5 qualities to optimize for when hiring a CTO

• 2 min read

We get many requests from non-technical founders who are looking for a CTO or a technical co-founder.

Throughout my career, I’ve hired three people for such roles in different companies. Two of them were a disaster, and one worked out well.

My biggest mistake was chasing tech skills, and I should have paid more attention to soft skills. In my experience, the right things to optimize for are:

1. Lack of ego

A high percentage of startups pivot along the way. They learn new things about the market, get feedback, change their vision.

Your CTO has to be comfortable to throw away 99% of what they’ve built before. Perfect examples are Twitch, Slack, and Segment.

2. Personality

As with any early employee, you’ll spend with your CTO so much time. More than with your spouse, kids, and parents combined.

And if you don’t enjoy spending time with your partner, the rest of the alignment won’t matter.

3. Emotional stability

When shit hits the fan (that is every day of a startup life), they have to be able to set emotions aside and deal with it, compromise and think clearly. I’m guessing this ability is available only to 0,001% of the human population.

4. Shared vision

An early-stage startup is not the prettiest place: pivots, scaling, negative feedback, lack of funding, and no one gives a crap about you. A shared vision will help you both ignore the difficulties and keep working together.

5. Scrappiness and curiosity

You don’t need the best developer in the world. Look for those who move fast, good at finding solutions, and always keep learning.

Don't optimize for

Tech stack

They will probably be coding for 3% of the company’s life at most, and there is a high chance you’ll switch technologies along the way.


It’s hard to find such a person, and at some point, you’ll feel like it’s impossible, and you should compromise. Well, you should not!

Three years ago, we found a technical co-founder based on this framework. Anvar started his career as an account manager in an advertising agency. Then he shifted to a product role, learned to code, and worked as a SWIFT engineer in a gaming company.

Not a good fit for a marketplace with a JS tech-stack? WRONG.

Anvar was a freelancer for a long time and used our platform to find jobs. He is smart, a fast learner, appreciates feedback, a great manager, very Zen, honest, responsible, caring, empathetic, and just one of the best people to be friends with.

Get it?

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