The most important tip I can give to start-up founder is to build the right team. This way it’s more likely to preserve the business through all the usual ups and downs that a startup faces during the early stages of its development. The CTO’s role might be the most critical position in a company during the initial product and business development phase. The importance of finding the right person for this position is hard to overestimate. During the initial stages, this person alone might make or break all your future chances of success.
Based on my experience from working with many early stage companies, compromising on a CTO can lead to a total collapse of the product development process and eventually your startup; failed business objectives, subpar product characteristics, and performance, waste of a budget, loss of labor hours and deployments that take forever.
It requires a lot of experience in order to take your business idea and translate it into the product vision, functional specifications, development milestones and product architecture. It takes the experience to make some hard choices on features’ priorities, internal shortcuts, and even hacks to make it work within the existing budgetary and time limits. All this, while keeping – his or her eyes and ears open, constantly communicating with the rest of the team and even soliciting for customer feedback. This is not easy but these are the basic skill sets you will need in your CTO.
What it takes to be the right CTO
The technology and product development expertise are important for a CTO. However, there is a full set of qualities that a proper CTO should have which are essential for the success of your startup. These are the 5 qualities You Must Have in Your CTO:
- Product vision
An average developer could be skillful in technical terms but might not have enough experience to be able to create a product strategy for the business. A CTO must see the whole picture, including the business side. He or she should be able to take the business ideas and initiatives and transform them into a real working product.
The right CTO will be able to form a focused, achievable vision of your product from the prototype to the first production version and beyond. The vision of the CTO should include who are the end users, what are their problems and how the product solves them.
- Management skills
A CTO’s job implies that there are more managerial responsibilities than technical ones. The CTO is responsible for the whole R&D management process and this includes: Managing the company’s development resources and Choosing the most cost-effective and development solutions.
A CTO must be able to fire up the developers with vision, charisma, and expertise. Talented people are attracted to talent and oftentimes are willing to sacrifice a fat paycheck for being a part of something bigger. Only a talented and experienced leader can create such affection.
- System architecture and UI/UX
Any product has internal system architecture and external user interfaces. A good CTO has to be able to form a qualified opinion on both:
What is the proper internal architecture that allows you to launch fast and scale rapidly? Where should you draw the line between quick and dirty beta version and clean and modular production?
What are the programming languages, frameworks and 3rd party modules that are required in order to build the product? This decision should be based on something substantial and will have a strong and long-lasting impact on the development strategy for years to come.
- An executive with strong and well-rounded credentials
CTO is facing partners, customers, and potential investors on a daily basis. Potential investors may want to evaluate his or her competency and not just technical ones. Also, customers may want to discuss some potential features, general feasibility, and a development timeframe. There for an executive with strong presentation and communication skills can articulate and sell vision to the world.
- Partner and team player
Your business will likely take years to bear fruit and there will be numerous ups and downs which you will need to overcome as a team. It is critical that you feel you are able to communicate clearly and openly with your CTO, which you will do on an hourly or daily basis. You should actually like the person, you should trust your CTO with your money, your ideas and your business. This is more than just a friendship and will oftentimes feel more like a marriage. Not many people will fit this role. It will take months or even years to find a good fit. Who has time for that?
Succeeding with startup is a long ride. I advise young entrepreneurs to realize all the options available to make this ride fruitful from the very start. Choosing the right CTO can be crucial for the success or failure of the company.