Why your CTO is key to your success

These days, it’s one of those periods when I feel I’m too busy to do anything. I’m behind emails and there is a lot of business going on at the company I work at to attract my attention. That’s good. On the flip side I don’t get enough time to sit with great entrepreneurs about their business as I used to, and I thought I’d write about some topics that come up from those recent conversations to be able to share the experience.

So for today’s topic, “The CTO”, and why should you care about it.

To start, I think there are some common errors around what a CTO is so I’ll start with some bullet points about the CTO executive function:

(1) CTO is not the VP of R&D. They do not do the same thing, and in fact they are usually very different people by personality.

(2) The CTO is not the guy to take care of your next release implementation.

(3) CTO should report into the CEO (in America the CTO reports into president Obama).

(4) Similar to how founders are usually over optimistic about their business being a billion dollar one, CTO should be able to create a similar notion of optimism around technical challenges and the chance the company can execute on that billion dollar vision. Sitting next to your CTO, whether it’s with a client, with an investor, or with the company – you should feel smarter, better, technologically safer. “yes we can”, but CTO style.

(5) CTO should understand the business really really well. At least as good as your head of sales.

(6) CTO should help to bring focus to your company. Along side the product team deciding what to do and in what priority, the CTO should be able to study and lead a longer-term direction, and filter 90% of the near term noise when things are either not that important or not that possible.


How to spot a good CTO?

–       Most early stages companies don’t hunt to hire a CTO but usually one of the founders is in charge of a blend of r&d/cto/product-roles.

–       Usually “founder types” people or actually the founders. Passionate solving problems at any magnitude

–      In difficult times, you’ll know they are good CTOs because you’ll call them first

–      Take your CTO to a business meeting, you’ll know

–      See how they work with the VP R&D and other exec team function, and you’ll know

–      Very little ego, must, otherwise it will be hard for them to convey a point they are trying to convey.

–      They are rare and hard to find.

Good luck finding one, and whatever you do, remember the high-level bullets about what the CTO should and should not do when you appoint them.


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