One of the questions startup founders often ask me is if I would be interested in joining their project as a CTO. That, or if I could refer someone to work with them in exchange for equity.

Hiring a CTO or a lead developer for your startup is a defining moment. Your CTO is the person whose creative vision and technical skills will determine the success of your product.

The good news is that there are plenty of options in hiring a CTO or lead developer. And in this first of a two-part series, I’ll outline how you can identify the right person for the job as well as what the key points to look for are in a productive working partnership. In the second installment, we’ll dive deeper into the questions you need to ask in the hiring process.

Identify your needs

There are a couple of things that you need to pay attention to in order to find the right CTO.

First, you have to know and identify what you are really looking for.

Initially, you might have some ideas and a list of preferred skills in your mind that meet the requirements of your current project. But depending on people meet, you might want to be flexible and also choose technologies depending on their skills.

Second, in order to attract the right developer, you first need to generate revenue. This revenue will enable you to hire someone who speaks the right “technical language” to build an attractive and useful application.

The first thing you need to do to convince someone to work with you at the very critical first stage is to have a working idea of how you can generate a business revenue. Once you’ve mapped this, you will be able to forecast a salary that will fit your budget for a CTO or a lead developer. You may also consider giving equity. The key here is to identify what you can offer them (equity, budget, both, knowledge, vision, etc.).

Another point to consider is to know your value as a founder – you are building the future of your startup. In hiring someone, you also need to determine whether or not they are a perfect for the future you have planned for the company you are building. You have to dig deep into the person’s life to know whether or not he sees himself working with you on the long-term basis.

Find a CTO

There are plenty of places and events where you have the opportunity to mingle with like-minded developers such as startup incubators and tech events.

Even if you have not attended such events, you should consider going as these are perfect avenues for you to meet with people who could potentially help you in your project. When you attend tech meetups, you should be open to what participants can offer as well as to what you can share to your potential developers and partners.

Understand the mindset

The person’s mindset and character is also an important consideration. Developers tend to have a sense of ownership over the project. While this is good, it should be clear from the start that the project belongs to the company.

Get them to focus on the application and not on the product per se. There are times when developers confused these parts so it is necessary that these thoughts are well explained and understood by both parties.

It is just fair to allow both parties to talk to a lawyer so that different vague areas of agreement can be further clarified – such as what to do when arguments over ownership happen or when separation occurs. It is key that you are knowledgeable and educated when unlikely things happen.

Work with a CTO

The next point to consider will be the experience and knowledge that you share with your potential co-founder. It is to be considered that the person you are hiring is open-minded and is willing to learn not just from you but from everyone in your team as well. This will be a two-way process since both co-founders will have an avenue to impart knowledge to one another.

Recognition and appreciation are key here. It is important to let your developer know that they are doing an excellent job. This may be simple thing, but in the long run, it could quickly turn difficult as the workload increases.

You have to keep in mind that you have to motivate your startup team in a positive way. You have to make sure that there is a life-work balance to avoid burn out. From time to time, you have to be involved in their lives and share different adventures and activities as a team.

In the initial startup stage, you’ll encounter issues such as the high level of competition in hiring or keeping someone. Some companies may offer a higher salary that you cannot match, so choose employees whose passion is similar to yours and who will not be easily persuaded by higher compensation. You should also be able to prove your worth as an entrepreneur so that young developers and CTOs will be convinced that you are worthy to work for.

Another point to consider is security. More often, people prefer established companies as they provide long-term financial stability which will be an avenue for them to pursue other opportunities for their future plans such as building a startup themselves.On the other hand, big companies tend to forget to highlight individual contribution mainly because of its sheer size, so this is something that can give you a competitive advantage. Developers these days often like that they are recognized and appreciated for their individual work, and this is something that startup companies can do.

Learn some tech

Things become more challenging when you do not have a technical background in Web and application development.

All these technical jargon may be too overwhelming for you to handle. But it’s also important to study and learn a couple of things before you engage and look for your CTO so that they will know that you actually understand what you want to happen.

It may seem that hiring a co-founder is challenging. But if you have the right strategy, it will not be that hard and they will more likely choose your startup over established companies and opportunities.

Focus on what you can offer over what you can’t. Present your concrete business plan and marketing plan to developers so that they will be convinced that there are people willing to pay for your product. Also, focus on these developers as individuals and not just someone who can work for you. Value the individual and make sure that they are interested in your product and market as well.

Focus on fit

In summary, when you are looking for a developer, you must focus on the person.

You need to keep in mind that both of you have to be a good fit in all personal and working aspects of the proposed project. Both parties should have an open communication and mindset that there will be no misunderstandings along the way. Together, you should focus on the company’s goal in general and not just on a particular application or project.

If you want to dive in further, I invite you to watch the Startup Foundation Course video How to Find a Developer or a CTO which will explain in more detail how you can find the right person for your project. Feel free to also check out the entire course here: