We are getting ready to take in a small round of funding and my first hire will need to be a CTO as I have taken my company as far as it can go without one. I'm looking for someone who will work on an equity/salary basis as we can't afford to compete with fortune 500 companies or heavily funded startups but our product is awesome, it's getting good traction and we don't have any competitors. Where does one go about finding a talented CTO willing to jump into a start up? Is that even possible or is it all about who you know?
hire a good person ... with required skills ... and then slowly promote to CTO ...
what is the benefit of directly offering a CTO position ?
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If this is going to be a co-founder, someone sitting in the board or helping with shaping the vision and mission of the company, the best place to find the CTO is your personal network. Get the word out that you are looking for one and preferably hire someone that you know and trust. As a CEO you will be working a lot and closely with the CTO and if this is more like a co-founder position, you will need someone not only competent, but also comfortable to work with.
The places to find people out of your network is probably the meet-ups, seminars, conferences, pitch day events and startup competitions (where you can also win a prize!) or similar technical events where startups gather.
There is also another option which is hiring a company as your fractional CTO, we provide such services at NuBinary.com. Reach out and we can help.
You do not have to compete with the Fortune 500 and they do not have to compete with you. These are diametrically opposed environments. People who thrive in startups eschew the conformity and stultifying nature of the 500. Those that gravitate to the 500 simply cannot deal with the chaos and lack of security of a startup.
If you have a good investor already, they can assist you in finding a person. Everyone knows everyone, and if they are putting cash in, a person they know will trust them and their cash more than a person they have not met. That is not atypical.
If you do not have an investor, strength is demonstrated with potential investors when you articulate that this is a critical first hire that will result from the investment. Most important is you "embrace" this in your presentation as a critical hire. "Know" what skills you need. Hint: a CTO is not the person that codes, but a person that 'usually' (my wife is not a coder but is a physicist and was CTO for a Fortune 100 company) knows how to code but the critical skill is leadership and critically knows good practices. A gunslinger as a CTO is as bad - or worse - than no CTO.
As an aside, you do have competitors. The rule in tech is that "if you do not have anyone in your space, you have no space". Figure out who your real and natural competitors are.
I feel skills & experience are important but hire only those who resonates with your team and loves the products, don't compromise on that. Cause if you are startup you need people who want's to join for things other than money, which (money) comes and go way easy than you think if the team and timing is right.
The CTO should be able to meet in person with team very often, (at least 4 days a week), you can a developer or consultants as remote but not CTO.
Make sure that the CTO also likes to attend or have attended the meetups and other tech events a lot.
I thing you should take this slow and attend the tech events, share your idea with others and see how they are responding. you will know he/she is the right person from the response.