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How to Evaluate a CTO Candidate for your Startup?

Evaluate a CTO Candidate for your Startup

In a world full of CEOs making public appearances, talking about their companies, and owning the success, CTOs somehow tend to miss out on all the attention. Just as all superheroes don’t wear capes, CTOs are no less than superheroes for startups or tech companies. You might want to understand a bit more about a CTO; who is a CTO, how to become one, and what price shall one pays to get into those shoes.

CTO stands for Chief Technology Officer, and as the name suggests the role is super technical and requires skills, strategy, and a lot more.

Who is a CTO?

CTO is a Chief Technical Officer who is responsible to make and execute technical strategies for a tech company. A CEO is responsible for making all the high-stakes decisions for the company whether small or big. The CTO on the other hand, not just leads the technical teams but also makes sure the technology strategy enables the company goals…

From deciding on new features, and setting up timelines to making sure everything is tested and launched just right, a CTO must take responsibility. A Chief Technology Officer gets paid an average annual salary of $154,085. A salary is no doubt as big as the responsibility itself! This, no doubt makes CTO a critical hire, but once a company finds the right candidate, progress makes everything seem perfect!

The tech industry is surely evolving and the appetite for better technology is being rightly fed by the new emerging ventures. Every other day a new startup is launched, however, unfortunately, around 90% fail. This brings us to the point to analyze what is the role of a CTO in a startup and does it affect success.

Why is the role of a CTO important in a startup?

The foundation of the success of a startup lies in the quality of the team and its expertise. Having an experienced and skillful CTO is not a need but a necessity for a startup to bag success. A CTO at a startup can take up to six-core responsibilities of the company and bring new product development strategy-related work on track.

A startup CTO responsibly manages the tech team; he or she is responsible for hiring and managing the team of developers and engineers. Apart from this, a CTO manages operations and defines the perfect tech stack that fits the technical strategy. For startups, CTOs often act as the face of the company. They represent the company and promote it in the tech and startup ecosystem. Thus, a responsible and experienced CTO is all that a startup needs to excel.

Seems like you have cracked the code to startup success, but how to determine which CTO candidate is meant for your startup? Here are the answers that you are looking for…

The job market is full of experienced tech junkies who want to do big in their careers. However, as a startup founder, you cannot trust just anyone with the technical strategy for your startup. A CTO candidate must have certain essential abilities, expertise, skills, and soft skills that make him or her a perfect fit for the job.

A Chief Technology Officer gains experience over the years, which is an amalgam of education, certification, practice, failures, and learning that follows. A startup CTO when evaluate is no different than a CTO of a big tech firm. The reason is the basic expertise that is essential no matter what. A CTO must have a profound understanding and expertise in the following tech domains and IT areas:

Coding and Development

Most CTOs might never write code for a startup but managing the developing team comes as a core responsibility. A CTO must have solid programming concepts to easily understand the complexity of a project and to appreciate the ones working on development. By knowing how to code, a CTO can easily highlight errors and suggest improvements.

Since every startup needs an interface it may require the development of a robust website, mobile application, or software. A CTO must be able to understand how a website or an application may benefit the startup and make a connection with the audience easy. From picking the right tools to maintaining performance and building a user interface that fits users’ needs, a CTO must know it all!

Solution Architecture

A CTO must be adept at solution architecture to make sure that the right technology components are chosen and integrated in a way that enables scalability. While most CTOs don’t spend a lot of time writing code, they are ultimately responsible for the architecture. In a startup, you don’t want to over-engineer, but at the same time, you don’t want to accumulate too much technical debt either. Striking this balance is the responsibility of a CTO.

Similarly, having expertise as a big data engineer is as important as solution architecture. Having said so, a CTO must be able to understand the designing, building, testing, and maintenance of complex data processing systems working with large data sets. The candidate must have a command of computer science, math, physics, and statistics to encounter issues related to big data.

Infrastructure Security Management

Security and privacy come as important parts of handling IT since everything is interconnected. The tiniest loophole can cause data leaks or a technical crash that can cost millions. To avoid this, infrastructure security management is essential!

A CTO must understand the dynamics of protecting the underlying network infrastructure and must understand what preventive measures can work best.

DevOps and Cloud Engineering

Modern-day problems require modern solutions! A CTO today, must have hands-on DevOps knowledge and cloud engineering skills. Startups require quick and foolproof strategies to launch updates that benefit their clientele. To minimize the risk, such expertise can help a CTO to manage data and deploy updates while addressing software vulnerabilities. From using serverless platforms for configuring networking, and managing storage to provisioning cloud instances, a CTO must understand all.

The above-mentioned expertise depends on a CTO candidate’s education and professional experience. On one end, these are of great importance when considering the hiring of a CTO, but one cannot compromise on soft skills. A CTO of a startup leads the clan and acts many times as the face of the company. Thus, one must consider the following personality traits or skills when shortlisting or finalizing a CTO:

Openness to Learning

Technology is constantly changing and progressing. Being part of the tech industry, one must be open to learning no matter what age. A CTO always needs to welcome new concepts and be open to educating himself about the latest developments in the field of work. A CTO can never know it all but can always be ‘I am always here to know and learn.’


A CTO in a startup is meant to lead the technical teams. Depending on the nature of the startup, they are responsible to oversee engineers, developers, data scientists, technicians, customer support teams, and more. A CTO must practice mentorship especially while being in a leadership position. One must be able to help its team grow professionally.

But most importantly, a CTO must show patience. With great responsibility on their shoulders, CTOs must know how to work under pressure and stay patient at the same time. Tolerance and patience help CTOs make the right decisions and lead their team in the right direction.

People Skills

A CTO needs to be an inspiration for the team. Working under toxic leadership is never overwhelming for anyone not even positive for the startup itself. Hence, a CTO must perform his role as a mentor as well as a friend who keeps everyone together and focused no matter what. 

Having good people skills lets a CTO be empathetic, considerate, and appreciative of the team’s problems, efforts, and achievements.  

Strategic Thinking and Management

Big-picture thinking is a need when planning to solve problems and achieve long-term business goals. A great CTO will always look at the bigger picture to strategically plan how to make things work. Every person in the tech team needs to have specific goals assigned as per their expertise and it’s a CTO’s responsibility to lead them in the right direction.

To make things run smoothly, a CTO must meet the timeline and deadlines. Constant improvements towards time management not just help in achieving the desired goal in time but also optimize as the need of the hour. By having a better sense of how people typically manage time, CTOs may be able to set more realistic goals.


A CTO acts as a bridge between internal and external people. This means that a CTO is responsible for representing the startup in the industry as well as communicating with the in-house teams for technical improvements. A candidate must have a customer-first approach to be able to comprehend and work on what works best for the customer.

Having strong communication skills lets a CTO effectively share the technical information of a startup with the industry and audience and understand the need of the hour.  Happy customers are all that a startup needs to succeed in the longer run.

A candidate can have all the above-mentioned qualities and expertise, but we cannot ignore the fact that the industry is constantly changing. Nonetheless, the role of the CTO is also evolving with new and progressing startups making their way into the industry. As a hiring force, one needs to understand what this evolution is like.

How is the role of the CTO evolving?

In 2022, CTO is not just a tech guru but someone who also matches the company’s brand strategy with the technology strategy. Unlocking business opportunities with help of emerging technology is what a CTO needs to do.

A startup today needs an innovator who brings forward the best ideas but also treats information security as a priority. The fear of data security breaches is real and must be handled fiercely right at a time before it’s too late. This is one reason why CTOs are stressed out, but that comes with the deal. However, being swift at making the right tech decisions does not mean spending irresponsibly. A CTO must be able to optimize the technology spending to be able to run things in the longer run.

The role of a CTO is certainly changing with time and demands critical evaluation when hiring a new candidate.

A CTO can be a valuable addition to the startup team. Hiring a CTO is no different than acquiring an asset. This surely comes with a price: CTOs in this age earn millions and often demand a significant chunk of the startup’s equity. No matter how badly a startup needs a CTO, it often gets difficult for them to convince the right candidate to join. Only once a startup has raised funding and shown traction in the market, do potential CTOs start showing interest. To solve this major problem, the startup world is now being introduced to startup studios that specialize in helping early-stage founders take their idea to launch without having to hire a CTO. A reliable startup studio can help startups replace the need for a full-time CTO! 

In this age where hiring a CTO can cost you an arm and a leg, a startup studio like Venturenox can do it all for you while you save money. Venturenox is an established startup studio that builds robust digital products for startups and takes them to scale. The startup studio converts ideas into high-performing digital products by using reliable processes and technology frameworks. Venturenox brings product, design, and engineering expertise together to make your startup successful! 



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