How to Recruit a Technical Co-Founder (aka how to be a great CEO)

Alex Capecelatro
Jul 2, 2015 · 4 min read

How do I find a CTO?” This is one of the most common questions people ask me. In reality, when they say “CTO” they often mean “technical co-founder”, so I’m going to focus on that role. Over the last few years I’ve built technical teams, launched several products, and currently work with the best CTO I could hope for. This post is a reflection on how I got so lucky and suggestions to help you do the same.

To summarize, the trick to persuading a great CTO is to be a great CEO. Sounds obvious, but many entrepreneurs I’ve met focus on all the wrong things. If you want to attract top technical talent, work on these 10 things and you’ll be surprised by the results.

1. Recruiting

Recruiting is tough. It’s time consuming. It involves a lot of rejection, sales, phone calls, and negotiations. Your typical CTO, while helpful in technical interviews and possible referrals, is unlikely to want to spend time recruiting talent. In my experience, your ability to build a world-class team as the CEO will go a long way in impressing the CTO.

2. Fundraising + Presentations

Most CTOs I’ve met are terrible fundraisers. The ability to code is one thing, but the ability to convince someone to cut you a check is an entirely different one. Coming to the table as someone who has raised capital before, or invoking confidence in the ability to do so will go a long way in your efforts to attract the best.

3. Press

I’ve been on Fox Business, written up in TechCrunch and Forbes, featured in Fast Company and Entrepreneur Magazine, etc, etc, etc. Getting good press can be vital to an early business and showing your CTO that you’re able to network and execute on write-ups is both good for the company as well as important in letting them know the work they do will be showcased globally.

4. Product

The CTO is going to lead the effort in building the product, but that doesn’t mean they’re a visionary. Being a good CEO means product development, ideation, creative problem solving and offering thoughts on how to architect the solution. If you want to work with a great CTO, be ready to dive into product discussions sift through the weeds.

5. Logistics

In a startup, someone needs to take out the trash. Someone needs to order business cards, make sure the WiFi works, and handle other loose ends. If you keep the printer stocked and make sure logistics are in order, that’s one less distraction your CTO would otherwise have to deal with.

6. Social media + Networking

I’m putting these together because they both involve being outgoing and social. As a startup, the biggest problem you face is no one knows you exist. Through social media and networking you need to build brand awareness, gain a following, let the world know who you are and what you do. As CEO, this is a great way to show your value doing something most CTOs wouldn’t enjoy.

7. Contracts + Law Suits

Every startup will have to handle contracts. Unfortunately many startups will also have to deal with law suits. Trust me, these are not tasks anyone wants to do, least of which is your CTO. By owning these tasks and doing a good job you’ll gain the respect of your CTO and save them from the mind-numbing distractions these tasks tend to be.

8. Sales

You may have picked up on this from the notes about recruiting, fundraising, getting press, etc. Sales is the #1 job as the CEO. You’re selling prospectus employees, investors, press, and hopefully your product! Make sure you’re able to close on sales or it’s going to be very difficult recruiting and retaining a great CTO.

9. Get technical

So you want to be the CEO of a technology company and you don’t know the difference between CSS and C++. I highly recommend getting proficient with the terms, learn enough to understand what’s going on, and ideally start doing some basic programming as well. You’ll gain the respect of your CTO and you’ll communicate way better if you become at least a little bit technical.

10. Company culture

This is probably the biggest one. A CTO’s job is to focus on the product, and your job among other things is to focus on the company. If the people are happy, if they’re excited to be at work, if they like their co-workers and if they feel inspired to do a great job, you’ll find great CTOs wanting to join you.

So that’s about it. If you can do the things a CTO can’t, or would prefer not to, you’re off to a great start. Many of these things need to be proven over time and ultimately you don’t have to do everything yourself. If a CTO believes you’re going to raise capital, get press, hire a great team, build a great product and have tremendous sales, you’re miles ahead of most startup CEOs.

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This post was written by Alex Capecelatro, CEO of Josh.AI. Prior to Josh, Alex founded At The Pool and Yeti. Alex has an engineering degree from UCLA, lives in Los Angeles and Denver, and likes to tweet about Artificial Intelligence and Design. Check out Alex’s most popular Medium post which passed 500,000 views in the first 48 hours here.

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