What are CTO roles and responsibilities in a startup?

What’s the secret behind successful startups? Their notable CTOs.

Werner Vogels (Amazon), Andreas Klinger (Product Hunt), Susie Wee (Cisco), Gerri Martin-Flickinger (Starbucks) and the list goes on.

What does a CTO do to make a startup successful? Assesses technical needs, short and long term business goals, along with research and development.

Do you know?

About 90% of the startups fail and 10% of the startups fail within first year – Failory

Why we felt the need to explain the CTO roles and responsibilities is the fact that the CTO position is the most understated among C-level management.

In this blog post, we will try to explain the CTO job description in a startup and what sort of challenges and skills he must have.

Table of Contents

Role of CTO in a startup

By definition, CTO or chief technology officer handles technology or engineering teams, develops, executes strategic business plans and identifies the resources you need in order to build a product.

Whether you need CTO or not depends on the type of product you are developing. If your startup idea is based on a high-tech product, you need one and if your product is more into Saas’ side, you may not.

CTO Type CTO Role Startup Size
Operational Director

 Focuses on the business aspect of the technology   stack. He has skills like finance administration,   project management, business analyzing

Medium to established setup
Technical Lead  Technical background, responsible for solution   architecture and team management Any size
Product Owners  Completely familiar with the product, market and   the end user, assess data and build features Small size

When should you hire a CTO in a startup?

Ideal time for hiring CTO varies. Like we said, it depends on the product type. Second, as the startup evolves, its challenges and needs change and so does the role and requirement of a CTO.

Hiring CTO in a startup isn’t for the latter part, you have to induct the CTO as early as possible especially if your product type demands. Although depending upon many factors, you think of whether your startup needs a CTO now or not. If you can afford, we advise having him as he will help in making key technical decisions.

Still unsure? Let us help you.

How to find and hire software developers?

CTO responsibilities in a startup

CTO responsibilities are more or less the same except for the fact that difference lies in the role they are playing in the startup.

Operational director/manager – manages processes and resources, build company strategies, face of company, suggests multiple solutions

Technical lead – builds mvps, hires software developers and team, guides team about strategic plans, improves on app architecture.

Product owners – upscale the product on every stage, advise on new engaging features based on market research.

 CTO responsibility area  How to accomplish?
 Engineering  Solution architecture / system infrastructure to ensure   functionality and efficiency
 Strategy  Strategize each and every stage of a startup/business
 Product  What features should be part of the product given   market research
 Business Technology  Helps startup run its business and operational   processes, can-be customer-facing apps and solutions
 Data  Big data and product lifecycle
 Domain Knowledge  Must be aware of the product genre, if technical he   must have the skillset
 Commercial/business   model  Commercial plan for a startup is necessary or at least   he knows how startup will penetrate in the competitive   market
 Team building  Hire resources and manages large team
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CTO average salary

Challenges faced by CTO

To be honest, getting a CTO with all above qualities is hard to find due to exponential demand in the software industry.

However, we can list challenges you could face while looking for your perfect CTO.

  • Tracking performance to main productivity of the team
  • Lacks innovation, may be good at developing a product but don’t know how to scale a product
  • Finding and hiring qualified tech professionals
  • Developing technical strategy that will make vision a reality
  • Risk analysis
  • Investors or sources of capital scrutinize leadership especially CTO

Step by step guide on technology startups business plan

Core skills every CTO must possess

Although we have mentioned the skills required in a CTO, here are some of the important skills.

  • Sound understanding of the business functions, challenges it may face and solutions to overcome
  • Leadership, he typically works with teams and ensures high productivity by motivating the team.
  • A good communicator, able to communicate with all business stakeholders includes business ideas, technical information and solutions.
  • Decision making, CTO has to make important decisions like hiring resources, assigning tasks, meeting deadlines.
  • Market research, someone with an analytical mind, notices customer behaviors.
  • Critical thinking skills, someone who is open minded and can do analysis, interpretation, inference, and has great problem-solving skills.
  • Time management – solid and timely product delivery in every phase, responsible for assigning tasks and setting deadlines.

Where to find a technical cofounder or CTO?

Final verdict

Can’t find a capable and reliable CTO? Start with your network and spread the word. We believe not just the skills but trustworthiness is another core thing to consider while hiring CTO for a startup.

Startup is a risky business. With an entrepreneurial mission, around 90% startups fail but often a great leadership leads to success. Role of CTO is vital in any startup since he looks into technical-related issues and makes sure the company’s product is solving the end-user problems. After looking into the CTO roles and responsibilities, you must be thinking ‘it’s huge’, that is the reason why they draw over $140,000 / year in the US (Indeed).

Finding the right CTO may take months, also it’s rare that CTO evolves with the development of the product, consider Phaedra Solutions as your technology partner.

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