How to find a CTO / technical co-founder
There’s a talent war brewing outside your office and it’s one that you can’t afford to lose. Every single day, thousands of “revolutionary” technology startups are born and the big guys like Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook continue to grow larger and more powerful. As a consequence, finding, attracting and retaining top-level technical talent is more challenging today than ever before. And tomorrow, it will be even harder.
One thing remains crystal clear in the midst of all of this innovation: If you’re going to succeed, you’re going to need a technical visionary to guide you on your quest. This visionary is better known as the CTO.
Finding the right CTO for your startup is the one of the most important things any technological company faces almost from the very first day. The decisions made in the early stages of the project can greatly affect the viability and performance of the long-term project. If you want to be successful, you’ll need the right partner and finding this person is number one on your list of priorities.
What’s the role of a CTO?
The CTO is the technical leader of the company and the person who makes the key technical decisions. He or she will be in charge of developing the strategy and the technology foundation on which your company (or new project) will be based. All of the decisions should be based on the business needs, so your CTO better knows and understands the overall company strategy. This alignment with the business strategy is what separates the CTO from a regular engineer.
How to hire a CTO?
First, define the requirements of your CTO role and create a job description. This will help determine what your ideal candidate looks like and how to spot them in the wild. What soft skills do they possess? What specific technical talents do they bring to your team? What’s their background and personality?
Second, define what success looks like for both this role and for your company overall. With the perfect hire, where will you be in 6 months? One year? What is your company culture and what type of problem solving approach will be ideal for this role?
Lastly, list your deal breakers. Are there specific technologies that are eliminators or can they be learned? Can you hire non-residents? Is remote-working a possibility?
Now you can use this information to create your customized CTO job description and begin your search.
Where to find a CTO?
Sometimes the best candidates are already taken. Never disregard the attractiveness of your breakthrough idea or the power of your professional network. Ask around to see who in your network hangs out in the techy circles and get out there and network your butt off. Meetup groups, conferences, local and international tech events, etc — you may just be able to steal an A player away from another gig.
While you’re out there pounding the pavement, setup online channels to funnel new potential candidates to your inbox. Angel List, Quora, Git, Stack Overflow, Craigslist and social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn Groups and Facebook can be tremendous resources for finding talent.
What to look for in a CTO?
- Experience matters. If you want someone that can lead the technology side of your company, you need someone with management experience and has worked in similar environments.
- Leadership is a must. The CTO will manage other people so they must be able to motivate them to do their best work.
- You’re looking for a polyglot. How many people are you trying to reach? Which platforms are these people using? The CTO doesn’t need to be the best developer in any one technology, but they must have a depth of knowledge in several different technologies and be able to spot great talent across platforms.
- Must be proactive. As the CTO is likely the one person in the company with the broadest technical knowledge, they may help you to find the best way to bring you idea to life and propose alternative channels for reaching your goals.
Keep in mind that another option exists other than finding the perfect CTO. After all, the search may take time and cannot be rushed. This interim route involves finding a technology advisor or a technology services company that works together with you as a partner to build your product and that has experience working with startups. You should look for a company that has real experience working with startups and executing the lean methodology.
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