Building a tech startup without a technical co-founder? Start here.

Paweł Dąbrowski - Chief Technology Officer

A tech startup, as the name suggests, requires technical expertise to prosper. A technical co-founder, or a CTO, is not only a technology expert but also someone capable of creating a company’s business strategy. They can use their knowledge to:

  • Build a good hiring process for tech positions,
  • Make informed strategic decisions, determining what is viable and affordable,
  • Predict technology-related challenges,
  • Help build better data security,

and much more. But what can you do if you need to start your company going without a CTO?

Option 1: Look for a CTO cofounder yourself

It’s possible to fin a tech-savvy cofounder simply by talking to a lot of people. But if you don’t already have some technical knowledge, you would be taking a significant risk. Remember that early technical choices can generate massive technical debt, impairing your company’s growth for years to come.

Option 2: Work with a freelancer

Finding a highly experienced freelance partner can work out well, but it comes with several challenges:

  • A major one is creating a sustainable development process.
  • Without being sure of your tech partner’s future availability and skill set, it might also be difficult to introduce additional developers to the team.
  • A freelancer is unlikely to devote 100% of their time and engagement to your project. Most likely, they work with more than one company. This is a major detriment in a C-level position, where engagement is paramount.
  • If you don’t construct the contract very carefully, you run the risk of the freelancer disappearing on you without notice or without giving you enough time to find a replacement.

Option 3: Build a team

Nothing prevents you from simply hiring developers. It’s risky - without technical knowledge, you might not be able to properly vet them. This could result in a lack of crucial skills within the team, making them incapable of operating efficiently, or at all. While you could work with a recruitment agency, you also won’t be able to verify their ability to hire the right people for your project. This option relies heavily on trust.

Option 4: Outsourcing

Instead of trying to do everything in-house, consider working with an external development team. A major benefit of this approach is that software houses have proven track records: portfolios, testimonials, case studies, reviews on sites like Clutch, and clients you can contact to ask specific questions. An external technology partner company is also bound by a contract that grants you full rights to the effects of their work, but puts the responsibility for the work’s quality on their shoulders. Does it never go wrong? No, there are cases of misalignment between software house and client, but they are rare. You can access so much information on a potential partner that it’s difficult to make a mistake.

Outsourcing is also more flexible than many people think. There are two go-to cooperation models that apply: team extension and a dedicated development team. The former means augmenting your existing team with specific people that can extend your tech stack or add crucial expertise. The latter means that a fully formed team (with developers, a project manager, QA experts, and designers as needed) work on your project for as long as you want them to. This approach is perfect in a situation where you don’t yet have a CTO. Here’s why:

  • The responsibility for delivering a high-quality product rests on the contractor,
  • Dedicated teams are incredibly efficient - they work with each other all the time! - and so they can help startups get up and running very quickly,
  • A trustworthy software house cares about each client’s project and chooses the right people for the job, using a tried and true process and workflow.

Here’s what iRonin.IT’s clients have to say on the subject:
“They make great suggestions in terms of simplifying features or finding better ways to solve problems.” - Monique Leonhardt, Founder & CMO at XbyX

“Our developer was totally dedicated to completing all projects, taking a flexible approach where required.” - Michelle Woolaghan, CFO at Boomf

Option 5: Leasing individual developers

If you need to get your project off the ground quickly while you work on building your internal team, you can fill the gaps in expertise through body leasing or team augmentation. This approach gives you access to specific developers - you should be able to see their profiles with all relevant information. They will then join your team and operate as though they were internal hires while you get to skip recruitment expenses. This approach works especially well during the initial stages of a product’s lifecycle when things are moving quickly, and resources need to be managed carefully.

“We’ve coordinated the work by Slack and GitHub, which worked pretty well and allowed us to communicate asynchronously.” - VP of Engineering at a software company

“iRonin.IT augmented our internal team in every way.” - Jake Mallory, former CTO at Acima Credit

Ready to get your software project started? Find a trusted partner.
At iRonin.IT, we have 10+ years of helping startups succeed under our belt.

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Author's Bio
Paweł Dąbrowski

Chief Technology Officer

Open source fan and growth seeker with over a decade of experience in writing for both human beings and computers. I connect the dots to create high-quality software, valuable relations with people and businesses.

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