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Max Ong Zong Bao
Max Ong Zong Bao

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Finding a CTO for Your Startup

The original post was on Finding a CTO for Your Startup - Reading Time: 4 Mins and cover image by Photo by Claudio Schwarz


This article is for founders searching for their CTO. I will be touching on how you will attract or find a CTO for your company. I hope this serves to reduce your time and effort in searching for them. I believe there is a large misconception about finding CTO. I hope to reduce the time and effort wasted to search for them.

What Is In It For Me?

Before you even approach a developer on your latest, revolutionary, disruptive and a billion-dollar idea for your startup. Please understand that developers have a very low tolerance for BS and working for free unless it is open source or they are doing something for the developer community. Developers will do work for free, provided they know you well as a person. They need to know that you have their well-being in mind. You got to have clarity in what you are doing and what you can provide in the form of monetary compensation and something else.

Therefore before you approach them, validate your idea, create your prototype and have a budget in mind. You have to be clear on what you want to do when you get your CTO/co-founder on-board. I would suggest looking at their Linkedin, GitHub profile or their blog so you can establish rapport with them.

Have You Validated Your Idea/Prototype?

When meeting your prospective CTO for the first time, create a scope of work and your prototype to convey confidence to your potential recruit.

If you have not prepared a prototype with a validated idea and enough capital to pay for a project which differs from country to country. You can find ways to raise capital or do the prototype yourself like Webflow or Bubble to create your MVP.

I would always suggest having a budget ready to pay for a small prototype from USD 1,000 - $5,000 after vetting and chatting with multiple developers to know if you are comfortable working with them. Through this approach, you gain an insight into their working style. You can look at the synergy between you and the developer to invite them to become your CTO. Do not jump the cart before the horse. If you do that, you will find that they will ignore you and reject you directly as the amount is not worth their time. Note the going rates of a developer differs from country to country. It can start from USD $25/hour - USD $1,000+/hour. Therefore do not waste their time and your own, if you do not have a budget allocated for this small prototype use low code/no-code platforms to get started.

Tapping on Your Network

Once you have a basic MVP, validated your idea and a budget they might work with you. Start your search for your CTO using your network. You could tap on interest groups or use the incubator/accelerator mentors to get to know potential CTOs so you could pair up with to build a company together.

I suggest that you always work through referrals as your odds of a potential CTO is much higher. For me, I feel that Linkedin may not be an ideal place to send an unsolicited message to someone you don't know.

Regardless ask for a referral to the potential CTO through mutual friends in Linkedin. It is considered a warm lead with a higher chance from them to hear you out.

Research for your potential CTO, if they have any experience working in a startup or has operated as a freelancer for your first initial chat with them.


I hope that this article gives you enough information on searching for a CTO in your startup. Note that you could still be a solo founder and your focus has to be building systems or tools to leverage or scale yourself.

I might be beating a dead horse. Do not expect your potential CTO to work for free. It just poor taste to me that you don't value their time/effort. They don't own you a living and when you want them to work for free. For me, it is a red flag that you do not have any skin in the game. No one in their right mind will work with someone they do not trust much less to do it for free.

If they do, they are either gullible or do not value their time or effort that is a instant red flag. To me startup is a marathon and not a sprint.

The CTO will leave or ignore you. So please do not expect anyone to work for free. Another trick I had encountered from startup founders is that they will want you to work with them till they had gotten the capital/grants to pay for this. If you are am unable to raise capital or resources. Your not an entrepreneur but a snake oil salesman or a con-artist. So do the above-mentioned points before even approaching a potential CTO.

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Top comments (2)

aalphaindia profile image
Pawan Pawar

Keep sharing!!!

steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

Thanks I have tons of ideas for my blog topics. Since I had been busy with a important project that I did not have enough time for my blog. So I'm back!!!