How to hire a CTO for your Start-up

It’s time to get serious about your startup. You have a great idea, you have a business plan, and now you need someone on side driving the tech side of things. It’s time to hire your CTO. But how do you do that? Is it just someone who draws up plans for the tech needed? Do they need a head for numbers?

Ask yourself these questions and you’ll be well on your way to finding your tech guru.

Is your start-up a technology solution or aided by technology?

Depending on which phase of your startup you are in, this is an important question to ask. If you’re still in the ideation stage and looking for a CTO partner this is particularly relevant.

For the solo (or joint!) startup founder looking for a CTO, ask yourself “Is my product/service a tech solution or aided by technology?”

For instance, Uber Eats (Deliveroo, etc.) are services aided by technology. Before that, we had janky old websites you could order food from, without minimal tracking, etc. The solution existed, the tech pieces existed, they just hadn’t been put together yet.

On the other hand, you have something like Skype. It’s a tech solution to a problem, but one where you can’t see the complexity involved.

If you think you have a tech solution, rather than a solution aided by tech, rather than seeking out a CTO just yet, it’s advisable to get a consultant in first to see whether your solution is actually viable from a tech perspective. There are plenty of people out there with great ideas, but don’t realise the underlying technical complexity - and would soon abandon the idea if they realised what was actually involved.

Ok, so you’ve determined you have a technically viable solution: that’s great! Let’s move on to our next step.

What will the role entail?

CTOs come in all shapes and sizes. From a role similar to an advisor, where the person has pledged investment in the company, to a full-time role where the CTO is actually the technology architect (and possibly coder!) of the solution.

Think about the role and whether it will be:

  • Paid or unpaid?
  • What amount of time will they invest in the project?
  • Does the role require face to face time, or can they be remote?
  • Will they be doing hands on work, or simply advisory/guidance/hiring etc.?

Some people you interview may tell you they have different personal requirements they need to stick to, so you’ll need to ask yourself whether you’re flexible on terms or not.

Do you want a CTO part of your wider network or is completely unknown okay?

Friends, business associates, and friends of friends and associates of associates (etc.!) are an appealing fit for a CTO, simply because you already have some form of underlying trust of the person. You need to seriously consider working with a friend though, as it may cause tension in your friendship - are you the type of people who’ll be able to work through it?

Hiring an unknown is not necessarily a bad idea, so long as you do your homework. You’ll need to reach out to others who’ve done business, or at least worked alongside (or below, or above) your potential CTO.

Their suitability for the role can be fleshed out with questions regarding their management style, reliability, technical expertise, and general candour.

Will you offer buy-in for the role?

If you have a hot idea for a startup and you’re looking to raise capital, there’s also the opportunity to offer buy-in for the CTO role. There are plenty of people who’d love their name attached to this prestigious position at your new company!

While it might sound like a great two-way solution, this person is probably already quite busy with other projects, and would likely only have a few hours a week to dedicate to your project.

If you’re considering going down the buy-in route, ensure you have a contract in place regarding their working obligations as outlined in “What will the role will entail?

Do you really need a CTO?

A CTO position is as much about management, business guidance, and risk knowledge as it is about technical expertise. Many startup founders go down the CTO hiring route when really, they’d be fine in simply hiring a solution architect or senior software developer.

If your startup isn’t overly technically complex, is well outlined, and you have a fair view of business (or another partner/founder to bounce ideas off that has a bit of technical knowledge) then you might just get away with hiring for the architect role.

This person can help with fleshing out the entire technology solution, help with hiring engineers to build it, provide progress updates, and even help with the coding, in many cases.

If this is the case, and you’re looking to hire an architect, just make sure they’re a highly skilled one with fairly good interpersonal skills.

Can CodeFirst help?

We hope this has been some help in your journey towards hiring your CTO (or architect!). If you’ve decided that perhaps an architect role is what you really need in your project, we have highly skilled experts on hand that can help develop your solution. Or, once you’ve hired already, check out our skilled dev team to get the grunt work done!