Where and How to Find a CTO for Your Startup [Complete Guide]
The most important tips on how to find a CTO for a startup. How to find the best Chief Technology Officer for product development and growth.
A Chief Technical Officer (CTO) is one of the most important personas in any tech company. They are responsible for making all technical decisions to start, develop, and scale the business. A CTO is involved in decision-making processes and invariably keeps an eye on the latest tech trends to create and present the best possible vision and strategy to the team and stakeholders.
The reality of growing a startup is brutal - nine out of ten startups fail. You neglect a tiny detail, and all your effort and beliefs end up with your inability to deliver the product or compete. That’s why strategic planning is a pillar of a development process, and this, in turn, is why a skilled CTO is essential.
It takes years and years for a future CTO to gain experience, observe trends, and explore the industry to understand patterns and mechanisms. This explains why the world's best CTOs don't get that role until the age of 24 years after getting higher education, eight positions, and four companies.
The Role of a Good CTO in the Growth of a Startup
The scope of the CTO’s responsibilities changes with the growth of the company. Since we are talking about how to find a CTO for your startup, let’s focus on the following three stages:
At this stage, the future company has the idea and starts thinking about bringing it to reality. The CTO - quite often a Tech Co-Founder - is responsible for:
- Proof of concept to make the idea possible to implement;
- Finding the maximum opportunities and tech solutions to develop an MVP;
- Keeping the processes within defined financial and time frames.
A successfully passed Seed Stage means that the startup is born. The product/products are on the market and have the first users, so it’s high time to collect insight and feedback. All the updates will be based on those data.
The CTO’s responsibilities in a startup include:
- Maintaining the highest level of team efficiency;
- Scaling the team, onboarding new specialists;
- Designing architecture;
- Creating, presenting, and holding the responsibility for technical decisions and changes;
- Ensuring both access to information and its complete security;
- Implementing Agile principles.
Moving to the Growth Stage means that a startup won its market and passed the break-even point - it became profitable. Here the focus is slightly shifted towards management, and the primary CTO responsibilities include:
- Constant monitoring of technology trends and innovations;
- Nurturing a tech team to make it able to cover some of the CTO's tasks;
- Preservation of significant benefits of the product in the process of its improvement;
- Presenting the company at technical events, being fully responsible for its image and reputation in technical terms.
Types of CTO You Can Find
The Digital Business Leader
The Digital Business Leader focuses on leveraging innovative technologies to transform a business model, products, and services. This specialist is the one responsible for creating the company's digital business strategies. At the same time, they may well architect the digital platforms. Their key responsibilities include:
- Cooperation with business executives to identify, rationalize, and roadmap new business models and capabilities.
- Work on creating the enterprise architecture, innovation management, etc.
- Being a decision-making authority for technology investments.
- Understanding market requirements to deliver digital products and services that will be in demand.
The Business Enabler
The Business Enabler ensures that the technology is operating as designed and evolving in lockstep with the business. This CTO is in charge of operational technology and works as a team lead.
Ensuring that business and customer needs are met is the highest priority. This role is often a complement to the CIO. The CIO focuses on running the IT organization. What does a CTO do? They work across the business and IT to govern and guide tech decisions. Among their main responsibilities are:
- Making final decisions on tech investments;
- Taking an active part in creating digital business platforms;
- Working with product and engineering teams;
- Risk assessment.
The IT Innovator
This specialist is a leading architect, guiding the impact of IT innovations. Typical responsibilities include:
- Work as the central point for technology innovation;
- Choosing or creating the tech strategy, following emerging technologies;
- Leading an engineering team according to the Agile approach;
- Leveraging technologies including hybrid multi-cloud, edge computing, and automation.
The Chief Operating Officer
In big organizations, this CTO is focused on the day-to-day running of IT. The primary goal of the Chief Operating Officer is to meet the agreed-upon delivery of IT services. COO is heavily involved in purchasing solutions for both technologies and services and responsible for:
- Running and maintaining IT operations;
- Ensuring the performance of internal and external systems;
- Monitoring and responding to incidents;
- Engaging in the purchasing of systems such as CRM or ERP.
Regardless of the type of CTO, they work closely with other C-level managers on meeting business goals.
Required Skills and Qualities of a Good CTO
The primary duty of the CTO in software product development is to meet the client's requirements and wishes while maintaining stability and the highest level of development profitability. They are responsible for the direction and path that the dedicated development team walks towards the final goal.
To do this, the CTO skills - hard and soft - need to be excellent. They must be well versed in the field, and be a good manager and performer. If to summarize and highlight the basic requirements for the CTO, they must have a consistently high level of:
- Architecture building skills;
- Managing and support of development processes;
- Development of tech product vision and roadmap;
- Quality Assurance, DevOps;
- Collaboration with product owners and company founders;
- Technical support.
Where And How to Find a CTO for a Startup
While looking for a CTO for a startup that’ll meet all the above-mentioned requirements, look in the right places. When possible, use all the offline channels - your social circle and meetups. The first option is the best one since you get the fairest feedback and recommendations. Use social media to message your acquaintances directly and don’t hesitate to post publicly, on Linkedin, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also:
Ask successful tech leads for their recommendations and how to find a CTO co-founder in a startup. Chances are, they’ve started at the same point as you are now and can suggest you a reliable contact.
Try to attend as many tech meetups as possible. But don’t rush into a number and pick them wisely: not everyone with a “startup” or “tech” in a headline can offer you what you need.
Add to your list meetups that are closely related to your niche and your industry. As a non-tech founder or C-level manager, get prepared since tech people love using buzzwords and jargon or just professional words and phrases you may not be familiar with.
Hackathons are also a great chance for finding a CTO for a startup, valuable links, and ideas. You can find specialists to complete the tech team as well.
Speaking of online methods, use specific online platforms for finding tech partners. A few to start:
They are great for building and growing your network, but the important thing here is to stay aware of what you need to get and not get lost in all the information they produce and share. A good idea might be to set milestones (14 days, for example), so you can look back, analyze, and properly use connections and data you’ve collected.
Best Alternatives for CTO
As you can see, finding a CTO for your startup is not the easiest task; it takes time and effort. Also, there are numerous success stories of releasing an MVP without an in-house CTO. As alternatives, consider Part-Time Consultant, Outsourcing Dedicated Development Team, or CTO-as-a-Service.
This well-selected option can help the company achieve the expected and maximum possible results, optimize costs and time, organize work, and avoid complications performing technical tasks.
A part-Time Consultant is cheaper for a company than hiring an in-house specialist, which can be a decisive factor for companies at the seed and startup stages. It's a golden opportunity to spend relatively low investments for the highest level of expertise. This cooperation model is also quite flexible.
The ideal option for how to find a CTO for app development is to reach out to some successful tech companies, which probably have experience working on a similar model. Don't forget to get the most from your social media, LinkedIn first of all.
To devote time to freelance platforms is an excellent idea as well. Freelancer.com, for example, offers you to find tech consultants by describing your project in a few sentences; quite a convenient way. At Upwork, you can find profiles with very different hourly rates, experience, portfolio, and recommendations. Other similar resources: Toptal and RemoteOK.
As a matter of course, you should constantly monitor tech info resources, follow publications on a specific topic, etc. The great chances are that some successful and skilful technical consultant will publish their work, be quoted, or share their expert point of view on a particular material. Even if these actions won’t end with signing a contract, being aware and keeping an eye on the events will be useful.
And, of course, you can get help from professional organizations, recruitment agencies, for example.
Outsourcing Development Team is a massive resource, offered at a reasonable price. Hiring a trusted team, you don’t meet any management issues, the teamwork is well-coordinated and adjusted. This, in turn, guarantees the achievement of goals as soon as possible. For management, it is a chance to focus on their business goals and marketing activities without being distracted by the technical part.
An architect-level developer can become a CTO for a startup. The list of their responsibilities will include:
- Work on product design;
- Work with code, test, release, and maintenance of the product;
- Collaboration with the team, maintaining the highest involvement and satisfaction levels;
- Change implementation;
- Solving problems related to internal management;
- Monitoring compliance of processes with deadlines and budget;
- Conducting daily meetups, delegating short-term tasks and goals, distribution of tasks.
As you can see, these are the most specific and technical tasks, and this is precisely the list of responsibilities that need to be covered in a startup without a tech co-founder.
CTO-as-a-Service - is the most convenient model in the case of limited financial resources because you pay only for services provided. At the same time, you get the most out of CTO’s experience and skills. The expertise is the main benefit since the particular specialist has already worked with different projects and can offer various points of view and solutions.
It is worth noting that the CaaS can be one person or a team.
The searching and hiring process of a CTO-as-a-Service is very similar to the technical consultant, but here you should pay maximum attention to recommendations, reviews, and feedback. Bear in mind that this CTO will be fully responsible for the tech team's work.
The leading "suppliers" of CTO-as-a-Service are:
Outsourcing companies. Given all the benefits of outsourcing, after googling, check out the companies' profiles on resources such as Clutch, Manifest, and Glassdoor. By reviewing the portfolio and collecting feedback from former clients, you can get options for the most comfortable and fruitful collaboration within a limited budget of startups.
Recommendations always remain one of the best options since the role of a CTO in a startup is very responsible. Try to contact someone with a successful experience of cooperating with CTO-as-a-Service; the chances of getting an unreliable suggestion are close to zero.
Networking is everything. Attending technical events, conferences, participating in accelerators and workshops are always a chance to get the most valuable resource - contacts. The ambitious and skilful CTO for a new startup will likely be there.
For a startup at an early stage, it is ok to lack technical expertise in the team. Most often, the idea of creating a product comes to people closer to business rather than to the technical field. This is when you need a CTO to produce technical concepts, build and supervise a dedicated development team, control the quality of their work, and be responsible for the product delivery.
How do I find a CTO for a startup?
- Define what stage you’re at now.
- Pick the best CTO option for your business for now: CTO, CTO-as-a-service, Dedicated Team, Tech Consultant.
- Use offline and online methods, be proactive in your circle, ask for recommendations.
Where can I find a CTO?
- Tech meetups and conferences.
- Social media (LinkedIn).
- Online platforms for finding tech partners.
- Freelance platforms.
Do I need a CTO for my startup?
It depends on the resources you have at your disposal at this moment, your goals, and what’s the most important, tech-savvy person in your team, able to hold one hundred per cent responsibility for all the tech decisions.
What is a CTO role about?
The CTO is a person responsible for making all tech-related decisions. It automatically means the highest level of hard and soft skills, ability to be a strong leader and performer. The CTO impacts the business growth as all the C-level managers in a startup.
What are the Chief Technical Officer’s responsibilities?
- Creating and launching an MVP.
- Building a team, onboarding new people, managing all the internal processes.
- Quality Assurance and debugging
- DevOps tasks
- Building and constantly updating the architecture.
The list of responsibilities may be way longer and depends on your project, the type of CTO you need and choose, and the skills of tech people you already have in your team. Now, when you have an understanding of how to find a CTO to build an app and what to expect, feel free to contact us for the first consulting and we’ll help you with picking the best option.