Written by: Ilia Kiselevich, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
The tech landscape is lucrative, but figuring out all those app development nuances can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to a startup playground. Shaping the technical roadmap, making pivotal choices about tools, hiring and onboarding the right development team… sounds like a nightmare for a startup owner with many other responsibilities. And this is precisely when the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) comes to the rescue.
Since I've been through this startup hustle myself, I’ll be glad to share my viewpoint and hopefully prevent fellow founders from making costly mistakes. Let’s discuss why having a rockstar CTO on board is a wise move for any startup, also covering the key reasons and enlisting some available hiring options.
Who’s a CTO?
A CTO is a multifunctional expert able to combine the functions of a tech guru, problem-solver, and negotiator in one. Their main goal is to ensure that your startup sails smoothly through the tech storms and delivers a robust future-proof product to the end user. The list of CTO’s responsibilities can vary from one startup to another, but the main tasks include:
Developing a tech strategy and planning infrastructure
Making sure your product is up-to-date with industry trends and modern technologies
Mentoring the development team
Overseeing security and data privacy
Checking product’s compliance with industry standards and regulations
Assessing and mitigating technology-related risks
Reasons why your team lacks a CTO
The very concept of a startup is often associated with limited resources. Thus, in trying to save money, a lot of founders fall into the trap and skimp on experts they shouldn’t. Based on the projects our team has implemented, CTOs always play a decisive role in some critical and disputable situations, which makes them indispensable. In case you’re still in two minds about whether to find a CTO or not, here are the reasons why you need to do it – the earlier the better:
1. Ineffective division of labor. Every teammate should assume accountability for their assigned duties. Even if it seems that you are quite capable of managing a development team without a dedicated specialist, such self-confidence can play a cruel joke. Without proper expertise and experience, you can make crucial mistakes that will not allow you to successfully launch the project, receive investments, and make the app hassle-free for users. In other words, let professionals do their work.
2. Lack of proper management. It doesn’t matter how badly the startup founder wants to participate in each and every process, including mentoring the dedicated development team – resources are limited. The lack of a CTO draws a potential risk of mismanaging technical resources, leading to workflow inefficiency, unwanted delays, and money loss.
3. Innovation stagnation. The role of a CTO extends far beyond just managing technology. They drive innovation within the organization and explore novel approaches. Without a dedicated leader responsible for cultivating an experimental environment, you’ll eventually find your team stuck in a cycle of obsolete solutions and missed opportunities. We often see that the lack of a CTO in the team results in issues when a startup initially chooses inappropriate or outdated technology for MVP development. This becomes a serious problem for scaling and even fundraising. Speaking of our recent cases, a startup addressed us with an MVP developed on Xamarin. Since the technology is not flexible, this MVP performed weakly and was impossible to scale. Plus, Xamarin will soon not be supported at all. The founders didn’t consider those nuances in the absence of expertise and a CTO in their team. As a result, they faced high support costs and the need to rewrite the product from scratch for further growth and development.
4. Limited scalability. If you’re planning to scale your startup in the future, engaging such a professional early on can help your team adapt to increased demand and navigate technical challenges better. Otherwise, your startup risks struggling with performance bottlenecks and optimization roadblocks. A skilled CTO will elaborate a plan for the expansion, ensuring that you can accommodate growth without compromising user experience or system reliability.
Exploring CTO hiring options for a startup
When it comes to integrating a CTO into your startup's ecosystem, there are several paths I’d advise you to consider:
Engaging a CTO as a partner can be an effective strategy if you possess the visionary concept but lack the technical expertise. In this collaboration model, you partner with an external entity or individual with specialized expertise who provides essential technical support, guidance, and execution.
Pro: One of the major advantages of having a technical partner is access to specialized expertise. They often bring in-depth knowledge in specific technical domains, allowing your startup to benefit from their insights and industry best practices.
Con: Relying heavily on a technical partner can create a dependency, potentially hindering your ability to take full control over your startup's technical decisions.
When you opt to hire an in-house CTO, you're bringing a dedicated tech guru into your inner circle. Having a full-time expert means having a watchful eye over your technical direction. They provide immediate oversight, ensuring that technology-related decisions are promptly addressed and aligned with the company's goals.
Pro: With an in-house CTO, collaboration between technical and non-technical teams becomes more efficient. Their constant presence facilitates communication, promotes cross-functional understanding, and accelerates project execution.
Con: Employing an in-house CTO can strain your budget, especially during the early stages when financial resources might be limited. As such, balancing the benefits of inviting a dedicated CTO with the associated financial considerations becomes crucial in making the right decision.
CTO as a service
To my mind, choosing a CTO as a service is the most optimal choice for startups aiming to strike a balance between accessing top-notch expertise and managing costs. This approach offers on-demand technical guidance and advice tailored to your specific needs but without the hefty price tag of a full-time hire.
Pro: CTO as a service provides flexibility in terms of engagement, duration, and scope. You can tap into the CTO's expertise, adjusting the level of involvement and, consequently, financial resources. This agility enables startups to receive timely guidance without a fixed commitment.
Con: While providing valuable guidance, this collaboration model might not offer immediate and constant availability, which could be a drawback during urgent situations. At this point, discussing a convenient interaction schedule in advance is crucial to avoid severe delays.
CTO consulting is a strategic engagement where a startup enlists the services of an experienced CTO on a temporary basis. It’s like having a trusted advisor you can consult whenever the need arises. CTO consulting can be particularly beneficial for companies looking to fine-tune their existing tech strategies.
Pro: An external CTO consultant brings an impartial and objective opinion to the table. This empowers you to get some unbiased evaluation of your technical decisions, identify potential blind spots, and implement innovative solutions that might not be so apparent to an internal team.
Con: A consulting CTO might have limited involvement in day-to-day operations, potentially missing out on the detailed nuances of your business operations and culture.
For those who plan to traverse the landscape of startup possibilities, hiring a proficient CTO is an essential efficiency ingredient. These experts are the driving force that propels your business forward. From steering the course of technological choices to building a productive team, a reliable CTO stands as a 50% contribution to your success.
Ilia Kiselevich, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
CEO & Founder of SolveIt – a mobile development company, entrepreneur and product owner of HBT. Ilia Kiselevich is an entrepreneur with a keen eye for emerging technologies and a deep understanding of market dynamics committed to transforming ideas into reality. Under Ilia's guidance, SolveIt has garnered recognition for its remarkable quality of delivered solutions, award-winning UX/UI design, and 100% customer satisfaction score.