Three Golden Rules to Finding a CTO

Dec 1, 2011
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On his CV he put 'sign' under one of his coding languages...
We Give You Banana. You Build Scalable Infrastructure. OK?

This article is not meant for Tech Guys – this article is for the legitimate Biz Guys, whether you’re a tech guy who’s decided to run the business-side of a project instead of the development side, or if you’re someone with great product vision. I have watched many a biz guy hunt for a developer, and I’ve read many a job post for a developer, and it needs to stop.

Rule #1: You don’t know how to hire a developer.

You don’t have the technical background and managerial experience to know how to organize a development team – if you do, then you’re the CTO. If not, you need to find one. Only a CTO is fit to build a development team. So the question is: how do you get yourself a CTO

But first, a story…

Imagine if you will, that you are a non-technical startuper looking to jump on board a project. You know your skill set: critical thinking, multi-tasking, communication skills, sales experience, etc. You are looking for the right startup to get behind and put your all into, and you run across an annoucement:

CTO looking for Biz Guy for startup

Great Startup tackling the *Insert Trendy Term* Space – beta product on the way and we need a sales guy to put his all into it. Looking for someone who can make phone calls, create excel files with lots of numbers on themtake care of paying people, and raise money for us.

This is what I hear when I listen to founders trying to hire technical guys on board – a list of tasks that any developer will do in any development function: “We’re looking for a ninja/pirate/superhero/unicorn/great iOS Developer: must have *too high of expectations* years of experience, must be familiar with Cocoa, xCode, and OOP”

Don’t sell the 9to5, sell the adventure

All this ad has done is describe the job functions that any Biz Guy would do, it hasn’t even done the most critical part: sell the Startup. I don’t mean to pitch your company, but think about why a developer would be excited to develop your product: will they have creative control? What space are you trying to innovate in?

Three key points follow:

  1. Sell your startup: The CTO is not joining because he just loves coding in Python, he’s joining because he loves disruption, he loves the challenge, and he wants to feel apart of that challenge. Your pitch for a CTO will demonstrate how you intend to integrate him/her into the Founding team in terms of key decision-making. If you make the position sound like a coder monkey, then you will only attract coder monkeys.
  2. Identify the weaknesses: You’re not going to pay your CTO in the beginning – so why should he stop taking a salary? Try reassuring them, such as showing how you are connected to the investor community and how this will ultimately strengthen your chances of raising seed funding. When you are pitching a startup to anyone, the key is to answer the questions that the audience is thinking them the moment they think of the questions – this assures them that you are aware of all ends of the situation, and leaves them with no objections at the end of your pitch
  3. Don’t get too specific: I am not the CTO, so I don’t know what languages our product should be built in. Let someone who is interested by the challenge tell me how they want to approach it. After all, even if I have an infrastructure in mind, having a candidate confirm my thoughts confirms that he is on the same wave length as me.

Don’t Hire Today, Hire Three Years Ago

The first mistake in hiring a CTO is thinking you’ll go and meet him today. A founding team’s ability to work together is tested very hard over the first years, and the more experience you have working with, professional or not, your founding members, the better a chance you have at surviving the gauntlet. However, if you must find one now, or the

But Where do I find them!?

“If you learn how to code, you can do it yourself.” I didn’t drop my Computer Science minor to learn how to code, so I don’t expect you to, either. Here’s my secret list:

  1. Startup Weekend, seriously: Great startups don’t pop up over night, but great (read: available) startupers DO congregate in one place for 54 hours during certain weekends. Don’t go to startup a company, go to meet developers.
  2. Don’t Inbreed: I leave town as often as possible to go find my startupers. I find events going on in other cities or even other countries, and I go and meet people. I know startupers in about 7 different countries, and in about 7 different cities in France, and some day I might have an idea that interests them.
  3. Pillage, Murder, and Steal: You know your idea is better than that startup down the street – they’re wasting valuable development resources on an idea that will go nowhere. If they’re working in the same space as you, even better – they will have a head start on creative contribution. Just because someone’s in a project now doesn’t mean they will be in six months. So tell them what your idea is, tell them you want them to work with you even though their busy, then spend the next few months pointing out why their idea is bad

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a real-life example of how to pitch a CTO…

WE ARE LOOKING FOR A RUDE CTO

The Rude Baguette - an English-language blog talking about the French startup/tech/entrepreneurial scene – is looking for a Chief Technical blOgger (see what i did there?). We’re looking for someone with a broad range of experience to help us disrupt an ecosystem, not only with articles covering the technical scene, but by building a website that will take this startup scene GLOBAL. We’ve already got some plans, but we’re open to more:

  • We want to bring the event calendar to end all event calendars for Paris, France, and Europe – we’ve got ideas, and we’d love to hear yours!
  • We want to create a job board the doesn’t cost your food salary to post, but weeds out the ‘side projects’
  • Got some blog experience? WordPress would be cool, but we’ve got no allegiance, so if you can convince us to change to Tumblr, we’re down
  • If you haven’t notice, we blog. In English. And so will you. We want someone who is in the developer scene in Paris/France.

This job doesn’t pay today… unless you count never paying to go to another European startup event in your life! We’re currently working with potential sponsors, and we sure as hell don’t like to work for free, and you can bet your ass you’ll be getting a piece of that sweet-ass sponsor pie. If you’ve got questions or think you’re up to the task, shoot us an email at contact@rudebaguette.com

Am I nuts? Are my ideas stupid? Let us know HOW you found a CTO!