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How to determine if you need to hire a CTO

Today I’m going to answer a question from Shirley, the co-founder of a legal tech startup. Her question is… 

How do I know if I need to hire a CTO?

Before answering this question, let’s add a bit of context.

Shirley has already developed the first version of her platform with an outsourced company.

Now, in order to move forward, she is wondering what can still be done through her contractor and what needs to be internalized.

In other words, she is wondering if she needs to hire a CTO.

An annual CTO salary is between $50K-$200K

For starters, a CTO can cost you between $50,000 to $200,000 a year.

So, if one of your co-founders is not equipped to act as CTO, it’s preferable to wait until the company has established itself, with at least a handful of employees, before hiring a CTO.

The best way to figure out if you need a CTO or not is to boil down the skill sets your company is going to need in the near future.

Before we get into that, keep in mind that it all starts with the founder’s team. If you are one of the founders, you are responsible for the strategy overall.

Everything starts from your company’s vision

You need to clearly state what your company will look like in one, two or three years. The clearer the vision, the better the execution.

What a startup needs

  • Marketer
  • Product owner
  • IT manager
  • Development team

Then to execute this vision, your company will need: a marketer in charge of creating the best offer and the most effective communication around it, a product owner in charge of prioritizing the development and evaluating what’s possible within the constraints of a set time and budget, an IT manager which happens to be one of the CTO’s main roles, and a development team.

So for example, depending on how experienced your development team already is, you might want to reconsider the urgency of getting an IT manager.

If you only have young developers, you should get an IT manager soon.

But if you have a senior team leader, that could be enough for a while. Then getting a great product owner with good technical knowledge might do the trick in the early stages. 

Then obviously, you’ll need developers or a contractor to do the job.

Should I hire a CTO?

So to the question, “Should I hire a CTO?” The answer is: yes, if you don’t have a manager with at least some technical background.

If you happen to find a senior product owner with good technical understanding, then hiring a CTO will only make sense when your development team grows beyond five developers.

If you prefer to save some money in the early stages and decide to organize your team without a CTO, you will need some external support for:

CTO support required for

  • Objectively defining if one technology is better than the other
  • Finding work-arounds for technical or budget challenges
  • Having a look at your provider’s quotations
  • Evaluating and optimizing your developers’ work and organization

The good news is that like most successful startup founders, you’ll soon get used to understanding and managing a technical team.

You’ll always need someone with a highly technical background to help you make good technical decisions, but most of the job is accessible to any founder.


So in conclusion and to answer Shirley’s question, if you are wondering if you should hire a CTO or not, then double-check that the product owner role is really fulfilled first. If you have a good product owner, with a good-enough development team or provider, you could wait a bit longer before investing a pretty penny hiring a CTO.

Just a reminder, what MyCTOfriend is meant to do is, in fact, to help startup founders thrive while they wait for the right person to come along.

Now if like Shirley, you have a specific question for your project, just go ahead and ask on

I will do my best to answer your question by video or redirect you to any existing content that will answer it.

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Also be sure to go through our other content here at to learn more from real startup growth experiences.

I’ll be waiting for your questions, and I look forward to seeing you in other videos. Cheers.