The role of a CTO in a fast-growing tech startup

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Hierarchy in a Technology Startup

The innovative (technical) contributions of Werner Vogels towards the growth of Amazon has made many startups (both tech and otherwise) see the need to employ a CTO; not just CTO, but one with an innovative mindset, just like Mike Krieger.

CTO stands as the acronym for Chief Technology Officer or Chief Technical Officer, and sometimes, also used to refer to a Chief Technologist in a firm or startup. The position of a CTO is among the top executive positions in a startup; thus, the position needs to be occupied by a capable persona.

However, some entities are yet to identify the roles of Chief Technology Officers, even though a layperson can easily assume they are simply the ones in charge of any technical or technology-related projects in a startup/company/firm. From a business perspective, a Chief Technology Officer is expected to implement technical strategies and align the business resources that have to do with technology to match the company’s needs.

Since a CTO will most likely work directly under the CEO/founder of a tech startup. Quite a lot of responsibilities are required from CTOs.

Why a CTO is needed in a fast-growing tech startup

It is no longer obvious that every startup is built and managed with several technologies integrated into systems, devices, and machines. A CTO can help to manage all the various technologies used by a tech startup and deploy technical approaches to help promote the startup farther than its competitors. Without having an experienced persona take charge of the various technological resources used by a tech startup, it is possible the startup will never grow, and over time, may close down when it can’t meet up with competitions.

For a fast-growing tech startup, a CTO is highly needed to push the startup forward towards achieving its aims and objectives. A typical CTO is mostly a tech evangelist who leverages social platforms to promote a particular startup. Also, CTOs work internally and externally, spending much time in the latter than the former. That is to say, CTOs are typically outwardly-focused; this way, they can discover the technologies and strategies used by similar (popular) tech startups. After several external pieces of research, CTOs work on those researches to come up with technical plans on how to move the tech startup to the next level, beating their competitors all the way up.

More so, before a startup can grow above its competitors, a CTO (whether official or unofficial) must have been working in the technology and technical aspects of the tech startup. The position of a CTO is very critical to a fast-growing tech startup, and the benefits of having an experienced person occupy such position can practically not be overemphasized. With the various points hinted so far, you definitely must have understood and discovered the essential role(s) of Chief Technical Officers in a tech startup. Nevertheless, this article continues below.

The roles of a CTO in a fast-growing tech startup

A CTO doesn’t play just a role, especially in a fast-growing tech startup. There’re quite many strategic responsibilities expected from the CTO in order to hasten the growing speed of the tech startup. It is important to say that the role of a CTO may differ in regards to the company, firm, or startup where the CTO is employed.

Here, we are concentrating on the roles and responsibilities of a CTO in a tech startup.

1. Technical Evangelist

Just like normal evangelists do, they go out to preach to people about a product, deity, or other things, CTOs of tech startups must have to preach about technical strategies and developments to people in regards to the startups they represent. This they do via social media platforms (most especially), blogs, journals, magazines, and other digital channels. A CTO tries to make customers and clients see every need to patronize the startup he/she represents.

2. A CTO is equally a developer

Yes, CTOs mostly studied computer sciences, and they act as the developers in tech startups, most especially new startups. A CTO is expected to be a source of inspiration to new developers and engineers that may be employed in the tech startup.

3. Leadership

Hierarchically, a CTO is like the second in command after the CEO of the startup company. This automatically qualifies the CTO as a leader. As such, CTOs are expected to portray leadership skills and charisma, all in an effort to move the startup company to its next level. Leadership is one of the priority roles of CTOs in a fast-growing tech startup company.

Responsibilities of a CTO in a tech startup

Roles are different from responsibilities, you know? The roles of a CTO have been listed above, and now, here are the responsibilities a CTO would face.

  • A CTO determines and issues orders on how technology or technical resources of the tech startup should be used. In other words, a CTO makes executive decisions as per how the tech startup’s technological needs will be met.
  • Most importantly, a CTO must act as a mentor to other employees in the tech startup.
  • Effectively oversee the technology budgets of the startup
  • A CTO must be abreast of state-of-the-art technologies and implement them into the startup’s existing technologies in order to beat competitions.

Below is a rundown of some powerful Chief Technology Officers that work with renowned companies and have recorded significant success in their careers in various industries.

Some popular CTOs and the companies they represent

1. Mike Krieger – Instagram CTO


Michel Krieger is a software engineer who served as the CTO for Instagram, even though he co-founded the platform with Kevin Systrom. Micheal strategically grew Instagram from having a few million users every month to over 1 billion active monthly users. He is obviously one of the best CTOs you’ll hear of.

2. Werner Vogels – Amazon CTO


Vogels have earned several awards in regard to his innovations. He is the CTO and also Vice President of Amazon. Werner Vogels is in charge of all the technology innovations within Amazon, and he has vast internal and external responsibilities.

Vogels for those who don’t know already, is my role model and my favourite tech guy in the whole industry. He has been a leader for almost two decases, paving a path of what it means to be a modern CTO.

3. Thuan Pham – Uber CTO


Thuan Pham is one of the successful CTOs you will see in these recent times. He is a Vietnamese-American engineer and is in charge of the innovative technologies used by Uber.  Pham is focused and passionate about his roles and responsibilities as a CTO.

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