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Fractional CTO Services and AI & Custom Web Application Development

Forensis Group
Circinaut has seen us through a complete technology and design overhaul of our web presence, including some very challenging times in the process. I sleep better at night knowing Rian's on our team.
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Hi. I'm Rian Schmidt.

My expertise is backed by years of leadership roles at large and small companies, an MBA from Stanford, an engineering degree from the University of Minnesota, and a CISSP certification.
Portland, Oregon is where I call home. It's just me, my family, two dogs, a bunch of chickens, and a jar of kombucha. Classic Portland.

My Latest Blog Article:

Circinaut's Unique Value Proposition

Rather than spending months trying to hire a full-time CTO that you may not need, rolling the dice with a faceless shop that'll hand you off to junior staff, or cobbling together a rag-tag crew of cheap freelancers from Fiverr, you can hire me to provide you with high-end, immediate, flexible technical expertise. I have decades of experience, a Stanford MBA, and a CISSP certification. Who do you want to trust with your business?
I keep my rates reasonable by working directly with my clients, without the overhead of a large consulting firm that provides little additional value but costs plenty-- often twice as much.
That means you get back to working on your business sooner with less risk, and add a serious, proven technology partner to your team.
Circinaut is a Fractional CTO Services provider that allows you to focus on your business while leaving the technology stack to me. I'm based in Portland, Oregon, but I work with clients all across the country.

Fractional CTO Rates

I strive to keep my rates easy-to-understand and transparent. While each engagement requires some negotiation around features and services, in general all of my pricing is based on a simple hourly rate.

I charge my full rate for smaller engagements or ongoing on-demand requests. I charge a discounted rate for larger projects or longer-term agreements. Retainers only require a 30-day notice for cancellation after an initial three-month commitment.

Please note that hourly work is on an as-available basis. I prioritize retainer clients over project work. I prioritize project work over hourly work. I prioritize hourly work over my personal projects. I prioritize personal projects over sleep. I really need to stop that. Sleep's important.

Hourly Rate

My basic hourly rate is $250/hour, irrespective of what I'm doing-- whether that's coding, advising, or researching architectural choices. While not the cheapest option, an hourly arrangement gives total flexibility until you understand what your ongoing needs will be.

Advisor Retainer

A basic guaranteed access plan to use me as your on-tap technology adviser. Most commonly, I review proposals, sit in on calls, act as a checkpoint for vendor relations, and just generally keep everyone informed and honest. I provide up to five hours per month with the option to go over that without charge, based on my discretion and availability.

Fractional CTO Retainer

The Fractional CTO plan is for companies that need more detailed, ongoing advising and maybe some hands-on help working with their developers or actually building a prototype product. This retainer covers up to 20 hours of time per month (or more if time allows as with the Advisor level).


Of course, every situation is different, but for projects, we can work together to establish a fixed price, which won't be exceeded without your explicit approval. Often, my ongoing clients will choose a retainer agreement for their day-to-day needs and then project agreements when specific deliverables are identified. We can custom craft a retainer of the right size-- the amounts quoted give an idea of how I price them.

Fractional CTO

Whether it's getting a start on how you might turn your idea into reality or acting as a check on your ongoing development process, I can provide hourly or retainer-based advisory services. I serve on advisory boards, provide technical due diligence, and help small companies navigate the technical landscape. My relationships with my clients are long-term and based on trust. I work with you to understand your business and your goals, and then help you determine the best way to use technology to achieve them. Most importantly, I am unflinchingly (but politely!) honest about my opinions and recommendations.

Sample Engagements

Ongoing engagement-based advising for a financial marketing team to optimize and enhance their use of technology to attract and retain clients.
Long-term retained relationship with a legal industry marketing team to monitor results, enhance applications, and act as the technology checkpoint for 3rd party relationships.

AI Application Development

I am particularly passionate about developing interesting applications of machine learning and artificial intelligence for smaller businesses. These projects can involve the current hot topic, Large Language Models, to create custom chatbots, or more traditional machine learning techniques to solve problems like image classification, analytics, or time series forecasting. I have built real-world AI applications that are easy to use and provide real value. I can help you determine if AI is really right for your business, and if so, how to best implement it.

Sample Engagements

Develop a corporate Slack chatbot to utilize Natural Language Processing to efficiently provide information to employees, saving hours of accumlated time answering common questions.
Create a questionnaire to determine fine gardening client preferences, which are then fed to ChatGPT to generate a custom, AI-generated gardening plan for the client and to inform the consultant.

Web Application Development

Data-driven, cloud-native web application development. Today, there are too many options, platforms, and frameworks. Cloud Providers. Databases. Too many ways to do the same thing. I can help you navigate the options and architect and build a custom solution that fits your specific needs. I can then help you deploy and maintain it, or hand it off to your team. I build or rescue your project and then work with you as a technical advisor to develop a plan to keep it operating at peak effectiveness.

Sample Engagements

Long-term contract CTO for an immigration law firm to completely redesign a travel assessment application from its unmanageable prototype to a modern, API-driven web and mobile application, work with clients, and manage staff.
Create a dynamic, CMS-based questionnaire for a financial services client to help them guide their own clients in assessing and improving their business practices. The system calculates industry benchmarks and scores while allowing for the client to adjust questions and weightings over time.