The tech industry is booming, and every entrepreneurial mind out there wants to clutch the best benefits from the market. However, most startup founders feel intimidated by the idea of setting up development teams, hiring developers, and building the product from scratch.
Overall, the technology part of setting up the architecture, finding the right technology, and ensuring the maintenance of the product after it is developed gets too much to handle for most entrepreneurs who come with a business mindset.
This is where a CTO steps in.
A CTO ensures that the startup keeps thriving in terms of technology no matter how many trends come and go. They not only get the startup app idea off the floor but also ensure that it soars high. They do this by keeping it fueled and powered by the best technology stack, developers, technology experts, and other resources.
If you also think that hiring a CTO for your startup is the best strategic move you can take right now to excel in terms of technology, this write-up is just for you. Read on to know how it'll help you make the best hiring decision.
Who Is A CTO?
Before delving into the profound aspects of CTO and their role in a startup, first, we need to understand who is a CTO.
CTO is the Chief Technology Officer who handles all the technical aspects of an organization. He could be the technical co-founder, technology partner, or simply a technology expert with an entrepreneurial mind and experience. They could take on the responsibility of technology stack selection, building & managing IT infrastructure, security, strategizing development process, hiring developers, managing product development teams, and much more.
A CTO stands at par with the CFO and CEO of the company, sitting among the founders and taking the organization forward in the realm of technology. The role of a CTO is to understand how technology can affect the startup and how they can leverage the same to gain a competitive edge. They participate in building the business strategies as well as the technical strategies for the startup.
A CTO needs to fill in different shoes in the startup ecosystem. In order to understand who a CTO is, let’s start by listing down the various responsibilities that they are expected to fulfill.
MVP Development: The CTO is responsible for building the minimum viable product for the startup, which is the first version of the startup product. They need to build and launch the first version of the product, be it a mobile app, software, SaaS product, web app, or any other thing.
Assuring Quality In Codes: The CTO needs to have complete knowledge of the entire system and perform quality assurance and testing before any release.
Building Tech Team: The CTO is responsible for hiring engineers, tech talent, and other people to build the complete product development team, be it remote or in-house.
Ensuring IT Security: The CTO should ensure that the IP, codes, documents, and all other things are completely secure, especially from any cyber theft.
Product Planning & Management: The CTO should also take part in product planning and ensuring that the product development goes as planned.
Act As DevOps Engineer: The CTO needs to act as the DevOps engineer and ensure the team follows the same culture for efficient operations and development work.
Maintain & Updating Application Architecture: As the startup product scales, it is the duty of the CTO to keep updating the application architecture as the product scales.
Build Relationship With Vendors, Stakeholders, And Customers: The CTO can help build stronger relationships with the stakeholders, vendors, and customers in terms of new integrations, progress, API additions, etc.
Debugging: There can be various bugs during the initial MVP launch and even as the product scales. The CTO is responsible for getting any type of bug fixed on priority by assigning it to the respective developers.
Why Startups Hire CTOs?
A constant question that many ask when startups start their search for a CTO is why do they hire one. They wonder if hiring a CTO is just a business move or is there any particular need for a technical head among the startup’s founding team. Well, the answer is yes - you do need a CTO in all stages of your product development.
Majority of the reasons why startups need a CTO can be deduced from the responsibilities that we have discussed above. However, if you are still wondering why you need CTO for a startup, here is a list of reasons for the same.
To Hire The Best Tech Talent
It won’t be easy for a business person with no technical expertise to hire technology experts for the development. Startups might need to hire remote developers, and scrutinizing someone virtually is a task only someone with experience and expertise can do.
A CTO can analyze the tech requirements and hire the best from the vast global talent pool to initiate the minimum viable product development.
To Manage The Technical Team
Just hiring a technical team won’t be enough for a startup team. You need to have someone who can manage them and ensure that everything runs smoothly. This is where a CTO comes into action. The CTO oversees the team and how the development is going. They also resolve any issue or bottleneck that the development team might face during the development.
To Oversee The Product Development
Following the software MVP scope is imperative for development, especially for a startup. The CTO ensures that the team is following the plan for development and also moving iteratively towards the final version. They help the developers in each sprint and make sure that the features or functionalities work as planned and expected by the end of the sprint.
To Advise On Technology
With so many programming languages, frameworks, libraries, and their multiple versions, it becomes challenging for startup’s business heads or the founder to select the development framework or language to go forth. And finding the right technology stack plays a crucial role in its development and scaling. A CTO can help startups find the best tech stack for back-end, front-end, designing, and adding new technologies.
Also Read: Best Tech Stack for MVP
To Select Product Platform
Just developing a fully functional product isn’t enough for a startup; they also need a successful launch. And selecting the right platform plays a pivotal role in the same. They will help you decide which platform is suitable for the type of startup app idea that you have come forthwith. Moreover, they will also analyze all technical aspects of the product, target audience, and other specifications to find the right platform.
To Continuously Monitor Architecture
A startup product is considered to be built following the agile software development approach, which is iterative and incremental. This increment in each version might cause issues if the startup does not keep its application architecture. A technical co-founder or a CTO can track the updates in the system application to help you keep the architecture updated to offer zero downtime.
To Help With Product Innovation
Startups need to innovate continuously to keep growing and engaging their users with the following versions of the MVP. A CTO could be the innovator in the team who can help find new technologies like blockchain, AI, ML, data science, etc, functionalities, and other features that can make the application more cutting edge and advanced. They can analyze the complete user feedback to determine what features might be enticing and how to innovate within the budget for the next version.
At Seed Stage
Many feel that they don’t need to hire a technical co-founder or a CTO during the initial stage of pre-funding or seed stage. However, that’s not true. A CTO has a relevant role to play and several responsibilities to handle during the seed stage. These include:
Ideation & Brainstorming: Helping prove the ideas through critical thinking and making the right decisions regarding user personas.
Market Research & Product Discovery: Ensuring that product idea is a market fit through research, surveys, data analysis, etc.
Define Technical Architecture: Create a technical architecture for the product idea to be put forward in front of the stakeholders.
Estimating Timelines: Analyze the roadmap of the project and start estimating timelines and sprints.
At MVP Stage
The next stage is when the startup has received some funding and is looking for MVP development of their product idea. This is where the first mockup or prototype of the product is made. A CTO’s role is pertinent as they decide what approach to take for the product development and which features to launch first.
Bring Design & Development Teams: Whether hiring remote developers for product development or joining hands with an MVP development company, CTO assesses everything.
MVP Development & Launch: A CTO is responsible for monitoring the MVP development process and whether everything is going as per the product plan or not for seamless launch.
Feedback Analysis: They are responsible for analyzing the feedback received after the initial launch from beta testers and see if it matches what they had expected.
Plan Iterations: Based on the feedback received, the CTO is responsible for planning the next sprint or iterations to be implemented in the following steps.
At Expansion Stage
Here, the product has received a positive response from the users and is all set to expand and move ahead for other funding rounds for new version development. The CTO helps plan new features to be rolled out with the next version to expand the product and reach a much larger audience base. The responsibilities here include:
Add New Features: Finding out the features that will improve the user experience and help engage better and implementing the same in the product.
Release Version 2.0: Once the next version of the product is planned as per new features to be added, the CTO plans for the release of the next version.
Scale The Product: They make sure that not just version 2.0 but all other versions of the product are released successfully without disturbing the entire product experience.
Instill Confidence: In the post-revenue stage during expansion planning, a CTO is required to instill confidence in the stakeholders and investors to keep the funds flowing.
Things To Know Before Hiring A CTO
Most startups decide to hire a CTO during the seed stage itself. This decision in the early stages provides them with ample time to share the product vision and scale it with time. However, hiring a CTO for a startup can be intriguing for many entrepreneurs, especially those who have very little experience and knowledge of technology. We have listed down some important things that you should know about a CTO and then discussed some points based on which you can scrutinize a CTO for your startup.
A CTO Takes Architectural Decisions
When you hire a CTO for your startup product, you need to know that the initial development of the product needs to be handled by the person itself. They should have the required development expertise, knowledge of programming languages and should be hands-on in creating the initial product architecture. They would be responsible for selecting technology, finding a technology partner, or even an IT outsourcing company for the development.
A CTO Should Share Product Vision
The responsibility to entice excitement in the product development team lies on the CTO’s shoulders. And that can be done only if they are able to share the product vision. They should be able to visualize the product and share the same vision with the product development team, whether it is in-house or outsourced.
A CTO Should Be A Cultural Fit
Many feel that a CTO, who isn’t a technical fit, can also be a part of the startup’s founding team. However, this is not the case. There is a stark difference between working at a startup and working for larger organizations. A startup requires a CTO to step into different shoes at different times. They should be able to adapt to the startup culture and become a good fit for the company.
A CTO Manages Tech Innovation
Not having innovative ideas will not take a startup to the next level. They need to keep innovating with new features, functionalities, and technologies to offer their customers better products with each new version release. A CTO can help with tech innovation and add new technologies to the products to keep them updated. Moreover, a CTO can help innovate the product and build the next version that fits the market requirement and the customers’ expectations.
A CTO Prevents Scope Creep
Scope creep is one of the most common reasons why so many startups are not able to stay on the planned development roadmap. The CTO ensures that there is no scope creep and the developers follow the roadmap and do not get enticed to add new features in the middle. They ought to endure that the features are prioritized as per the market research and scope of the ideation. They do not let the project derail and ensure that the MVP development follows the set roadmap with required features as defined in the scope of software MVP.
Key Areas To Scrutinize CTO Candidates
Hiring CTO for a startup is nothing like hiring any other technology expert or developer in the production team. And so, the hiring process should not be taken lightly. They have a bigger role to play, a bigger team to manage, and more responsibilities to handle. So, hiring them also requires more scrutiny. Let’s find out some of the key areas that you should scrutinize the CTO candidates on.
As you are hiring someone in the founder position for the startup, you need to hire someone who has the required experience in the field. They should not be some entry-level or mid-level technology expert but have at least a decade of experience in not just handling development or managing teams but also in innovating with products.
They act as the decision-makers when it comes to technology in the startup. Be it selecting the technology for development, frameworks & libraries for front/back-end, or the programming languages for the software development, CTO is responsible for it all.
A key characteristic of a Chief Technical Officer is passion. They should have the belief in your idea and be passionate about taking it forward. They won’t be like a developer who just writes codes or adds functionalities. Rather, they should be driven and passionate to take the idea further while ensuring success for the startup.
Technology keeps evolving. New frameworks, technologies, versions, patches, etc., keep rolling out almost every week. A CTO should not be someone who is rigid in his basic skills. They should be flexible and eager to learn everything the comes out and might be helpful in taking the startup product forward.
An important skill that differentiates CTOs from senior developers or even technical co-founders is the leadership skills that they must possess. Even if your startup expands and hires new project leaders and managers to manage the team, they should have the skills required to lead the team towards victory with the product. This skill is going to be very beneficial in keeping the team motivated through the ups and downs of the startup journey.
Out-Of-The-Box Thinking Ability
Confining oneself within the conventional box can never let the CTO be an innovator. Make sure that the Chief Technical Officer you hire for your startup product can think outside the box. And it is quite easy to determine that as well. Just ask some situational questions and analyze the quirks and thought-process behind the answers to know if they have the out-of-the-box thinking capability.
This is a must-have skill that any startup looking to hire a CTO should be mindful of is their communication skills. They need to communicate not just with the developers but also the stakeholders in order to convey the progress of the product and how to move ahead with the same.
Another important skill that you must assess when hiring a CTO for your startup is an entrepreneurial skill. Every member of the startup founding team should have the passion seen in entrepreneurs. They want to solve real-world problems and can fix any issue that comes in the way of realizing their dreams. The same quality should be present in the CTO as well.
Forward thinkers are people who can analyze the current situation and predict the future and it might hold for the startup. CTOs should not just be able to integrate the latest technology trends in the product but also provide an insight into what shape this technology will take in the coming times. They should analyze the product idea and see if it acts as a blockchain real-life example and needs blockchain experts for the same. It might even need to hire AI engineers, data scientists, or other edge technology experts to future-proof the idea and product.
Steps to Hire A CTO For Your Startup
Now that we know the important things to hire a CTO for a startup let’s discuss what steps you need to take to find the best one. Hiring a CTO is not similar to hiring a developer for your startup. We already know that there are different skills that you need to scrutinize in the CTO before hiring them. Now, let’s find out the various steps involved.
Define The Requirements
The first step to hiring CTO for startups is to define the requirements - technology expertise, soft skills, technical skills, and much more. This is where you start defining the role of a CTO in the startup ecosystem. Check out all the responsibilities we’ve discussed above and make a complete job description containing the following:
Responsibilities: Make sure you list all the responsibilities, including hiring & managing the development team, overseeing the product development, monitoring the architecture, and all else.
Cultural Fit: Make sure to write down the type of culture you are following in your startup and find a cultural fit for your organization.
Skills: List down all the skills like eagerness to learn, leadership skills, entrepreneurial skills, out-of-the-box thinking, and others.
Technology stack: There are different technologies that could be required in the product and ensure that the technologies are in line.
Personality: The CTO that you choose to hire should be a forward thinker and is ready to wear multiple hats as a Chief Technical Officer.
The next important step in hiring CTO for a startup is to prioritize requirements. Different startups and entrepreneurs have different expectations from the CTO. In this step, you are required to define what you are looking for and what is your first priority when it comes to the CTO.
Are you looking for a technology expert, cultural fit, motivated individual, team manager, or simply a knowledgeable person?
Create a chart of all the skills that you require and how you want to prioritize them. These could include everything from the skill set to the technologies to the personality traits to them being a cultural fit. List them all down and create a table to make things more transparent.
A table in such a format would be very helpful when you start interviewing the CTOs. It will help you shortlist the candidates while judging them based on the skills most required.
Search Different Platforms
The next step is to start looking at different platforms to make the hiring. When hiring developers, you can simply look through the freelance portal to find the best fit. However, the role of the CTO requires more scrutiny. You can go through various listing sites like Clutch where you will be able to find the best software development companies, product development companies, or even app development companies. These companies work with startups to help them realize their technological dreams.
Create Selling Copy For The Role
The next thing you need to know is that good CTOs will usually have multiple offers lined up for them by several startups. You need to create a selling copy so that they would want to take the offer that you are offering over all else.
It could be during the interview process that you get to sell the role.
Start with telling a bit about the problem that your startup product idea aims to solve.
Make sure to offer clarity around the role and responsibilities.
You shouldn’t just list the qualities but also tell them the experience they’ll gain by working with you.
Emphasize the opportunities they’ll have and how they’ll fit the role well.
Get Technology Partner As CTO
We have discussed the different roles, responsibilities, skills required in a CTO, and things to consider while hiring CTO for startups. However, many startups have succeeded without a CTO by hiring a technology partner for themselves.
The technology partner acts as a CTO for the startup while also taking care of all the technical requirements - right from the software, hardware to IT infrastructure, technical advice, software engineers, technical managers, and all else. A technology partner can help you with everything that a startup needs, from its seed stage to MVP development to growth.
At Classic Informatics, we have been assisting several startups with their technical requirements by offering our startup solutions. We have been doing it all, from offering complete IT infrastructure to their MVP development, product development, and growth.
As your technology partner, we ensure that you grow unhindered. Our experts take care of your technology needs, be it technical advice, selecting the best technology, ideation, brainstorming, market research, product development, to even successful launch and expansion.
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