Many emerging startups realize the importance of technical leadership for software product development. However, they don’t need or can’t afford a full-time in-house CTO in the early stages. In this case, CTO as a service is a viable, cost-effective model that allows access to deep development expertise and business knowledge. According to Deloitte, 40% of corporate leaders rely on external specialists to oversee their technology strategy.
Chief Technology Officer as a Service, or CTOaaS, refers to the part-time technical and business advisory of a third-party CTO with extensive experience in scaling businesses and managing the tech components of a company. Their responsibilities are similar to those of a regular full-time CTO. The primary advantage of a CTO as a Service for startups over an in-house CTO is its cost-effectiveness, as a company only pays for the required services.
In this comprehensive guide, Uvik reviews the duties, KPIs, and the hiring process of a CTO for a startup. We highlight the benefits of the CTO as a Service for business, reveal the costs of this hiring model, and discuss the expectations for an external Chief Technology Officer. By the end of the article, you will know all the ins and outs of the CTOaaS model and will be able to make an informed decision about technical leadership for your company.
Hiring a CTO for a Startup
The startup CTO has to ensure the company maintains its competitive edge and remains technologically sustainable. What skills and qualities should you look for in a CTO? How to find and interview a CTO? How to hire a CTO for a startup? Let’s look at each point one by one.
Must-Have Skills and Qualities of a CTO
While there are several different CTO types, the following abilities are critical for all technology leaders.
- At least 5 years of experience and a solid technical background. CTO’s tech expertise and experience working with the specific startup’s tech stack is a must. For example, if your startup uses Python for backend development and React or NextJS for frontend, an ideal candidate should have experience with both technologies.
- Experience working for a similar company. The responsibilities of the CTO differ depending on the company’s size and industry. Search for a candidate with proven track of record in the company with similar headcount and domain.
- Ability to make critical technical decisions. Your ideal CTO candidate must have experience and capability to decide on the project architecture, types of microservices, CI/CD pipelines, etc.
- Advanced communication and management skills. The CTO is mainly responsible for the development process, but they also act as a link between your teams, engineers, executives, investors, or clients. Your candidate should be able to attract, engage, and persuade a diverse group of people, which is why exceptional social skills are essential.
- Leadership traits. The CTO creates and maintains a positive corporate culture as a leadership team member. They should positively influence your teams, encourage them to reach business goals, and collaborate to achieve your company’s vision.
- Strategic thinking. CTOs are concerned with the big picture, not just the output of development teams. Your candidate should have a business understanding and be able to zoom out when necessary to assess how each tiny effort contributes to the larger picture of your company.
How to Find a CTO?
You must look in the right places to find someone who meets all the abovementioned requirements. Let’s review different approaches to finding the right CTO.
- Use Your Network. First, explore your social circle and tech meetups. Look for fair feedback and recommendations from your acquaintances. Use social media to message your contacts directly or publish publicly on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.
- Research Social Media. Join Facebook groups, go to online gatherings, and attend offline lunches. Your network can help you better understand your requirements for collaboration and get some advice on obtaining the best results.
- Leverage B2B Rating Platforms. Another source of potential contacts is reputable rating platforms like Clutch. Unlike LinkedIn, Clutch allows you to read prior customers’ feedback and choose a partner depending on the niche in which they operate.
- Consider Reliable Staff Augmentation Companies. Explore CTO as a service model instead of hiring a full-time CTO. When you choose a reliable CTO as a service provider like Uvik, you save costs, enhance productivity, secure IT rights, and have more flexibility. Specify your requirements in the form and we will match you with a candidate with the right expertise from our extensive talent pool.
Interviewing a CTO
Assessing a candidate for the CTO position without technical knowledge is challenging for many entrepreneurs and startup founders. You need to conduct an advanced technical interview, prioritizing previous experience and competence in your domain, motivation, and communication abilities.
The following questions will help you assess your CTO candidate:
- What is your preferred software stack?
- Tell me about your last hire. How did your selected candidate stand out?
- What are the first things you would check to evaluate organizational security?
- Can you describe an Agile development workflow you have used?
- What data storage systems do you prefer?
- What tools did you use to trace bugs, and why?
- How do you describe your team management style?
What are the Duties of a CTO?
The CTO is regarded as one of the most ambiguous C-level positions because their duties depend on various criteria such as startup area, business processing style, number of in-house and outsourced personnel, and many more. Below, we outline the primary areas of CTO responsibilities.
Technology Strategy Development
The CTO’s responsibility is to ensure that a company’s technology infrastructure aligns with its business goals. The CTO develops and implements strategies that balance meeting current needs and planning for the future. They must ensure that the company’s existing technological infrastructure supports the business and invest in innovative technology that will provide the company with a competitive advantage.
Team Management and Mentorship
Besides analyzing the company’s objectives and developing a technology strategy, CTOs must manage tech teams, monitor their performance, and train software developers. Every new developer should have a mentor to help them learn more and share their experiences. It is yet another responsibility of the CTO. The ability to motivate others and persuade them of the feasibility of the CTO’s vision are all indicators of a competent head of engineering.
CTOs are responsible for all technical decisions and changes related to the company’s development and scaling. They participate in decision-making processes and always look for the latest technological developments to establish and communicate the best vision and plan to the team and stakeholders. The CTO is the decision-making authority for technology investments, suggesting the right tech stack and other technical choices for the company.
CTOs should feel at ease not only in development but also in business. They need to have experience managing a relationship with software or hardware vendors. A great CTO can liaise with vendors and integration partners and has the technical know-how to match their development abilities. Their experience handling complex negotiations is vital, as the CTO’s role is heavily customer-facing.
Risk Assessment and Mitigation
The CTO is in charge of identifying technical risks and implementing a mitigation plan. They ensure the organization’s cybersecurity posture by developing policies and procedures for data protection, privacy, and regulatory compliance. The CTO monitors emerging threats and implements security measures to protect the organization’s tech assets and sensitive information.
CTO Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Evaluating the CTO’s performance can be challenging given the wide range of responsibilities. Defining clear and measurable CTO KPIs will provide targets for them to aim for, milestones to track success, and insights that enable making better decisions and help to move forward strategically. Let’s review key performance indicators for CTOs.
- Technology roadmap execution. A technology roadmap represents current technologies and planned advancements. A CTO should evaluate whether technologies will become obsolete or are nearing the end of their lifecycle. To measure this KPI, define milestones and track its achievement.
- Employee satisfaction. This team management and leadership KPI significantly impacts productivity, retention, and innovation. CTOs should measure employee happiness via surveys, focus groups, and other means to build a healthy work environment that stimulates collaboration and innovation.
- Innovation and new product development rate. This KPI measures the frequency with which a tech team proposes new ideas, products, or services. It enables CTOs to monitor the effectiveness of their team’s efforts to improve the company’s services and stay competitive. To calculate the innovation rate, divide the number of innovative ideas by the total number of ideas offered.
- Revenue growth rate. Along with the right sales strategy, a successful CTO should scale the company’s technology infrastructure and reach new heights. High revenue growth demonstrates the company’s products and services’ success and overall performance, ensuring that the business will grow and scale seamlessly.
- Mean time to security and compliance issue resolution. This KPI can be examined in relation to the meantime to issue discovery. The headline figure should show that the CTO handles issues quickly. If your resolution time increases, there are unaddressed blocks in the pipeline. It means the CTO’s performance in this matter is mediocre.
What Are the Benefits of CTO as a Service?
Considering the list of duties and responsibilities, CTO is one of the critical C-level roles in any software development business. CTO as a service model offers startups a cost-effective option to access a pool of the world’s best technical specialists with strong team management skills and business development experience.
Let’s explore the advantages of the CTOaaS model.
1. Cost savings compared to a full-time hire
Many small and medium-sized startups cannot afford to hire a full-time in-house CTO. Employing an external part-time CTO can be a more cost-effective alternative. The CTOaaS model allows businesses to pay only for the services they need at a reasonable cost. It can be a fixed-price or hourly hiring approach. Check CTO as a service cost on our website.
2. Access to diverse expertise and experience
Global outsourcing gives you access to tech talent with more robust expertise and experience. This diverse talent pool ensures that you hire a Chief Technology Officer with particular technology skills or domain knowledge and critical personal qualities, such as communication, leadership, team management, and strategic thinking. As a result, you will benefit from more innovative solutions for your software projects and business objectives.
3. Scalability and flexibility
Building a software development business without a CTO is a long journey of trial and error. An external CTO with the required expertise and experience in a similar company will help you clarify the core business and technical issues. You will get some fresh ideas on how to scale your business much faster.
4. Focusing on core functions
Having a strong external CTO who can work unbiasedly to execute technology strategy allows business owners to focus on core non-technical business functions, such as human resources, finance, marketing, sales, and strategy. Executing these primary functions will help you to support elements that help the core, such as your people, processes, and infrastructure.
5. Reduced recruitment and onboarding time
Recruiting and onboarding an internal CTO is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. Working with an external CTO saves you time on recruitment and onboarding. Choosing Uvik as your staff augmentation vendor for CTOaaS recruitment will help you to minimize the company’s cost, time, and effort in hiring and onboarding this critical C-level specialist. Hiring an in-house CTO entails incurring recruiting costs, office rent, and labor taxes. When you outsource CTO responsibilities, you only pay for the labor and services you require.
Costs of CTO as a Service
Pricing for a CTOaaS depends on various factors, including the candidate’s experience level, location, types of CTO services, and the number of hours per month or hiring model. Let’s have a look at CTO as a service average hourly rates in different regions:
- United States ($125-$165)
- Western Europe ($80-200/h)
- Eastern Europe ($50-$120/h)
- South America ($45-$100/h)
- Asia (<$65/hr)
When you choose a CTO as a service model, you can select a hiring model that best fits your business needs. At Uvik, we offer two pricing models:
- Fixed-price. Project-based payments are charged per month (saving 10%).
- Hourly. Pay per hour only when you use CTO as a service.
These models allow you to save significantly compared to hiring a full-time CTO. Let’s look at the average rates for CTOs as full-time employees to make your profit more evident.
Besides significant cost savings of CTO as a Service compared to a full-time CTO, this model also allows to maximize Returns of Investment (ROI) through:
- Efficient resource allocation and team management
- Increased revenue streams from new opportunities discovered by external CTO
- Stronger competitive advantage thanks to leveraging innovative technologies proposed by CTO as a service
Expectations from a CTO as a Service
When you decide to hire an external Chief Technology Officer, you need to be sure that your CTO service provider acts in the best interest of your business. When you choose Uvik to help you hire a CTO as a service, you can count on:
- Alignment with your company’s mission and vision
- Clear communication and reporting
- Adaptable problem-solving
- Contribution to growth and innovation.
The Bottom Line
CTO as a service offers startups significant benefits such as cost savings compared to a full-time hire, access to diverse expertise, flexibility, and reduced recruitment and onboarding time. By choosing this model, business owners can focus on core functions to improve overall efficiency and scale seamlessly. As a CEO or startup founder, you need to assess your technology needs and explore this hiring option.
Contact Uvik to discuss the most suitable CTO as a service hiring model for your business.