Why should startups avoid hiring a CTO in the first 6 months?

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You have an idea that can change the world. Or at least, your life. 

Now, you just need to assemble a team to make this a reality… or do you? 

Hiring a CTO is pretty high on the priority list of every founder who is “non-technical”. 

And with good reason! A great CTO can set your startup for success, help you raise more money from investors, and provide a great perspective on the development of your product. 

There are a few issues with hiring a CTO in the first 6 months of your startup… 

It’s really, really expensive

Gone are the days when any first-year computer science student could rock a hoodie and call themselves a CTO. In the US, the median salary for CTOs is $200,000. In Milan, that figure is around €80,000 - still extremely high. Even more so for a company with 0 investors and 0 revenue. And if you’re thrilled because you found someone who’s willing to do it for €30,000/year… run! 

Let’s say you have money - can you hire someone tomorrow? 


In the best-case scenario event where you can afford a CTO salary because you are self-funded or have received external funding, hiring a tech leader worth their salt is still a very challenging endeavor. It’s an employees’ market, and let’s face it: most people would rather work at a well-known, well-funded tech company with oversized beanbags and generous benefits rather than betting their career on your startup. 

We talked to our headhunter friends, and they revealed it could take anywhere from 2-6 months to hire a CTO between the recruitment, interview, and onboarding stages. 

It takes the focus away from product development

Lastly, focusing so much energy, time, and money on hiring a team takes away from your key priority, which should be to test your product *in the wild* as early as possible! These days, with NoCode and LowCode tools becoming so widespread, it’s very possible to launch your startup as a solo, non-tech founder. 

To sum it up, hiring a CTO should NOT be the first order of business in your startup journey. Instead, here’s our advice on how you can make progress faster (and often, for a fraction of a CTO’s salary!)

Option 1 - get a fractional CTO and a developer

A fractional CTO is a senior tech leader who divides their time between a few companies at the same time. This allows you to still get the technical guidance you need, but at a fraction of a full-time salary. However, you need to hire one or more developers as the fractional CTO will not write all the code directly.

Option 2 - outsource your tech team and be your own CTO 

There are hundreds of software houses around the world, often in countries with lower costs of living (and wages), who would be happy to develop your idea! Be careful, though: acting as the CTO/project manager/product manager is a challenging role, so this is an option only if you have relevant experience.

Option 3 - develop your MVP with Lateral

Lateral Studio is a specialized MVP development company. As a cross-functional team, we can tackle your strategy, tech, and design challenges at the same time, and we’re focused on speed and execution. We rely on LowCode and NoCode tools to help startups launch new products within 2-4 weeks. You can read how we helped Reefilla launch after only 2 one week sprints, or about our process here.