Today I’m going to answer a question from Jerome, the cofounder of a marketplace. His question is…

What do I need to check before associating with a CTO?

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

Jerome and his cofounder already developed the first version of their product. They are now accelerating the business side of things and are wondering if they should consider getting their external CTO—the director of the Web agency that developed their solution.

This is a tricky question because we cannot predict the future, and it’s all about your relationship even before the technical skills of the person. So let’s analyze this type of situation with a very pragmatic approach.

Let’s start by remembering the two most important roles when it comes to software development: the product owner and the CTO.

Product owner

What’s the role of a product owner?

  • What to develop
  • What’s the complexity of the features
  • What’s the required time and budget for each
  • Ultimate goal: Put a solution on the market as soon as possible

The product owner is usually the founder of the project. But when the founder does not have any technical background, the startup would usually need someone else to perform the role correctly.

The role of the product owner is to decide what to develop first, taking into consideration the technical complexity, the budget and temporary solutions to assess the market.

In a nutshell, the ultimate goal of the product owner is to put a solution on the market as soon as possible. That can be a pure product or a service-based solution during the development period.

Be aware that it takes years to become a good product owner and startup founders often need an expert to help them prioritize their ideas and identify shortcuts.

With a good technical understanding, product owners are often able to guide toward solutions.
Product owners are usually able to be understood by the developers, the technical people in general, and the marketing team as well.

Now let’s talk about the CTO role, the technical expert.


What’s the role of a CTO?

  • Manage development
  • Find effective solutions
  • Read code and design architecture to guide development

Usually, with a high-level technical background, he is able to develop in almost any language as well as manage servers. Don’t get me wrong—CTOs are not good developers. They just have a very clear understanding of how everything works technically, and are able to identify the best languages, frameworks, as well as ready-to-use APIs, opensource software, etc.

You will be able to identify a good CTO by these 3 skills.

Basically, the CTO is the person in charge of transforming the idea into a real product. He needs to be able to manage development, find effective solutions, and read code and design the architecture to guide development.

Startups often get confused with the product owner’s role which is to identify what to develop first. The CTO is there to help the product owner in the decision-making process.

Coming back to Jerome’s question, what is important when it comes to selecting an associate is identifying what he brings to the table.

What’s the role of my future associate?

  • Is he a product owner?
  • Is he a CTO?
  • Where does he add value (business, management, network, etc.)?

Is this person more of a product owner or a CTO? What does he add to the project? Is it more business skills, contacts, technical skills, etc.?

The most practical approach is to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this person for the project.


  • Skills
  • Network know-how


  • Missing skills
  • Weaknesses

By being clear on his role and identifying his strengths and weaknesses, you will have everything you need to make a good decision.

In fact, here are two more criteria that are even more important.

2 subjective criteria

  • Follow your instinct
  • Ask what’s the cost of losing this opportunity

First is what does your gut say?

When it comes to making any decision, 80% of it comes from our subconscious—small signs that will tell you if you are a good fit or not, if the work they did was effective or not.

And the second criteria that is also very important is what are the other options that you have? Maybe—and I just say maybe—this person is right for you for one or two years.

On that note, it’s important to define the association rules and the exit conditions. This will allow both of you to end happily no matter what happens. There are too many startups failing because of conflicts between associates, which is a shame knowing that we can avoid them with good communication as wells as well-defined rules of association.


So, to conclude and answer Jerome’s question, evaluate the added value of this person, evaluate their strengths and their weaknesses, trust your gut and define fair rules for your association. We cannot predict the future, and it can be a good thing for you to move forward with this association on a short or midterm basis.

Now if like Jerome, 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 to redirect you to any existing content that will answer it.

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