Business strategy vs technology strategy


In essence my question is: is a CTO supposed to provide the company vision and business strategy?

I am bringing into a startup the following: vision, business strrategy, technology strategy/roadmap and initial critical engineering staff. I am being offered the job as CTO (my proposed title). The founding CEO & President is bringing the funding, and will be in charge of accounting, facilities and overall day-to-day operations.

It is me, not him, bringing vision, business strategy, initial customers and potential contacts for the near future.

I am proposing that my title be CTO and VP of Strategy. He is saying I will be the CTO, and my job descruiption includes Strategy, Vision, Technology Implementation, Deployment of product and Business Development.

Is he or is he not trying to lowball me? I feel I deserve more. Please help!


asked Apr 23 '11 at 03:35
Aaron Smothers
56 points
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  • Deserve more what? – Carson McComas 13 years ago
  • (1) He is looking at me as a hired hand and not giving me a co-founder status (i.e., founder level equity) (2) he is offering me about 30-40% of market rate for a CTO of my qualifications, experience and duties needed in this job. He knows I worked 18 months on what I am bringing into the company, and that without that work the company won't get strated (let alone stand to succeed). Prospective key initial employees will ask basic questions like: what is the company business vision/strategy? Is there customer interest? Who are the initial prospects? etc. I am bringing the answers. – Aaron Smothers 13 years ago

3 Answers


I'm not trying to invalidate your question, but why does it matter in a startup, if you're happy with the role, shareholding and terms?

Job title is usually a broad brush indication of role in a small co - as the company grows the roles will change, and titles will become more real.

This may just be incorrect personal opinion but I've always thought precise job titles more about position in hierarchy in larger enterprises. In a startup you're far more likely to get involved in anything you have awareness of or time to do than performing to a tightly defined and described role.

So no I don't think the job title by itself is any indicator of being short changed, whereas only getting 5% might well do.

answered Apr 23 '11 at 04:03
2,552 points
  • The shareholding and salary/benefit terms are about to be negotiated. I am being seen as a hired hand, not a co-founder. The salary he proposes to offer is less than half of the market rate, and less than what I made as a senior engineer nearly a decade ago! It seemed to me that the overloading of other duties under the CTO title was an instrument of shortchanging. – Aaron Smothers 13 years ago
  • I see - that's a bigger conversation than just the job title, and a much trickier one to resolve. Salary may be a function of what the company can afford right now compensated by shareholding as possible upside. Of course a lot depends if you are a founding partner or early employee. Also if you're on 50% of market rate - what of the other people - are they all similarly underpaid? Might be worth updating your question some - this is about much more than job title. – Matt 13 years ago
  • Yes, my question on title is part of the larger question of 'what's in this for me'. He is offering others roughly 66% of market rate. I am not being offered founder equity (I will be asking for it). But I am told there will be stock options-- in broad, generic terms. I have worked on it like a co-founder but as we are about to get going, he is treating me as an employee and vaguely offering to give me a 'joining bonus' for my foundational work! (We never had any formal agreement about working together so far). – Aaron Smothers 13 years ago
  • Matt, if you think I will widen the range of responses to my question if it is altered, please feel free to edit it. thanks! – Aaron Smothers 13 years ago
  • Hmm, seems like you're both looking at this in very different terms - you're thinking founder, he as you describe it appears to think employee. I'm not sure what best to advise from here, but that needs a conversation to clarify before you commit. – Matt 13 years ago


Though titles don't matter, there must be a good agreement between you and the CEO on what each would do and what kind of compensation is adequate for those responsibilities. I do know if CTOs that do strategy and i think CTOs definitely participate somewhat in BizDev/ Sales and Vision.

It seems to me from your tone that: 1) you feel shortchanged by the CEO and 2) you think he isn't doing that much comparatively (at least that's what I pick up). May I ask then, Why do you want to start a venture with a guy with whom you feel that way?

answered Apr 23 '11 at 12:06
Jorge Guzman
45 points
  • Jorge: Bingo, that's the question everyone is asking me now! Only now with the funding just about to come in, he is starting to talk about the terms of his offer. Till now I didn't think he will shortchange me so much. And when we started out 18 months ago, he told me he would hire me as a CTO/tech head. I would have accepted it if he had got funded in 1-2 months. When it dragged on and on since late 2009 till now, I worked on such aspects as vision/strategy, roadmap & initial prospects which I am bringing in now. We never regrouped formally to accommodate my enlarged input into the startup. – Aaron Smothers 13 years ago


Titles mean nothing..I would stick with CTO and all CTO or any executive level names usually means all parties participate in the strategy, vision and mission of the company including bringing in their contacts. If their is two of you you should be co-founders.

answered Oct 27 '11 at 03:36
21 points

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