Maybe i'm mixing CTO with VP of Engineering here. But as a CTO early on in a 5 person startup that haven't built a prototype yet...What are the key topics or areas that you must have a vision for once you pitch your prototype to an investor, or assist the CEO in successfully pitching?
I'm thinking overall system architecture, technical roadmap, how to scale the system towards a certain market goal in the next 3 years, how the technical architecture will serve and empower the business need....am I on the right track?
Assume this CTO was a senior-level software architect and developer that breathes technology day in day out
Taken from SoCalCTO website - CTO or lead developer :
A good Startup CTO will naturally address these.
Some of these questions are high-level, complex, inherently fuzzy and hard to answer. In fact, they interact with each other to greatly increase complexity. Technologies you use, how much will it cost, future capabilities, scalability, in-house vs. outsourced all intersect.
Theoretically a great lead developer can address all of these issues. But experience points to the fact that they often are not addressed and the result can be fairly painful. I’m not claiming my list of questions is unknown – heck it’s right there. Of course, it’s never complete. Each situation will have different questions. But still, even if you prompt a good lead developer to address these issues, you likely will still have a bit of a gap. The lead developer will often be:
Again, I wouldn’t claim that it can’t be done. But it’s just really hard for everyone involved.
What are the key topics or areas that you must have a vision for onceIn my experience none of this "overall system architecture, technical roadmap, how to scale the system towards a certain market goal in the next 3 years, how the technical architecture will serve and empower the business need" matters, directly, to investors. They might care about some of the details when you get to the point of nailing down terms - but they are details.
you pitch your prototype to an investor, or assist the CEO in
What investors care about:
To get investment you have to have convincing answers to those questions. Some aspects of those answers will likely be within your domain of knowledge. What those answers will need to be depend on your business - so it's hard to give generic lists of things that will be of concern.
I'd strongly recommend trying to meet and network with people working at companies at as similar stage to where you are now - and companies who are a few months on from where you are now. Talking to people about how the investment process went / is going. If at all possible meet with investors before you are asking for investment. Find mentors.
A lot of the stuff I read about CTO roles online is just plain wrong, or company specific. If you go talk with several companies, and several investors, you'll begin to see that people's idea of what a "good" CTO is changes quite a bit between organisations.
To some extent investors will not care if you are the right CTO for the company in three years time. They care if you're the best person to get from now to 18-24 months from now where you are actually showing some traction and growth. After that - they can always "encourage" you to take another role ;-)