CTOs can wear different hats in an early business depending on its stage. According to ITRex CTO Kirill Stashevsky, there are five basic CTO models that startups can benefit from, although CTO tasks can overlap considerably in each of them:
This type of CTO is remote and can be a huge help at any stage of the startup lifecycle. Technical advisors brainstorm ideas, handle product discovery
, provide MVP or prototype guidance
, step in when the project gets stuck, bring expertise on advanced tech, or advise on a product development direction. Other responsibilities can include assistance with pitching to investors and preparing cost estimates.
are usually hired for a limited number of hours. This can be only 20 hours per week, for instance, if their task is to plan MVP development
In this model, CTOs are engaged to accomplish very specific tasks, like guiding your cloud migration
or modernization. They can also build in security controls or orchestrate DevOps processes
, including CI/CD pipelines, so that your team delivers quality faster.
Sometimes they are hired to help the startup tick all the boxes ahead of tech due diligence for the next financing round.
This role is also remote, with the CTO working for the company for as long as it is needed to achieve a particular goal.
This type of CTO is responsible for day-to-day product development processes, making sure that the team delivers on time, on budget, and with quality. They lead the team, prioritize work that needs to be done, and keep everyone on the right track. This might include running key sprint ceremonies or coaching engineers on agile tools and techniques.
In this model, the CTO is engaged as a full-time CTO for the whole range of CTO tasks. So they can be involved in communication with investors as well.
The delivery manager can also be brought into the project only for a few hours a day. For instance, this can be the case when you need their expertise only to streamline an in-house development process.
The pressure to find a CTO combining a technical founder role may come directly from investors. The reality is, some investors won’t touch a startup that lacks strong technical leadership.
However, there are scenarios when you need to find a CTO for an in-house position from the outset because you just can’t afford to move forward without one. Such scenarios include the following: