What to Look for When You’re Hiring a Remote CTO

Finding good technical talent isn’t always easy these days, but that’s exactly what you need in order to get your startup off the ground. In the effort to carve out their place in the market and remain competitive with established players, more and more startups are turning to remote CTOs (also known as “virtual CTOs”).

Remote CTOs are exactly what they sound like—people fulfilling the role of chief technology officer while not necessarily working from the same physical location as your employees. Although they do all the standard CTO work of creating a technological vision and choosing the right vendors and partners, many remote CTOs are outsourced contractors rather than full-time staff.

Here’s a look at the key skills and competencies that you should always look for when hiring a remote CTO, and the main advantages that you can obtain for your company by doing so.

The Benefits of Hiring a Remote CTO

  • Finding the perfect match: Previously, your CTO search had to be limited only to those people already near your office (or those willing to relocate). Working with a remote CTO allows you to throw off these geographical restraints. As long as you’re able to regularly communicate as needed, you can use anyone who is anywhere as your CTO.
  • Flexibility: If your startup takes a different direction than you originally anticipated, a full-time CTO may no longer be able to provide the expert advice that you require. Hiring a remote CTO allows you to switch gears rapidly and find a different CTO. As your company grows, you can even work with multiple CTOs at the same time, each one offering a new set of skills.
  • Cost savings: As a member of the C-suite, the CTO is one of the highest-paid roles in your organization (and deservedly so). However, in their early stages, startups often don’t have the budget to keep a full list of executives on staff. Contracting work out to a remote CTO can help you save on paying salaries and benefits while still providing the valuable technical insights you need.

The Key Skills of a Remote CTO

Of course, in order to fully leverage the benefits of a remote CTO for your startup, you first need to hire the right person for the job. Some of the critical skills and characteristics for a remote CTO include:

  • Communication: Having strong communication skills is an obvious prerequisite for a remote CTO. Since you won’t be located in the same office, making frequent contact is a necessity.
  • Technical competence: Most CTOs have an advanced degree in a technical field, but that’s not necessarily enough. You need to find someone who not only has a profound knowledge of his subject, but whose expertise also matches your own business needs and objectives.
  • Foresight: Being a CTO for a startup isn’t about doing day-to-day development work; it’s about making the right long-term strategic decisions that will set up your company for success. Remote CTOs should have a history of working for and advising companies in your industry so that you can benefit from these years of experience.
  • Business acumen: Although CTOs must be technical domain experts, their position in the C-suite also means that they need to be comfortable relating to the business as a whole. The ideal person to serve as a remote CTO is someone who can act as a bridge between developers, business team members, managers and executives.
  • Startup and remote experience: If at all possible, your choice of remote CTO should be someone who has worked at or with startups, and who also has remote work experience. Working as a CTO at a massive corporation is very different from working as a CTO at an early-stage startup, and an entrepreneurial, can-do attitude is essential.

How to Find and Hire a Remote CTO

The benefits and skills listed above should give you a clear idea of what you require from the position. Before hiring a remote CTO, ask yourself a few important questions, such as:

  • What are the values of your organization, and how will you assess candidates for cultural fit and motivation?
  • What improvements do you expect to see down the line as you work with the CTO?
  • Does the CTO need to have experience with your specific tech stack, or can it be learned on the job?

After clarifying your answers to these issues, you can start narrowing down your search.

The 5 Best Places to Find a Remote CTO

Remote CTOs can be found in a variety of places, including:

  • Former coworkers and other professional connections.
  • Social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
  • Job boards like Indeed, Monster, and Angel.co.
  • Tech conferences and community events through organizations such as General Assembly and Meetup.
  • Recruiting agencies that specialize in finding remote workers or technical executives.

Once you’ve come up with a short list of CTO candidates, it’s time for the tables to turn. You now need to convince your top choices that both parties stand to gain from working together. Make a strong pitch for the value of your startup, and be willing to get creative in what you have to offer, including salary, benefits, bonuses and equity.

Final Thoughts

CTOs come in all shapes, sizes and levels of experience, so it’s vital that you take time with your search and find the right partner. Since your team will be distributed in diverse locations, the importance of this is even greater when working with a remote CTO. Done right, hiring a remote CTO can transform your business strategy for the better and set you up for growth and success.