Question for you Technical cofounders out there. What job title do you use in Linkedin to describe your role in your startup? I see many co-founders of startups branding themselves as CTO. In my opinion, CTO doesn't really paint an accurate picture in the early stages of a company.
In our corporate documents we are CoFounders and each of us are CEO and CTO respectively. However, there are only 2 employees (us), and our job responsibilities are very different from the typical C-Level executive. I'm essentially developing product full stack, designing the data model and designing and implementing the infrastructure within AWS. In my opinion my title at this stage of the start up is Full Stack Developer. My job title would evolve to a CTO once we have a large enough technical spend that requires real thought on budget and and have employees that I'm leading a team through the technical direction of the product.
What are you calling yourself?
Edit: I thought it would be worthwhile clarifying my question based on several responses. as you could tell from the disinterest in being labeled the CTO, I’m not particularly interested in my title as it pertains to the startup. The question is more geared towards describing your role to others, particularly with Current or future employers. More often then not the founders of a business go by a c level title when the company is so young you will never perform c level tasks.
My take is technical cofounders should go by technical cofounder or highlight their functional role as either a software engineer or developer.
Head of Software/Technical/Platform/Product development is a good idea.
being someone who sat on the other side of the table as an angel investor or panel adviser, nobody cares, everybody knows the CEO or CTO of an early stage startup does not mean the textbook definition,don't hung up on it so much, it is a well-known misuse, focus on building your product which matters.
The only true downside is the belief of yourselves as the co founders to think whether or not you can grow with the speed of your startup you deserve to be in those positions forever, that could be taken care of with a very important belief from the day one, that any position that could be filled with a better performer should be replaced with someone better, whether or not it is a CEO or a CTO.
I did that myself when my venture got to a certain point that another co founder was simply better than me to perform as the CEO now I am just a BOD member, it was a wonderful decision and the startup is enjoying a great growth because of that.
Dom, you're wise to recognize that "CTO" means something specific, and that it is not likely the correct description for "first and in-charge." Like CEO is not the same as owner, CTO does not mean head of technology. C-level titles are abused greatly, especially in small startups because without experience, most entrepreneurs have no idea what these titles mean in a mature company. Title inflation is an issue that bites people in the butt often. I worked in a company where nearly everyone was a vice president of something. Generally, if no one at all reports to you, and they didn't in this company, then you can't actually be a vice president.
The question about language and LinkedIn is more one of to whom you are trying to communicate. Co-founder can sound like you don't have specific experience, and CEO can sound like you have much more skill than you actually do. How are you using LinkedIn? Are you using it to find a new job? Are you using it to find new clients?
In the latter case, you want to have a title that gives you the appropriate level of decision-making authority for the type of interaction you plan to have. In the former case, your title should be close to whatever job title you're seeking. It's all a game of making people understand something before you can talk to them.
Title also means something different based on the size of the company the person is working for. An associate director for a multi-national pharmaceutical company is probably making $160K+ and there are several dozen of them, but an associate director for an academic or non-profit is probably making $65K and there may only be one of them, with a completely different level of responsibility than in the other industry.
What I'm saying is that title is nothing without context. If you're talking to investors, use co-founder (technical or operations). If you're talking to potential clients, use head, president, co-founder, or just say it's your company. Most owners are not actual CEOs, no matter what they call themselves. The obligations of a CEO are specific, and most small companies don't even have a board of directors for which they need a c-suite. You can be managing partner, partner, president, co-founder, or whatever you like without any of the chief names. Just understand your audience and what the implied expectations are for very specific titles in the c-suite.
I find it very wise to describe your actual responsibilities and not utilize inflated titles. Your business card can say FULL STACK DEVELOPER and you can still be the co-founder or head of software development. If you need to talk to other developers, being one of them will be to your advantage.
I agree with Carl, you don't "need" a title. It's only another tool to communicate something when you can't have an introduction any other way.
I think, for most of time, you don't need a job title. You're busy "essentially developing product full stack, designing the data model and designing and implementing the infrastructure within AWS"
If you feel you need a job title I suggest you list the likely groups you'd use it in front of, over the next ~6 months. You may then see you need a couple of job titles (or none).
For LinkedIn, keep it simple "Co-founder" and use your profile text to pitch your start-up.
I wouldn't worry too much, just focusing on building the thing. "Founder", "Partner", "Cofounder", or even "Tech Cofounder" would be ok. Even CTO is fine because as a few others have mentioned, most people understand that CTO doesn't mean the same thing at a 3 person company as it does at a 30,000 person company. CTO does sound a tad cheesy, but it's a startup, so you're already playing the game of breaking status quo. I also like the "Head of" suggestion.
"Full Stack Developer" is a description of your software domain, not a job title. I would stick to the universal "CTO" designation, even when at the first design stage. One caveat: CTO can be interpreted as a hardware /networking responsibility. "Director (or VP) of Software Engineering" may be more to your taste if you deal (almost) exclusively with software.