You have a great idea for a new (or improved) software product. You’re ready to work hard for it and build your own company. You know a lot of startups fail, and you also know the people that make up your startup can either cause your startup to fail or to flourish. Talent, persistence, great communication skills – these are traits you look for in business partners. This is true for a potential CTO as well. But how do you go about actually finding a CTO? This post attempts to give some pointers.
Why is it Hard to Find a CTO?
Joining a new startup is risky. This isn’t different for a CTO too. What’s more, great CTO talent is scarce but startups are not. A potential CTO should be willing to take some risks, but you’re going to have to show him/her a potential reward too – This could be either a great compensation package or the impact your startup is going to have or a mix of the above.
Also, making the CTO feel like an important decision-maker and stakeholder in the company is also going to be crucial. A generous ESOP’s share may be important in hiring and retaining the right talent.
How to Find a CTO For your Startup
1. Be clear about your requirements
You must have a clear picture of your requirements. For example, you must have a list of technologies that are a must-have for your project. That could act as a filter to select the most appropriate candidates. Once you have filtered the candidates based on their technical skills, you can further get to know them and filter them accordingly. In a perfect world, you need to discover somebody who will consider this to be as a bar up on the stepping stool in their profession, for example, a senior programming engineer or specialized group captain who is ravenous to take on the CTO job. You may need somebody who’s strolled your way previously. Discover somebody who approaches things from a “try to get” point of view, not somebody who thinks they have every one of the appropriate responses.
2. Go to places where you’re likely to find good technical talent
It is always a good idea to go to cohorts where there are like-minded people as you and these places could be an answer to your question “How to Find a CTO?”. Hackathons, conferences, meetups, summits are all great opportunities to discover a potential CTO who would be a great asset for your company. Search for somebody who can get various innovations (maybe including back end, front end, and mobile). Keep away from individuals who state they’ll just program code in one language.
3. Look for developers at just below the CTO level at startups similar to yours
Jobs like VP or Engineering Lead where there’s as of now a CTO at that startup implies that they presumably have the experience required to be a CTO yet probably won’t get the open door where they at currently are. You can scan for individuals like this through LinkedIn. Ensure they have at any rate had experience shipping a product in the event that you need to give them the duty of building yours
4. Utilise the power of the internet
The internet is a potent tool in today’s world. Make sure you make the best use of it and benefit from its huge pool of talented professionals. There is an endless list of platforms which are dedicated to finding technical professionals such as a CTO. Some of them are listed below:
- Founders Nation
- Indie Hackers
- Co-founder’s subreddit on Reddit.com
- Co-founding threads on Discordapp and Slack channels.
5. Pitch for the position
Beginning with the expected set of responsibilities and enduring through the offer, remember that the best CTOs will have many offers. You must sell the job to them all through the meeting procedure. You would realize that your startup is the most energizing, imaginative, astonishing organisation to work for but remember that the candidates presumably don’t have the foggiest idea about that yet. You have to sell your startup. Don’t simply list the characteristics you need in a CTO; list what they will gain from working with you: energizing challenges, the chance to be a piece of x, y, and z. Will the CTO get value? Will they have autonomy? Whatever novel characteristics your startup has, sell them well. Make certain to clarify the situation with impartial language to draw in a decent and differing candidate pool.
6. Ensure that you have a technical advisor before a CTO
How do you differentiate a technical advisor from a CTO? A technical advisor keeps their regular job but works for you 2–4 hours out of every month and fills in as somebody who’s not in the weeds with you, every day. They may do week by week or month to month code surveys and go about as a substitute for your CTO. On the off chance that you discover a technical advisor first, this individual can be immense aid in finding the CTO. Finding a technical advisor will probably be simpler than finding a CTO, on the grounds that you aren’t requesting that somebody quit their job to come work for you. Or maybe, you are requesting that they keep their current job and take on an advisory role that takes a couple of hours a week. Sometimes, you can pull off having a technical advisor and not having to hire a CTO.
What Qualities Should Your CTO Have?
This is obvious, but still important to note. In software, often a huge amount of tooling and software libraries available for many routine tasks that software developers face. Knowing what exists and the pros and cons of each tool and library can save your company a huge amount of time and money. It also saves your company from reinventing the wheel or using a less efficient tool.
While everybody should have a great network, this is especially true for your CTO. As your company grows, you will need new employees. A CTO with a great network of skilled developers will have an advantage.
Experience is needed to have the previous point: expertise. Furthermore, it’s important your CTO knows what generally makes or breaks a great product. This knowledge can come from experience (ideally from other startups) and/or learning from other companies.
Communication Skills – Tech and Non-Tech
Your CTO is the one translating business goals to technical goals for your software developers. This means your CTO must not only have technical expertise but also be excellent at communication. You need to figure out how your CTO fits with the rest of your team (and especially with you). It’s important that your people share values with each other and understand each other since your company is made up of these people. What’s more, your CTO must be able to communicate with non-technical people too, especially those inside your company.
You’re running a startup. Your team is going to be busy, and probably extremely busy. There will be deadlines, and a great CTO should be able to know how much his team can deliver in how much time. Not only that, he should be able to inspire his team to successfully meet these deadlines.
Your CTO should be great at technology, but also at managing a team. He should inspire his team to keep focusing and working towards the same goals. It’s his responsibility to facilitate an environment where employees reach their maximum potential and to make sure the team is more than the sum of all employees.
Where to Find a CTO?
It helps if you have a great network of people where you can tap-in and ask for referrals. If that is not the case, start building one! Go on LinkedIn, connect with new people and start great conversations with them. If you click with someone, ask them if they are interested or know anybody who might be.
There are also websites designed specifically for finding a business partner. CoFounderslab.com is one of them. They have a community of entrepreneurs for you to build relationships with. This seems incredibly valuable even apart from finding your CTO. Other similar websites include indiehackers.com, founderdating.com and founders-nation.com. There are (many) more options tough, which are easy to find.
What Alternatives Are There to Having a CTO?
If you consider your own technical expertise to be high enough, you could consider taking on the role as CTO next to being CEO. Whether this is a good idea also depends on the type of product you’re building: an extremely high-tech product might need a CTO, but a less high-tech SaaS product might not.
You could also consider outsourcing the work of a CTO. However, this does have certain disadvantages, with the most important one being dedication. When outsourcing your CTO tasks, the person doing the work isn’t part of your company and is (probably) much less passionate about your product than an actual CTO would be. However, this person could be much more knowledgeable in the technical area than you are and could potentially join your startup faster than finding someone who’s willing to come in full-time. It really depends on the details.
Hopefully, this article has given you some useful pointers in your search for a CTO. There is a lot more material out there to read, but this can serve well to get you started.