CTO · CTO search

How best to find a CTO for our mental health startup?

Philippa Richardson Founder, mental health startup

March 18th, 2021

Where should I be looking? MVP built, and we've had an engineer on board to launch the product to market - do we need an engineer or a developer?

Paul Garcia marketing exec & business advisor

March 19th, 2021

Neither. You probably need a marketing strategist. Then you will probably need a developer to revise your MVP because you may have led with product instead of validating your marketing strategy first. It happens all the time, but you're not ready to launch a product until you have validated your strategy. It's the only way, other than sheer luck, that you will find product-market fit and not waste a lot of money, time, and effort on a product that doesn't fit well.

Your engineer can support an existing product, even make improvements to a product, but they're not likely to be thinking about the efficient design of your product as much as a developer. There will be iterations and technical debt to conquer over time, but every software company has those.

Before you take another step with the product, I would suggest you at a minimum make a long list of all your assumptions. Test each one individually. Make revisions based on what you discover. And then consider how far away your product is from where it needs to be. This would only be a snapshot, not full-on research. But it should give you an idea how much work still needs to happen to make your software idea into a business. When you identify some high-level gaps by testing your list of assumptions (there will likely be between 60-100 on your list), then you can go through the exercise of validating strategy.

This will provide answers for things like who exactly is in your audience, where you will find them, what they will pay under which circumstances, how you will attract, capture, and hold their attention, etcetera. There are many discussion on this topic in the DISCUSS forum you can read.

Also consider that you should not seek a title. CTO is a title reserved for a very specific role, and it doesn't necessarily equal your lead developer. If you need someone in charge of the software, instead make a list of your actual needs, not picking a title, and advertise those needs. Being first does not earn anyone a C-level title, just like being a founder does not make someone a CEO.

Once you have a list of skills required, then you can compare that list to what other job postings are out there and find an appropriate label for the role, so those with technical talents will recognize the requirements with the correct shorthand. Developers, programmers, and engineers are always in high demand, so they have hundreds of choices. Remember you need to include why it's a good choice for them and how you've made the choice low-risk. You'll be competing with a lot of other options.

Good luck!

AShu Co-founder I CTO I Co-adviser I Full stack developer | WebRtc Developer | DevOps

Last updated on March 27th, 2021

Hi Philippa

I would say if your MVP is built in and everything goings on good then why you replacing your tech lead which working with you from scratch

But if want to replace then you should focused on this points getting new CTO

1. He have good knowledge of tech and tech team management

2. Good in System or Architect design which needs lots of tech knowledge

3.He care about your startup by interest and also offer some equity with salery helpful in developing interest

4 .Staying up-to-date with tech trends.

5.Always ready to learn and work on new tech needed for your startup grows

6.Have prior tech lead experience

7.Good communication skills.

As par my knowledge and interest i have also idea on mental area . I'm planning to implement it .

So i can also guess tech skill your startup needed

1.Full stack web development

2.App development


4.Webrtc Expert (Web Real time communication ){Important )

5.Cloud Compute like AWS,AZURE,or GCP

Above answer is just my opinion and there many more

Any further question you have contact me any time




David Antila Managing Partner, Product Strategy Partners

March 30th, 2021

As a long time CTO/CPO/Engineer in multiple startups, I tend to think about role options as follows:

-- Chief Technology Officer – the intersection of products (ours and others,) technology, engineering, and markets (what the landscape is). This is a strategy-focused role.

-- Chief Product Officer – the intersection of products and marketing (marketing = how we are going to navigate the landscape vs. market=what the landscape is.) Often combined with CMO duties until the CMO is hired. This is an operational strategy role.

-- [E][S]VP, Products – the intersection of product (management) and engineering. Usually handles the evangelist/field marketing duties until formal a marketing department emerges. This is an operational role.

-- [E][S]VP, Engineering – the intersection of engineering (management) and quality. Usually handles engineering, testing/QC, and support/QA functions until formal separate departments emerge. This is an operational strategy role.

-- Engineer/Tech-co-Founder – the intersection of engineering (code-crafting) and DevOps (code-shipping) DevOps is usually hired early so that the engineer can focus on product iteration and not on administrivia.

Finally, in response to your recent comment about replacing your lead engineer: unless this person is unable to meet your needs, I would be hesitant to replace them unless you are confident that the technology can be adopted by the next person/team/vendor as you advance your business.

I wish you and your business the best of the best!


Philippa Richardson Founder, mental health startup

March 27th, 2021

Thanks Paul. Good point on the title. I tend to use it as shorthand, which isn't helpful. We're already an operational business - quite advanced with our marketing strategy, launched a year ago and have paying customers.

So tips on who and how to replace our existing tech lead (an engineer) would be great. Thank you.

Emma @ NuBinary NuBinary Community & Marketing Specialist

April 2nd, 2021

Hi Philippa!

First off, congrats on taking the leap to begin the startup journey! Do you have an engineer on your team still? Or are you looking to add another to the team?

I am glad to hear that you have your MVP built and are ready to launch. I do believe that you would still definitely benefit from adding a CTO to your team going forward. They take on a lot of tasks on the technology side of any company.

They will help to grow your team when needed, and will continually be on the lookout for any technological improvements within the company.

They will look into any data privacy/ security considerations, manage R&D, continually work on improving the companies technology assets, and will ultimately be working towards the company goals. (Just to name a few tasks!)

Something that startups should really consider when looking for a CTO is to look for a Fractional CTO. A part-time CTO. Someone who will be responsible for CTO duties but on a part-time basis, and even as little as 5 hours a month.

This gives startups the leadership and knowledge that they need, but at a smaller cost.

In the beginning stages, a lot of startups don't even need/require a full-time CTO. We have a team of Fractional CTO's that work well with startups. We embrace agile and lean startup methodologies. Another thing that startups can take advantage of is grants!. Our team will help you by providing technical documentation and write-ups for various types of funding available to businesses. I would truly love to hear more about your mental health idea! Feel free to reach out to me!

Best of luck!

Derek Herman CTO @XWP.co

April 3rd, 2021

A CTO is not a replacement for your developer. They are more likely the one that will find you a replacement for your developer and help you make the right strategic decisions about your platform.