You may need a technical co-founder who will spend a lot of time speaking with prospects, managing the development team and understanding the technical requirements to improve your product. A chief technology officer (CTO) would typically be the lead engineer or developer in a small startup. If your co-founder is capable of performing that job, then you’ll not need a CTO. If you have developers in the team or have outsourced your work to a team of engineers through a platform, your CTO may need to have more project management experience. Even if your CTO isn’t deeply technical, they should be experienced in leading technical teams and understand how the long-term decision-making process works while managing developers.

You’ll need to decide whether you’re looking for technical project management skills or deep technical leadership. Discuss your vision so that they’re aligned. Here’s what to consider:

Project management experience

A technical lead typically has experience with both managing a team or choosing a technical strategy. They should have experience in managing people, developing projects and delivering measured deliverables. Both successful and failed startups teach CTOs a lot about experience and management.

Networking skills

As a lead developer, your CTO might have a good network of qualified developers or people with specialist skills.

Good communication skills

A good CTO needs to be able to communicate with technical and non-technical people.

Strategic thinking

A good CTO will focus on the big picture but be able to stay on course with the development of the product and surrounding technology.

Finding your CTO and what to look for

Here’s a list to consider when it comes to finding the right CTO:

  • Research potential candidate’s portfolios and ask an unbiased professional to validate them
  • Choose networking events based on your industry where you’re likely to find someone with a relevant background

Following are a potential list of questions you may ask:

  • Have you worked in a startup before?
  • Do you have any experience leading a team of developers and projects?
  • What’s your expectation in terms of salary and equity? What values do you bring?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What is your area of expertise/preferred stack? Why did you choose to pursue it?
  • Are you able to commit yourself to the company in the long run?
  • Can you explain your technical abilities on a high-level?