5 reasons why it makes sense to hire a part-time CTO in the early stages of a Startup

In the last 12 months, I’ve seen quite a few very interesting startups with potentially disruptive, well-defined business propositions, a great commercial pitch and of course, lots of energy.

What I’ve also seen is that many startups are struggling with the technology aspect of their business. As I’ve stated before, mistakes are bound to be made in this area if there is no experienced technical co-founder and no technology-focused coaching.

There’s a lot a part-time CTO can do in the early stages of a startup. And the good news is: it pays off, directly or later in the process.

Let’s sum up some of the ways a part-time CTO can help:

1. Selecting and Guiding Development Partners

As addressed in a previous post, many startups lack the technological know-how to select the right development company to build their apps, as much as they lack the knowledge to be able to translate their needs into project scope. This can result in a poor match, and all kinds of trouble. It’s a long term relationship. Think of it that way, and think about the CTO as a matchmaker, who analyses what you need in a technology partner and can filter bluff from real experience with regard to tech features to be built.

Also, the CTO can act as a go-between when it comes to relating to the technology partner. Making sure required business features are well understood by the developing party and don’t get lost in translation, is a key element of the CTO’s work. Having someone on board who can evaluate deliverables in terms of quality, scalability, extensibility and code neatness is crucial.

2. Business Idea Validation and Translation

Disruptive ideas obviously have a technical feasibility side to them. A CTO can test, refine and verify ideas in terms of technical realization.

The CTO also has profound knowledge of suitable technical platforms and can make build or buy decisions regarding aspects of the solution to build.

3. Internal Team Building

In many cases, outsourcing may seem to be the only available choice for software development. But there’s more to it: what are the likely future requirements for the application? Is the application or feature a one off or a core part of the business to be repeatedly improved and updated? The closer the development work is to the core value of what the business delivers, the more a startup should aim to keep that piece of development internal. It is with a startup’s most core components that it solves its most vital problems. These core components of software are what make a startup increasingly valuable. Keeping the knowledge of these components internally should also naturally be a high priority. (taken from “Startups — Internal or outsourced software development?” by George Lovegrove).

The part-time CTO can help run the recruitment process of your internal team, having experience in setting up agile teams, selecting professionals and building productive workforces.

But even when a startup decides to outsource software development, it still makes sense to have a small internal team dedicated to monitoring and guiding the development process. This team could consist of a project manager/product owner and a QA/Tester.

4. Setting the Scope

Every startup that builds software (or has it built) has their ideal product functionally thought out in great detail. Since building software is a highly complex process however, functionality needs to be translated into technical requirements and user interaction design (UX), feature sets need to be broken up into iterative release plans, and a minimal viable product (MVP) feature set needs to be distilled. A CTO is highly experienced in this matter and can help scoping projects in order to speed up the initial release and create a short update cycle.

5. Permanent CTO Recruitment

When hiring a permanent CTO becomes a necessity, the part-time CTO is very well suited to help find the right candidate, knowing the job requirements quite well, in addition to having an inside view on the company culture and the team.

It makes perfect sense to have the part-time CTO lead the recruitment of the full-time CTO.