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How to find a CTO for your startup

Have a great idea but need a techie? How should non-technical cofounders go about finding their CTO?

At Altitude Labs, we have successfully helped startups find their CTOs in both Hong Kong and Singapore. We are honored to have helped our friends at fitness startup Guavapass and expert network Lynk find their CTOs. We also often help startups build their prototypes that lead to funding rounds or traction that indirectly assist in convincing technical cofounders to join their team.

We have broken down this topic into several questions:

Employee or cofounder?

If the core of your startup is tech, the first thing to realize is how important it is to have a technical cofounder.

You are probably looking for a cofounder, not an employee.

You have to be willing to give up a significant portion of your company to attract the person with the right attitude, motivations and skill.

There are two aspects to finding a technical cofounder. The first is finding the person. The second is convincing him or her to be part of your team.

How can I meet potential technical cofounders?

If you do not already have a technical cofounder in mind, chances are you come from the business world. At this point, you have two options. You either learn to code yourself or you maximize your chances of meeting a technical cofounder.

1. Hangout where they hangout

The other option is to be at places where you can meet technical people. Here are a few options:

  • Search within your personal network
  • Attend coder meetups
  • Attend hackathons

2. Learn to code

If you love math, logic and learning, this is not a bad option. You will have both business and technical skills, which will give you a valuable combination of skills even if your first venture does not work out.

These programs typically take up 3 months and you need to be very committed to learning and honing your coding skills to successfully make the transition.

This was the way Jaclyn, Eugene and I learn to code and started Altitude Labs. Eugene and I attended Hack Reactor in San Francisco. Jaclyn attended Full Stack Academy in New York.

Ever since, we have had friends attend bootcamps including Hack Reactor, General Assembly and Galvanize as a means to entering the tech world.

How can I convince technical cofounders to join?

1. Validate your idea

To convince a great technical cofounder to join your team, you have to demonstrate that your idea is worth his or her time. This means validating that your idea works in some shape or form.

To do this, you should go through the process of product design, where you test your idea with your users. This could be as simple as throwing up a landing page to test for traction to creating a clickable prototype that you can test with users.

2. Have the right expections

If you want developers on your team, it helps to understand how the development process works. The last thing a CTO wants is a business person who has unrealistic expectations about the process, which might cause unnecessary stress to the team.

On the flipside, it is equally important for the CTO you find to understand how business works. If you are a venture funded business, he or she needs to be able to have the the right determination and emotional intelligence to emphathize and meet expectations of customers and investors.

3. Get traction without code

Does your idea even need code to get traction? If there is a way to demonstrate traction by running things in an offline manner, do it. Having users, transactions or widgets sold demonstrate early traction and are attractive to both technical cofounders and investors.

4. Outsource your prototype

You do not need a CTO to get to your minimum viable product (MVP). Building a tech team takes time and patience. Your time initially might be better spent out there talking to customers and understanding what they want. It will help you get to the product you need to get funding and traction.

Outsourcing your MVP to a team of designers and engineers who can translate your vision into reality is a great way to get your product in front of users.

If you'd like to work with us, the process usually starts with a product design sprint where we work closely with you over 2 weeks to translate your idea into a clickable prototype.

Justin Yek

Justin Yek

Partner & Cofounder @ Altitude Labs. Responsible for our in-house personalization technology Metisa.

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