August 30, 2023

How to find a CTO / technical co-founder for your startup 🚀

Things to consider before you start hunting for your technical co-founder / CTO…

How much can you build yourself as a non-technical person?

The answer is probably a lot more than you think!

What would make a Software Developer in a well-paid, comfortable job quit it to become your co-founder?

Even if they’re not in that situation, they’ll still be taking a big risk joining you so you need to know what makes someone take that chance.

Who exactly are you looking for?

Generally searching for any “technical” person who can “code and build things” and is willing to building something with you is unlikely to go well.

Now, it’s time to get that technical co-founder / CTO….well, sort of. Here’s some steps to follow…

Make yourself a compelling potential co-founder.

  1. You need to show that you really have the skills, knowledge, experience, confidence and crucially
  2. Get your public profiles into a good state (e.g. your LinkedIn, Twitter - if you use it for startup things, etc.)
  3. Get used to “pitching” your skills and experience.

Prove you’re not just an “ideas person” by demonstrating traction and a bias towards action.

Look into “pretotyping” and prototyping so that you have something to show potential CTOs.

  1. Show progress in terms of things like signups (build a simple landing page yourself quickly), letters of intent (if B2B), early revenues in a tangential business area (e.g. perhaps in consulting or related products etc with the view to turning those clients into your first SaaS clients down the line, for example)
  2. Whatever you do, don’t go to potential CTOs you don’t know and start with “I have an idea…”. Instead, be able to say something along the lines of “I’m working on a startup and have created a landing page with X number of people on a waiting list that I built by generating a social media following and demo videos. I’ve also put together a wireframe. Now, I’m looking for a CTO so that I can build the product the people on the waiting list want.”
  3. You may even be able to build an MVP, or at least prototype, using no-code tools such as Bubble.

Think carefully about the specific skills, knowledge, experience, personality traits and goals of the person you are looking for and keep a “live” written list of these before you start searching.

  1. Remember that just because someone has been a software developer at a big-name tech company doesn’t mean they’re the right fit to be your CTO (they may actually need a big team, lots of support, great managers, plenty of certainty etc to be fully productive, which is totally different to an early-stage startup).
  2. You’re looking for someone who can build a kit-car not just fine-tune the engine of a Ferrari. You want someone who can put together an MVP from scratch with very little resources.

Get to know your potential co-founder really well and ideally at least work on a side-project with them before making the huge commitment of officially becoming co-founders (fallings out between co-founders is a major startup killer).

(this blog post is a live document with more to be added soon)


Andy Milton