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What Can a Non-technical Co-founder Do Before Approaching a Chief Technology Officer?

Your startup is growing, and you realize that the next addition to your team should be someone with a technical background. You know why you need a Chief Technology Officer (CTO), but how exactly do you go about finding one? What steps can you take as a co-founder to find the right person? What should you have prepared before taking this next step?

Finding a technical co-founder can be challenging and risky, especially for early-stage startups. You will want to make sure that you understand what you are expecting from a CTO. And in return, know what you can offer a CTO. Think about why a CTO would want to work with you. What’s in it for them? To make sure you are ready for meeting with possible CTOs, we talked to one of our co-founders Sina Sadeghian who has worked with many companies as a fractional CTO.

Validation – Know Your Market to Be Confident the Project Will Succeed

Sina explained how important it is for a non-technical co-founder to make sure they’ve completed market research before reaching out to a CTO. Have you defined the target market and identified why the consumer would want your product/service? Do you have current customers? A social media presence that's already established? You should be able to present this kind of data to validate your ideas. Based on your market research, it is good to make sure that you have a solid product idea. Take the time to do your research and ask potential customers and people in your network for feedback on your business. Sina explained:

“If you plan to build an app just to see if it’s a good idea, you are asking the technical co-founder to take all the risks, in the beginning, to just “validate” the idea. Assume your founder is a mid-level software freelancer charging $50/hour for other projects, and the app will take 1000 hours of software development until the first round of funding. You are basically asking them to invest $50k. That’s the real cost to them because they can spend that time earning money. Are you willing to share the cost and invest $25k yourself too? That’s too risky. I don’t recommend that. You might think the non-technical founder will contribute with their time AFTER the product is built on marketing, sales, fundraising, etc. The problem is that you are asking your technical co-founder to invest first. What if you realize that the idea wasn’t as good as you thought and it’s not worth spending much time on those other activities and abandoning the project? Again, the early-days risk will mostly be on technical founders.”

Sina’s response shows you need to make sure you have your information lined up and ready to present. You don’t want to waste the CTO’s time or ask them to take a considerable personal financial risk. If you can show the CTO the answers to the above points, you are in a great position. You want to make sure that you present your business to the CTO in a way that shows the value of your company to the technical co-founder. 

Value – Show Your Company Is Running Smoothly

Once you’ve validated your ideas, you can show that there is a market for your business. A technical co-founder will want to see proof that things are going well in the non-technical areas. If the CTO can see you handle non-technical areas, they can confidently focus on the technical aspects. 

“Build 1 million followers, and technical founders would compete to build the minimum viable product (MVP) for you in return for equity. Because it shows that you know the market, you have already built a brand, and you are obsessed with the topic and its problems. Obsession is almost a requirement for a successful entrepreneur. You have a large audience and an initial user base. An enormously less risky scenario compared to just having an app idea.”

Sina highlighted a vital aspect to think about before meeting with a CTO, equity. Be sure to think about if you will be offering the CTO equity. Whether it be now or in the future, this is something that you will need to know before you have your first conversation. Again, they’ll want to know what’s in it for them, and you need to have an answer to the question of equity.

Future – Know Your Business Path Going Forward

Have you thought about the next steps/stages in your business? A CTO will want to see that there is potential for the business in the future. These thought-out plans will show that you are a team player and ready to work long-term. 

Relationship – Don’t Forget the Human Element

In your initial meeting with your CTO prospects, you will want to see if you can communicate well together. They will want to get to know you, just as you will want to know them. This meeting is where you can speak to

them and explain your business plan and goals. Your CTO candidates will want to see what you have planned so far. Validate that there is a product idea, market research, and customer base. Are you providing a solution to a problem? What is your plan for the future? A CTO will want to know these aspects to determine if this project would be a good fit for them. Every Chief Technology Officer may have a preferred method of approaching a project, so it’s essential to discuss that in the first meeting. Sina explains:

 “I try to help founders I work with as their CTO to implement Lean Startup as much as they can because it reduces their risk and cost significantly. This type of approach to building a startup isn’t mine or anything new. It’s a methodology called Lean Startup Methodology. I suggest reading about them if you haven’t already. There are many books by Eric Ries and Steve Blank who tossed the idea around first.”

Connect with a Chief Technology Officer

If you’re a non-technical founder and feel like you’ve completed everything we’ve listed here and are ready for the next step, Sina and our whole NuBinary team are here to help. Taking the time to find the perfect CTO can be challenging and overwhelming. At NuBinary, we are a team of experienced entrepreneurs just like you. We understand the challenges you are facing and know the best solutions! Our team of Fractional CTO’s can help bring your startup to the next level. 

Take the first step to finding the perfect Chief Technology Officer for your business and contact us today.