Is a Fractional CTO right for My Startup?

Over the years as I’ve interacted with CTOs to ask them about working with early-stage companies. One question I often ask is, “does every tech startup needs to have a CTO?”  The common reason being is that investors want to see a technical co-founder, and that conclusion seems to default to that person being a CTO. The response I get is that most startups need to have as a full-time person a quality Director or VP of Engineering to build things quickly. However, when it comes to do I need to have a CTO, the response I get from CTOs is yes, but more so as advisory help not necessarily initially as a full-time addition to the team. This is especially true if you’re mostly just building from existing tech or doing so to get an MVP and learning before more significant-tech decisions need to occur.

The point of this article is to help you answer if a CTO as a Service, which is a fractional CTO with services and support, a good option for you and when. Fractional CTO’s are great for helping to define how to approach technology development and to troubleshoot challenges with a current development team. Our belief at [n] reach, focus on what you need to get you through a challenging time. Get help from a “been there, done that” expert.

How a CTO views your situation:

  1. Does the company have a viable technology strategy.

  2. How is the company executing on its technology strategy.

Here are situations you might find a Fractional CTO of great help:

Risk Mitigation

  • How can we phase development to balance cost, features, and risk?

  • What are the most significant areas of technical risk? How can we address this risk?

  • What metrics are going to be the critical startup metrics?

  • How do we get those metrics without gaining too much cost?

Value to Investors or acquirers

  • What can we build that might be protectable?

  • What specific technical innovations might make sense?

  • What do we need to do to make sure we can survive technical due diligence by investors and partners?

Blocking & Tackling

  • How much will it cost to build what we need to develop? How can I control costs but effectively get stuff developed?

  • What technologies will we use? What existing systems will we leverage, what programming languages, software development methodologies, web application frameworks, and revision control systems?

  • Where are the likely future integration points with other systems?


  • How will we find and interview developers then motivate and level-them up?

  • What other kinds of capabilities such as graphic design, user interaction, product manager, QA will we need? Who will do that? Who’s responsible for what portions?

  • What do we build in-house or outsource? What parts might we do off-shore, on-shore, in-house? What does the staff need to look like over time? When will key hires come on?

Managing a CTO as a Service.

The only way to get immediate and lasting results is to have an expert work in the company, side-by-side with the current executive team to put in place the right processes, systems, and people to properly position the company for scalable and successful growth through helping put in the proper business operations and operational architecture to provide the company a foundation for success.  The service part comes in when for certain tasks there is a pretty defined and thus repeatable process versus shear brain power.

“I get at least one email each week from startup CEOs who are looking for a CTO. Almost all software-enabled startups do not require a full-time CTO and their CEO should be using a fractional CTO and/or technical advisors.“ -- Tony Karrer, TechEmpower

A fractional CTO is a valuable member of your executive team at a fraction of the cost.  By outsourcing this vital role, you are freed up and empowered to lead your organization.  For more insights into working with a Fractional CTO.

Helping you with top-line growth to make your company more fit for funding is what we do at [n] reach.

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