How to become CTO of a successful start-up

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Launching a business and becoming involved in a start-up is something that many people aspire to achieve with dreams of freedom, opportunity and reward.

With COVID making such a dramatic impact on the world economy it’s also become an unexpected employment route forced on many, rather than out of choice.

So if you’ve dreamed of becoming a start-up CTO or fallen into it by accident, what are the key issues to making it a success and how can you accelerate towards the type of reward that can pay close $250,000 per annum.

How important are your technical skills?

As the “T” in CTO stands for Technology it's an absolute given that a strong technical background is crucial and expected. 

It doesn’t mean you have to be a hardcore developer with a vast knowledge of programming languages.

If it’s your own business and with the advent of low and no code technology it’s less crucial to have such a deep knowledge base at a startup than if employed as a CTO but your chance of success are enormously reduced if you don’t have a solid technical understanding and real coalface experience.

You will have to be adaptable.

It’s the same for any founders or early hires at a startup, whether CEO, CFO, or CTO, adaptability and versatility is often a crucial quality to run the show.

Until you have the resources for multiple hires, you’re going to be hands on and driving every part of the technical side of that business.

So, what is versatility in this context?

You need a growth mindset for one, you cannot be fixed with one way of doing things and expectations above the scope of your resource, which with most early stage startups is extremely limited.

You cannot be the expert in just one thing because now you have to expand your knowledge and key responsibility areas into various domains in the business.

You will have to work across various disciplines to help drive that early growth. One day data science, next day low code, then recruiting freelancers etc.

There won’t be anybody there to help catch you, at least during the early days the technical side will be all on you and even more so if you’re co-founder is a non-techie.

Be updated on new technologies

Have you ever heard of a basketball point guard who did not know how to layup? If any team had such a point guard, then imagining them winning a match would be a difficult job.

Similarly, if you are looking at a dream to become a CTO, you will have to spend time reading about the future and about the rapidly changing technology landscape.

You will have to be the in-house futurologist and be up to date with everything which is happening in the tech world, so you can adapt and implement similar into your products, or develop something, which can edge past the competitors.

Widen the horizon and expand your vision.

Have you ever wondered how companies like Apple Inc. and Google scaled up from backyards? They did so because their founders were visionaries, who understood the strengths but paid more heed to the limitations their company would face in the future.

This helped these start-ups to develop their strategy in a way, which would help them to scale their technology according to the developing needs.

Thus, if you wish to become a successful startup CTO, be analyzing situations and finding fixes, and looking for that edge that can be your game-changer.

The statistics on startup survival are grim, and it’s likely to be the technology and the CTO that dictates how successful your own startup can be.

Build a Team, which will drive excellence!

Common factor with most successful leaders, in sport and business, is that they knew the art and importance of building high performance teams.

With sports teams, great leaders could handle defeats along the way, but they knew how to get their team to win the big games.

To become a CTO you have to understand team dynamics and build a multi-faceted team, which specializes in not one but various fields. These are required by the company to develop value-add technology and recruiting great people means you will need to keep innovating to retain them.

Instill the right Culture!

One very exciting part of being a startup CTO is you get to create the culture.

How many times have you joined a company with a toxic culture? Well that almost always starts from the founders and/or trickles down from the top.

You can put in place your own guardrails on culture, ethos, mission. Once in place (good or bad) it's very hard to change, as you will know from corporate environments.

You will need to drive a team of tech enthusiasts towards the perfect product vision, great results and a team culture of positivity and high performance. 

Hence, the quality to lead from the front coupled with the zeal to bring about a change matters a lot. This can never be taught, and can only be developed from within!

Don’t dream big bucks yet

We showed earlier the level of remuneration that some CTOs can achieve in the marketplace. Alas if starting out with a new business, that will seem very, very far away, at least in the short term.

Startups don’t have funds to pay market rates which is why many of them offer stock options and “work hard today, for jam tomorrow” culture.

Work hard, enjoy the process, make sure you pay yourself but if you’re looking only for money, this might not be the world for you.

The wonder kid from the start-up world excels!

It may seem from the outside that working in a start-up is easy and cool, but contrary to that popular belief it’s actually difficult getting close to success. The reality of startup life is not always recognised until someone has done it.

Starting from a lower budget become a bit difficult, and hence, if you have a great working knowledge of start-up businesses, no one can stop you to excel!

So, what are you waiting for? Start working on these and you will soon become a CTO!

How do you become CTO of a successful startup?

1.         Find one

2.        Start one