evaluated, prioritized, and selected development projects.
  • Managed the work and built up the team.
  • Developed innovations that resulted in a near 100% increase in production line capacity improvement globally.
  • Was recognized as a global specialist in radio calibration of CDMA and WCDMA architectures for mass production.

RFID-based Grow Management Platform

Led the product design and development for an RFID grow management system for the cannabis space—from concept to MVP and pilots.

This was a complicated project due to the newness of government requirements and regulations in the cannabis space, and the general lack of technological sophistication of most commercial growers at the time.

Working with the company's CEO, I helped his team build and manage a development backlog, refine feature prioritization, interview clients, and oversaw the development project for more than a year.

The project was technically tricky in that it covered a vast array of technologies: cloud backend and web application, a native mobile app with RFID reader integration, fixed infrastructure RFID readers, and on-site middleware. In addition to the wide variety of technologies in play, the system needed to meet various government (and sovereign nation) reporting and auditing requirements, most of which were not well defined as we were developing the system.

MomCo App

Led product management and development activities through 7 quarters of >30% user growth and $300,000 in seed funding raised.

The MomCo app was a mobile app (native iOS and Android apps) that used geolocation services to help moms find other moms with similarly aged children near. The app also promoted company hosted playdates and other events around the US, private mom groups, and a host of other features.

The app was featured on the Today show and attracted more than 50,000 moms to the platform. The engagement and adoption that the app was able to generate attracted $300,000 in seed funding during my tenure with the company.

With the ability to get moms (a highly valuable demographic) to attend events and provide feedback on products and services that were available to try at these events, we started work on developing features to allow the app to be used as a virtual consumer panel. We did this so we could sell access to selected collections of moms to brands that wanted to sell to that demographic. This was an exciting expansion opportunity for the platform.

eCommerce Data Analytics Platform

Led the product design and development for eCommerce analytics tools—enabling client YoY revenue growth >400%.

The client is an online retailer looking to optimize the allocation of their capital across hundreds of thousands of products that they could potentially sell. Adding another level of complexity, the client was also selling established products on Amazon, which meant there was dynamic competition, pricing pressure, and other factors present that made demand and price forecasting particularly tricky.

Working with the client, we devised an ideal workflow that would enable maximum efficiency and automation. The workflow would use algorithms to identify potential products from Amazon's 450 million item product catalog that might be good performers for the client to sell.

The algorithms would add brands to a sales pipeline tool where workers would process the leads and attempt to establish relationships with the manufacturers and obtain pricing information (and other logistic information). The workers would then submit that data to another software solution that would perform an in-depth financial analysis of each product, including leveraging several machine learning algorithms, to identify the optimal inventory investment mix that the business could act upon. This efficiency allowed the company to scan hundreds of thousands of products.

Accounting Analysis and Reporting Platform

Led product development for a full-service accounting firm to bring an analysis and reporting SaaS platform to market.

The client was interested in building a SaaS product to replace in-house financial analysis and reporting spreadsheets and other AIS tools they used with a more automated and integrated web solution that could also be sold to other firms.

The client being a full-service accounting firm had no in-house technical resources or any experience bringing technical products to market. For this project, I worked with the client as if I were an in-house CTO.

In my role as fractional CTO, I worked with the client to capture and refine their product vision and requirements, decomposed those product requirements in to user stories, and defined the technology stack and system architecture for the project. Once this up-front work was completed, I managed a vendor selection process to qualify on- and off-shore development firms and guided the client through the partner decision making process. Once the development firm was selected, I worked with them constantly throughout the project to both manage the agile development process with them, serving as the product owner, but also in managing user acceptance testing and other responsibilities of the client, while transparently communicating project status, issues, and so forth to the client.

Voice Analytics Data Product Management

Delivered a comprehensive MVP package for a new voice analytics product: market research, strategic definition of what the MVP should be, economic analysis of the proposed MVP, evaluation process for technology partners, and detailed user stories.

For this project, I worked on defining what the MVP of a voice analytics product should look like.

I presented an in-depth analysis of the marketplace, from the perspective of who the players are, what business models are in play, what technology relationships exist, and what each competitor's offering looks like.

I worked with several existing and potential customers of the clients to identify their pain points, concept test potential product features and business models, and really try to understand how these technologies could create value in their organizations.

With this information, I developed an MVP concept, including which features should (or should not) be a part of the MVP (and what a feature roadmap might look like—similar to a PRD), as well as a few business model options and how each of the models might perform (considering various development cost scenarios combined with different operational cost and pricing models).

After receiving buy-in from the client's stakeholders, I worked through the MVP definition and created user stories to break down and describe each of the MVP's features, and technical evaluation and selection criteria for the technology partners that I had previously identified.

Product Management Work for Q.ai

Led the Q.ai's product team to drive sustained monthly user growth to >10%, reduced annualized churn to <3%, and more than doubled user engagement via innovative product and process improvements.

As Q.ai's head of product, I led a team of designers, researchers, product managers, and customer support representatives to apply data-driven experimentation and decision-making, resulting in more than a 10% monthly growth rate in funded accounts and churn reduction to less than 3% annually. Additionally, I implemented an OKR process and developed processes to systematize innovation across the organization. With ownership of the product backlog, I drove the success of Q.ai and helped it grow under Forbes' umbrella.

Marketing Systems Integration and Development

Led integration and development efforts of marketing automation systems to enable a reduction of service delivery costs of around 50%.

The client is a sales and marketing agency that uses several tools and spreadsheets to engage in outbound email marketing and appointment-setting activities. I worked with the client and development teams to build an easy-to-use web application that automated several labor-intensive tasks like sourcing, importing, validating, enriching contact information, writing email copies, organizing contacts based on campaign performance, and reporting). Cost reductions were achieved by automating as many processes as possible by integrating with various data brokers in a cost-effective manner, leveraging AI for copywriting, and building a reporting platform to serve the business and its clients.

Asset Authenticity Validation System

Led the development of a product suite currently used by the USAF.

Led a team of engineers to design an RFID-based system providing cryptographically secure, supply chain asset authenticity validation. The system is comprised of a web application, server applications, and embedded hardware applications. I worked with the US Air Force, Lockheed Martin, and other stakeholders to define system requirements that meet cyber security and other DoD standards. We delivered a system that allowed the USAF and their suppliers to verify the authenticity of materials and components and to trace each item's lifecycle through manufacturing and repair processes.

AI-Powered Interactive Mobile Fitness Game Development

Spearheaded the development of a prototype mobile game, leveraging prompt engineering to train ChatGPT for unique, AI-driven character interactions.

Spearheaded the development and implementation of an innovative, AI-powered mobile fitness game, leveraging OpenAI's ChatGPT to personify various in-game characters, enhancing interactivity and user engagement.

Utilized prompt engineering to effectively train ChatGPT, creating diverse AI personalities, each with specialized knowledge, providing a unique and engaging gaming experience.

Actively collaborated with a cross-functional team to ensure the AI integration complemented the game design while optimizing the overall user experience.

Led rigorous testing and debugging procedures, ensuring optimal AI performance and contributing to the delivery of a high-quality, robust gaming product.
2012 - 2014

Master's Degree in Business Administration

San Diego State University - San Diego, CA, USA

2005 - 2011

Certificate in Business Management

UC San Diego Extension - San Diego, CA, USA

2004 - 2011

Certificate in Project Management

UC San Diego Extension - San Diego, CA, USA

1998 - 2003

Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering

University of California, San Diego - San Diego, CA, USA

OCTOBER 2013 - PRESENT

Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)

Scrum Alliance

JUNE 2013 - PRESENT

Certified Scrum Master

Scrum Alliance

DECEMBER 2006 - DECEMBER 2019

Project Management Professional (PMP)

Project Management Institute (PMI)

Tools

Financial Data, Trello, Rally, GitHub, Jira, Microsoft Project, Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS), Amazon Cognito, Amazon CloudFront CDN, AWS IAM, AWS SDK, ELK (Elastic Stack), Google Analytics

Industry Expertise

High-tech Startups, Cannabis, Telecommunications, Real Estate, Venture Capital, Industrial & Manufacturing, Startup Accelerators, Healthcare, Casinos & Gaming, Automotive, Entertainment & Leisure, Hospitality

Paradigms

Agile Product Management, Agile, Agile Software Development, Agile Project Management, Requirements Analysis, Scrum, Kanban, Waterfall Development, Six Sigma, Marketplace Platforms

Platforms

Twilio

Other

Business, Business Logic, Project Management, Lean Project Management, Statistical Data Analysis, APIs, REST APIs, Technical Requirements, Requirements & Specifications, SaaS, Web Applications, Minimum Viable Product (MVP), Cloud Services, eCommerce, Project Management Professional (PMP), Amazon FBA, Angel Investing, Product Management, Technical Product Management, Business Cases, Entrepreneurship, Web Entrepreneurship, Mentorship & Coaching, Startup Funding, Startup Consulting, Microsoft Excel, Inventory Management, Production Management, Business Analysis, Requirements, Product Strategy, Product Roadmaps, Go-to-market Plans, User Research, Business Models, Product Design, Product Marketing, Product Frameworks, Innovation, Product Ownership, Product Discovery, BRD, Software Requirements Specifications (SRS), Healthcare Product Manager, Product Leadership, Team Leadership, Product Owner, Director of Product, Head of Product, Fintech, Agile Leadership, Software as a Service (SaaS), Mobile Web Services, Software Engineering, User Stories, New Product Development, Technical Project Management, Sprint Planning, Analytical Thinking, CTO, COO, Business Management, API Design, Manufacturing, GitFlow, Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Financial Modeling, Online Dating, Consumer Technology, Consumer Electronics, Project Analysis, Project Delivery, Project Planning, RFID, Mobile Apps, Supply Chain Management (SCM), Digital Product Management, Financial Analysis, Valuation, Node.js, New Business Development, Business Development, Business Coaching, Startups, Lean Startups, Early-stage Startups, Statistical Modeling, Statistics, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Technical Leadership, Remote Team Leadership, Leadership, Process Modeling, Process Design, Mobile App Development, SQL, Roadmaps, Fintech Consultant, Internet of Things (IoT), OpenAI GPT-3 API, OpenAI GPT-4 API, Third-party Management, System Integration, CEO, Two-sided Marketplaces, Technical Design, Market Strategy and Research Product Manager, Finance, Amazon Simple Email Service (SES), Android, iOS, Health IT, Amazon S3 (AWS S3), Amazon EC2, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Financial Engineering, .NET, .NET Core, MongoDB, Agile Coaching, Startup Growth Strategy Development, Lean Manufacturing, Sales Funnel, Funnel Optimization, Machine Learning, Lean Development, Product Engineering, Objectives & Key Results (OKRs), API Integration, Data Integration, Automation, Cryptography, System Design, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP), Fitness, Fitness Trackers, Supply Chain, Mockups, Wireframing, User Experience (UX)

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