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Who is a CTO and how important is it to find a CTO for your startup?

As a startup founder, and especially a non-technical founder, you will need a team player who will handle the technical part of your business, someone who will lead your technical team if you already have one or perhaps be your technical team.

CTO is a senior position, so you would need to reflect deeply on who is going to fill it and on the qualities you are looking for before hiring anyone.

You can also rely on a company that offers CTO as a service (CaaS)


What are the differences and similarities between a CEO and a CTO?

A CEO is the leader of the overall operations within a company. He will lead the teams and manage the operations in different sectors. Also, a CEO is the representative and the public face of the company who communicates on behalf of it with other external parties: shareholders, investors, supporters, government and non-government entities, etc. The CEO is also in contact with the teams' leaders - the technical team included.

A CTO is the leader of the technical team. He/she will manage the technical development process and will make sure that the technical part is in alignment with the other aspects of the business. They will be in direct contact with the CEO and should be on boarded and kept in loop about the latest business updates.

Responsibilities of a CEO

  • Working on short and long term strategies for developing the business

  • Evaluating the work of the teams and teams' leaders and making decisions based off that

  • Communicating with the board of directors and keeping them informed about major decisions

Reponsibilities of a CTO

  • Leading the technical team by hiring talented and skilled developers

  • Managing and supervising the process of making the MVP/ technical product

  • Making long terms strategies for updating and improving the product technically

  • Keeping up with the business development of the product and the technical contributions that can contribute to further growht

How does a CEO and a CTO work together?

The CEO-CTO relationship is a very important relationship within the company that other team members need to look up to.

Because of the centrality of both roles, the relationship should be close, transparent, and professional.The CEO is going to need the feedback of the CTO in order to be more successful and make the right decisions and the CTO needs the feedback of the CEO in order to keep the technical team and the technical process on the right track in relation the the big picture.

Combining both roles

Some CEOs wear also the hat of a CTO and work as both the CEOs and the CTOs of their companies. This can be possible when the CEO is a technical person himself.

This has its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages include that leading the technical team will enable the CEO to keep in direct contact with the technical process, this is especially important when leading a tech startup or a tech company. Also, being the CEO, you know about other areas and aspects of the business and this will enable you to make better decisions for the technical team.

Disadvantages are the stress and lack of time this will cause to the CEO. Also, balancing the technical and the business parts is not an easy mission, so you need to have good expertise in both areas and a lot of mental strength here.

So, how does a CTO compare to a CEO?

In short, a CTO is the CEO of the technical department.

We are going to take a closer look into hiring a CTO specifically:

Leadership/communication/interpersonal soft skills

After all, a CTO is a team leader, he/she should be able to communicate clearly with the team members and understand them in return. They should also be able to inspire them when needed. They should also be able to hire/fire people according to reasonable and good standards. As strange as this may sound, they are your HR-meets-technology type of person.

Hard skills

As the T in “CTO” stands for technology, your CTO should be as tech savvy as you see fit and as fits the complexity of your technical product. Hiring an expert will very much pay off in the long run

Customer knowledge

The CTO is responsible for leading the process of creating a product that would be easy to use by customers and for deciding what features your technical team should be working or not working on implementing.

Business literate (preferably fluent)

Your CTO is not going to be coding 24/7. A lot of the time, he will be having business-related discussions with you, with board members, or maybe with potential investors so some bbusiness expertise is necessary and will come in handy.

Open minded and constantly learning

Technology is one of the most fast-evolving fields out there. If you are someone who is into technology, then you know that you cannot afford being detached from latest news and updates.

A bonus: if you are a CTO then you should not only know what the latest trends are but you should really know how to manipulate latest technologies and you should be able to foresee what the future might hold for the business you are working for.

Where to find a CTO?

There are many websites that you can check when searching for a CTO. This is a quick list.

  • CoFoundersLab

  • FoundersNation


Other ways:

  • Looking at other startups and keeping connected with the ecosystem.

  • The usual traditional “interviews” mode

  • Making a big offer and publishing it online.

Hiring your CTO is a big challenge and a big decision, but it is also a big step forward. Good luck!

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