Finding CTO for Your Startup: When and How to Do It Right?

The launch of new technologies pushes startups to apply to IT consulting services. To help companies to go through IT challenges and build the strategy for positive IT transformation, a CTO position exists. The Chief Technical Officer helps startups plan and create a product shipping their vision and reducing time to market along with technology-powered solutions implementation.

In this post, you’ll learn how to find the right CTO for your startup company, what types of tech executives are there, and when exactly your business needs an advisor. You’ll also learn how to find a CTO if you’re a non-technical specialist.


Types of Startup CTOs

Before delving deeper into how to find a CTO, let’s discuss who a CTO is and the various types of CTOs for your startup project.

The Chief Technology Officer or CTO helps various-sized companies to go through digital transformation, take advantage of new technologies, solve industry-specific issues, and transform business vision into powerful tech solutions.

Commonly, CTOs are divided into two main types:

  • Technical lead

This type of СTO is often confused with senior developers. However, the tech lead takes control over the whole development team, including senior engineers and software development itself. Besides, they take care of technical solutions architecture.

  • Operational lead

While the technical lead pays attention to the development, the operational one focuses on project/team management and optimizing the business processes. Their core goal is to ensure that the companies keep pace with the latest technology, thus driving new business initiatives.

Product Owner may also serve as CTO

Not every startup company can afford to hire a tech executive. In this case, the Product Owner serves as a CTO. It’s a common practice since the PO knows all the project details and can easily deliver the project vision to the dedicated development team. Moreover, all this knowledge provides an effective development route.

Ways to find a tech executive:

  • Find a tech lead for equity. You look for a partner with the requisite tech knowledge and offer them technical co-founder equity. The point is that you have to assure your potential co-founder that you understand your target market, know how to do marketing, and have at least basic tech skills. However, not every CTO is ready to work on pure enthusiasm. That’s why you don’t need to skip a salary altogether.
  • An outsourced CTO. You can find a CTO from an IT outsourcing company. This is probably the most optimal option since you get high-level technical specialists for an affordable price.
  • Work without a CTO (Use an in-House Developer). Indeed, startups can operate without a CTO if there’s an experienced developer on their side to handle the software development operations. Besides, it’s a good option if you’re limited on budget.


What Is the Role of CTO on Different Startup Stages

The CTO’s duties can differ from stage to stage. Most business owners look for a tech lead when they decide to scale up the startup. However, it’s much better to start cooperating with a professional once your idea is born to minimize the risk of failure. Therefore, I’ve split out the startup development into four stages to demonstrate a CTO’s value in each stage.

  • Initial Stage

Every promising startup starts with an idea. This stage requires a tech lead to test the viability of your idea and choose the right tech stack for its implementation.

  • Development Stage

After your idea is verified, it’s time to proceed to the development part. At this stage, you need a CTO with profound coding knowledge to build an MVP software (minimum viable product). In addition, they can launch cloud-based infrastructure, create architecture, and ensure accurate quality assurance.

  • Product Release

Let’s say your product is released. It’s time to broaden existing functionality, add advanced features and enhance overall users’ experience. At this stage, you need to assemble a dedicated development team. Hence, a CTO shifts focus from developing to team management and ensuring productive workflow.

  • Growth

After you mark increased profit, you may consider scaling up your business to generate more revenue. At this stage, the CTO monitors the latest tech trends and analyzes which ones will be beneficial for your business. Besides, they will help you capitalize on new technology to contribute to your short-term and long-term objectives.


When It’s Time to Find a CTO

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the best scenario is to involve an experienced tech specialist in the initial stage. But it’s more what you’d call guidelines than strict rules.

Finding CTO for Your Startup

This section will talk about when it’s crucial to start looking for the Chief Technology Officer. Keep reading to learn more.

Increased Amount of Tasks

When deciding to expand your business, there are many tasks, specialists, reports, and tools that need to be managed. In this case, you’ll need a CTO to help you handle the workload and free your team up for other tasks. Besides, tech executives will assist you in solving business-related problems and boosting team productivity.

Legacy Software Modernization

There are times when every entrepreneur understands that legacy tech solutions retard existing business processes. That’s when you need to look for a CTO to help you replace outdated IT systems, processes, and software without affecting vital business processes within the company.

Moreover, tech specialists will help you incorporate modern technology to cut operating costs, adjust to market changes, and increase ROI.

You Need a Mentor For Your Tech Team

If you want to take your startup to the next level, you may require a CTO to share the knowledge and expertise with your tech team or guide your business in the tech field. CTO will take care of team management and organize the smooth workflow of all departments.

You Want to Encourage Your Business’s Growth

Let’s say you already have a working product that generates good money, but you want to step forward and need an expert to boost your company’s growth by implementing creative ideas and modern tech solutions. This is where CTO comes in handy. They foster successful technology changes to accelerate your business growth.


Where to Look For a Reliable CTO

There are three possible ways to hire a high-level specialist. Each hiring option has its benefits and drawbacks since each one applies to different situations. So let’s dive into details.

Where to Look For a Reliable CTO

Independent Contractors

It’s the easiest way to find a CTO since there are a bunch of platforms with thousands of experts specializing in various business niches. But bear in mind that CTO implies long-term cooperation while freelance CTO can abandon the project unexpectedly for a better offer. Besides, they can fulfill several projects at once, so there is a risk of a deadline failure. That’s why, if you’re planning to cooperate with a freelancer, it’s better to ask your business partner for references.

Full-Time Employees

It’s a perfect option if you already release a product that brings steady incomes and wants to scale up your business. The best thing about an in-house team is that you can communicate with your CTO directly and be wholly involved in the decision-making process. However, this option is associated with high costs. It requires additional expenses on rent, software, license and implies high salaries due to competition for experienced specialists on the local market.

Outsourcing agencies

You can think of hiring an outsourced CTO. This method is the best choice for the price-quality ratio. You can find a CTO from neighboring cities/states or look for reasonable costs overseas and attract an experienced tech executive without losing quality. Moreover, you don’t need to spend precious time finding a reliable expert. Outsourcing companies already have a ready pool of professional required specialists to take care of your startup company. Furthermore, to ensure that your project information won’t be used by third parties, you can sign an NDA or cooperation agreement.


How to Find a CTO If You Don’t Have a Technical Background?

It’ll be much easier to look for a CTO and test their skills if you’re a programmer. But if you’re far away from technology and need an expert to lead your business forward? I’ve prepared several tips that will help you find a tech executive if you’re a non-technical specialist.

How to Find a CTO If You Don’t Have a Technical Background?

Consider the experience: Having an experienced CTO is great, but if they don’t have experience in your business domain, will it make sense? Firstly, ensure that your potential candidate is experienced enough to work with your project. How to do it? View the candidate’s work experience, contact their previous employers or ask for clients’ feedback on their successful projects. Attend popular tech conferences or meetings to establish useful business relationships or ask for referrals.

Communication skills: Tech executives interact with an incredible number of specialists on different project stages, so strong communication skills are a must-have. They should be able to transfer the startup idea quickly and lead the team.

Look through social media. Before making a decision, check the candidate’s profile on Facebook or LinkedIn to see if they post some valuable articles. An experienced CTO definitely has tech publications where they share their thoughts or expertise. Besides, a good tech executive should have an enlarged communication network.


CTO as a Service: Top 3 Challenges

Below you’ll know some pitfalls that every CTO has to deal with regarding startup consulting.

  • Finding Talent

One common startup struggle is to find talented individuals capable of building the business’s vision. This is especially regarding the recruitment of software developers. Therefore, the core task of a CTO is to find skilled software engineers, train them, and get them into the project details.

The problem is that hiring local talents can be a time- and resource-consuming task. Besides, it can be difficult to find software developers with the required skills and expertise locally.

In this case, CTOs need to focus on remote collaboration that comes with new sets of challenges such as communication issues, cultural and time differences, and language barriers but bring a lot of benefits in terms of flexibility and extended talent pool.

  • Managing Ideas

Innovative ideas are the blood of every successful startup. Unfortunately, businesses can’t afford to think five years ahead due to limited resources. As a result, new ideas need to be generated as quickly as possible for software startups to survive.

This can be a challenge for tech executives that is ignored. CTOs need to test and validate the new idea to be sure they’re innovative, and what’s more – technically feasible. An experienced CTO has to produce original ideas fast and get ready to pivot them at any time.

  • Setting Priorities

Project management is easier said than done. There are many software development methodologies allowing to set up a continuing development process. However, feature overload is one of the things that can significantly shake the project.

When designing and performing innovative ideas, it can be tricky to equalize the idealistic vision of the product with the working one. Great CTO should know how to manage this balance, what features should be added first to provide effective project management.


Summing Up

Finding a good CTO for your startup company can be a challenging task, requiring thoughtful preparation steps. However, if you know exactly what things you should consider before hiring a technical specialist, you’ll implement business-critical solutions and force digital transformation as fast as possible.

Vitaly Kuprenko

Vitaly Kuprenko is a technical writer at Cleveroad, a web and mobile app development company in Ukraine. He enjoys writing about tech innovations and digital ways to boost businesses.

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