Tech DD by non-techies Three CTO types to avoid

As part of the Tech DD by Non-techies series, I’m offering a simple high-level outline for evaluating the tech leadership in very early start-ups without requiring a seasoned technology veteran to run the process.

As part of the Tech DD by Non-techies series, I’m offering a simple high-level outline for evaluating the tech leadership in very early start-ups without requiring a seasoned technology veteran to run the process.

Early-stage companies have yet to build much and often pivot and discard earlier attempts. The due diligence process typical for auditing more established companies of assessing teams, code and infrastructure won’t be beneficial here.

What’s important at this stage is how to read between the lines and understand the mindsets and philosophical fit that will eventually differentiate a mediocre company from an all-star team.

These three facets will also work for the assessment of any stage team. The main point is that the method is simple, doesn’t cost anything but a bit of time, listening and observation, and can be repeated later.

Look for technology leadership that is commercially aligned and astute, combines strategic and tactical thinking and has an unwavering attention to detail.


The non-commercial CTO doesn’t want to be part of sales meetings – in fact, they prefer to avoid interacting with the sales team if possible. Customer feedback is generally a nuisance that tends to throw project plans off track.

Did You Know?

The non-commercial CTO will slow down your company’s growth. Not being part of the commercial discussion, solutions will take longer to reach the customer, be more expensive than necessary, and commercial opportunities might go unspotted.

In a fast-paced start-up environment, you need technology leadership that can combine an ego-less, prototyping mindset with quickly building strong foundations under the ideas that have traction.

Three things to look for:
  1. Prototyping to test new ideas quickly and cheaply
  2. Data collection that shows what works and what doesn’t
  3. Regular reviews that build solid foundations for the long term under the ideas that work
In a start-up, everyone needs to be commercially minded.



The tactical CTO is consumed with and often overwhelmed by ongoing issues – new feature requests, bug fixing, operational problems, meetings. This ship’s crew navigates without map and destination, setting course based on what they can see right here and now. Because the tech and product environment changes quickly and often in a start-up, clear, long-term objectives become even more essential.

Three things to look for:
  1. Written definitions on how to prioritise operational issues
  2. Clear, regularly reviewed and commercially aligned definitions of operational quality
  3. Modelling exercises where what-if scenarios and scalability breaking points are identified and analysed If the CTO doesn’t think about the long-term for the tech stack, who will?


The sloppy CTO leaves behind them a trail of half-started projects and half-written documentation, generally full of typos and half-baked ideas.

Technology is full of complex ideas and interactions. Communication among the engineers and with the various stakeholders is essential for keeping everything under control.

A start-up tech stack where everything is constantly changing, added to, scaled up and refactored cannot succeed without one primary ingredient: discipline.

Three things to look for:
  1. Complete, up-to-date and typo-free documentation
  2. Processes for meeting deadlines, not feature lists
  3. Written down, policed and reviewed habits

    In a fast-paced environment, tiny shortcuts and “cheats” will quickly come back to bite you as a tsunami of problems.


When assessing a start-up’s tech leadership, look for the following characters:

-The commercially interested CTO -The strategically thinking CTO -The exacting and meticulous CTO

Like our content. Subscribe below to hear more.

Get In Touch

Connect with our team of friendly consultants!

Our comprehensive due diligence service defines industry best practices and quantifies your company's maturity level through a series of thoughtfully crafted questions. Engaging in meaningful conversations is our forte and we’d be thrilled to explore new possibilities with you.

No obligations - Take the leap and contact us today for an upbeat and friendly chat that could reshape your business trajectory!

static satelite