Finding cofounders · CTO search

Need Tech Lead, but what kind...?

Dr. Geoff DePaula visionary, integrative medicine doc, disruptor

May 16th, 2015

We are a healthcare disease management reversal company that is looking for a full time tech lead person (CTO/VP eng./lead developer, etc.).  I have read many of the posts here on "brining on a CTO" -both from a compensation and skills perspective.  All good info!

I have an expert developer 20+ yrs experience (but he is only avail "on the side" b/c he already has a FT job).  I have a list of skills this new person must have, and am looking to bring someone on soon!

I am about to raise our next round of funding, and we already have our MVP developed, but are looking for taking the next steps and building out the platform. We are a hybrid of high-tech (our software) and high-touch (aka.) healthcare services via telemedicine).  We also ran a VERY successful pilot program with a university and have proven results as well.

So I am also trying to find the right person, but also how to find the right balance of compensation, etc. 

Does it make sense to bring on a "co-founder" at this point or just an "early hire"?

Karl Schulmeisters Founder ExStreamVR

May 17th, 2015

Geoff you aren't looking for a CTO... you are looking for a contract developer. But therein lies the problem. Your site positions that as a "advance to a CTO" - but nothing in that skills list has anything to do with being a CTO.. You've already made your technology choices (MySQL, Ruby on Rails) which may or may not be the right set of choices given that you are going to need to be HIPAA compliant.

What a CTO brings you is someone who guides your Technology DECISIONS every bit as much as your COO guides your expenditures and your SVP Clinical guides your medical decisions. Your CTO is going to lead your Technology Team - and that includes integrating with medical technologies. And that may well require a re-balancing of the skill sets and areas of responsibility within your existing team.

So the risk of the position ad you are running on your website right now is that you suggest that person can move from Lead Developer to CTO. That's not likely with the skill set you are hiring for. Particularly if you eventually take on Angel or VC money. They will not want to see a CTO that is just a promoted Lead Dev. They will want a chief TECHNOLOGY OFFICER: someone who knows how to build and retain dev teams, how to create and/or validate technical architectures and who understands how to lay out technology roadmaps that conform to business roadmaps.

That's a different skill set from the one you are currently hiring for

>>We are a healthcare disease management reversal company <<

I'd also caution you on this language. This particular language quickly leads your solution down the path of being an FDA regulated Medical Device. If you want more info on this, I'd be happy to give you a tour of our ClearRoadmap regulatory app (it includes reimbursement guidance) but this too is an area where its not clear your team is fully up to speed on.

So I would suggest you need to sit down and sort out what you want out of your CTO. Because what you have on your list of skills requirements is not the role of a CTO.

Steve Everhard All Things Startup

May 16th, 2015

Geoff it's not clear from your website what you need to develop. As your service is essentially consultative then I imagine your goal is to embody some of your advisors skills into a web service or app rather than phone based consultancy? IF you don;t have one the first thing you need to do is define what it is you want to deliver, written in a non technical way. This is your Market Requirements Document (MRD).

If your 20 year veteran is available to you I would pass this MRD past them for a technical feasibility review so they can tell you how tough this is to do. That sets your benchmark for your hire. There is no point in recruiting a hi end developer/architect if the technical task itself is not complex. Your guy can then direct you towards the skill set that is likely to be needed. You will need some technical input in the interview process but there are other factors to, like whether they are a fit with you and their goals and ambitions sync with yours.

Cofounder status is really driven by how specialist the skills of your CTO are and whether they are likely to continue in that way into the future. Will you care if your CTO walks in two years time? Do you have enough ambition to keep them with you?

Marcus Matos Software Development & Information Technology Professional

May 18th, 2015

I completely agree with Karl on all points; you're looking for a developer (and not even necessarily a senior developer - depending on the makeup of your team).

In my experience it's quite rare to find someone who can do a great job acting as both CTO (tasked with building a technical team, ensuring they manage the development in such a way that it solves the immediate problem(s) while also moving toward the long term goals) and then roll up their sleeves and do heads down development. In a perfect world with unlimited funds you'd go for both a CTO who gets his hands dirty AND a mid-level developer.

Something you may want to consider is a "part time" CTO - someone who can help with some of the business-technical decisions, code reviews, et al. You most definitely need someone with technical knowledge, other than the developer involved in the development process, as a check and balance. Great developers don't necessarily make great leaders (and I know several who never, ever want to be in management) so by advertising that the developer may have CTO responsibilities, you could actually be hurting your recruitment process.

Good luck!

Dr. Geoff DePaula visionary, integrative medicine doc, disruptor

May 19th, 2015

Looks like I will keep my current "consultant" as my lead "CTO" and hire a developer to get dirty with code.

Mike Whitfield Sr. Software Engineer, EPAM, Google

May 16th, 2015

I have a different way of doing business than most.  I've been the sought after CTO for exactly this case.  Steve gave you feedback on the skills ambiguity and you'll need to get a job description from your existing technical person for what's needed.  Hopefully the skillset is common enough to snag someone from the market.  What you want (I think) is an interim CTO who's contract goes through until after funding.  Your investors are investing knowing you have someone to run the shop but they're aware that you'll find better talent once the company has more time.  Hiring takes a long time.  Good luck!

Dr. Geoff DePaula visionary, integrative medicine doc, disruptor

May 16th, 2015

Thanks for the thoughts! Just to give you a bit more info. We have a MVP but need more "meat on the bones" from a functionality perspective.

I'm not sure (Mike & Steve) if this job is "complex" or not (I'm a medicine guy, not a tech guy) but here is what my tech guy said we would require:- So now you can tell me if this is "complex" or not! : )
*note all our code if from scratch for our IP site

Here's a short list of skills any IM Health developer/programmer should have:

  • 3+ years of Ruby on Rails experience. Rails version 3 or later. We are using Rails 4 with Ruby 2.1. There's not a huge difference between Rails 3 and 4, but someone with just Rails v2 experience will not be a good fit.
  • Experience withrSpec, a testing framework used with Rails
  • Familiarity withBootstrap
  • Experience withjQueryand javascript
  • Experience withmySQL
  • Experience with git / github
  • Mobile application experience a plus
  • DevOps (managing server, web server etc)
  • HIPAA experience (we are a healthcare co and handle PHI)

Its seems like this is person needs to have a fairly high level of knowledge (at the least) to qualify.


Steve Everhard All Things Startup

May 16th, 2015

Geoff this isn't a particularly onerous skills requirement as described as most of the components are pretty standard for a Rails developer. 

 According to Payscale a 3-5 year veteran Ruby developer could command between $70-90K in the San Francisco/ Bay Area region and probably lower in other parts of the US. 

 HIPAA isn't a particularly complex spec for security and most of the issues are covered with a policy and the use of a HIPAA compliant host for you data. Secure logins with trackable ID's and activity logs are pretty standard these days in web implementations but implement in the cloud using a HIPAA compliant host and most of your issues from a technology standpoint are covered by your hosting company.

Mike brings up an interesting point. Assuming there are other members of your team then the use of contractors could limit your costs and get you underway much faster, These folks can look expensive but can be cost effective as their expertise is only needed for a short period and you can back them up with someone with a little less experience who will grow into your CTO. It does sound like you have moved this point though...

Kias Hanifa Chief Technology Officer at Fonicom Limited, Malta

May 18th, 2015

Geoff, your requirements indicate the need of core developers and IT Program/Compliance managers to complete the development cycle.

Ganesh Arelly Director at Eliga

May 18th, 2015

Geoff, at this point of time, you don't need a CTO for taking the MVP and building a complete solution. You need software developer(s).

And when talent, budget, time have to be balanced, you just need a partner. We ( have been such software development partner to start-ups who just had MVP and were in need of technical assistance.

As Mike said, if you have to think for a better in-house talent team for long term, take time and build it. Lead of that pool would be your CTO.

Kias Hanifa Chief Technology Officer at Fonicom Limited, Malta

May 19th, 2015

Yes correct Geoff. Good Luck!