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Do You Need a CTO for Your Non-Technical Startup?

Author David Pierini Esq. |

August 2, 2022

Technologies are no longer a luxury for non-tech companies. They have become a crucial component of scalability, growth, and development, regardless of the industry. Be it automotive, manufacturing, or retail, advanced tech is what helps businesses boost efficiency, increase sales, and improve customer service. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that every year, companies are investing more in digital transformation. According to Statista, global digital transformation spending is expected to reach $1.8 trillion in 2022 and $2.8 trillion in 2028, which is almost 500 billion and $1.5 trillion more than in 2020, respectively.

However, making prudent technical decisions to boost productivity and business development require hands-on experience and a deep understanding of an industry. That’s what founders or CEOs of non-tech startups often lack. Therefore, the need for a CTO or Chief Technology Officer in non-technical startups arises. 

In this article, we are going to discuss if a non-technical startup needs a CTO, their main responsibilities, and benefits for business. 


    What Does the CTO Do?

    The CTO is the employee who is in charge of the technological department. In other words, they decide on a technological vision that aligns with business objectives; they assemble a team of developers, QAs, UI/UX designers, DevOps, etc., with the right expertise, manage them, and set up tech processes. 

    A CTO in a non-technical startup fulfills exactly the same duties. The only difference is that the technologies aren’t at the core of the operations. They are more of a supporting factor that streamlines business processes and improves the final product or service deliverables. The role of a CTO in a non-technical startup is to ensure that your non-technical strategy is implemented at the maximum efficiency possible. As a result, your business reaps the benefits of a well-rounded tech process for the sake of improved efficiency and increased sales. 

    Considering that today’s customers seek high-quality, timely service, a qualified CTO in a non-technical startup business can improve the final output with tech, facilitate business operations, and reduce costs. This, in turn, helps you to attract investors, angel investors, and venture capital firms that seek competitive solutions.

    Roles and Responsibilities of a CTO in a Non-Technical Startup 

    A startup environment implies focusing on rapid growth rather than long-term planning. Here is why the role of a CTO in a non-technical startup significantly differs from the one working in an already-successful corporation. The ultimate difference is time: while large enterprises have the luxury of taking time for decision-making, startups do not. Therefore, a CTO should be flexible and reactive to adjust corporate IT infrastructure and IT solutions rapidly.

    Startups are known for their lack of resources and lean strategies. They often cannot afford to hire both a CTO to shape a tech vision and a project manager to oversee day-to-day operations. Here is why a CTO usually possesses both technical expertise and project management skills. 

    Here is an overview of the top 6 CTO roles and responsibilities in a startup: 

    Developing the Tech Vision 

    While technologies are not the core of a non-technical startup, they may significantly aid in improving product development and customer service or reducing costs. A CTO’s ultimate duty is to develop a tech vision that aligns with your non-tech strategy. It involves setting up clear goals and analyzing potential pitfalls and risks. To succeed, a chief technology officer should have profound technical skills and a deep understanding of business specifics. 

    Deciding on Tech Stack and Processes

    Once the vision and a tech plan are set, a CTO drafts technological processes and decides on a tech stack. Think of this as the practical implementation of the tech vision: the head of your technical department chooses which advanced technologies best fit into the strategy, considering the budget, resources, and goals. The CTO also chooses essential hardware and infrastructure. 

    Ensuring the Tech Side Matches Business Objectives

    While in tech startups the IT department is at the heart of the company, in non-tech startups, it has more of a supporting role. Here’s why a CTO ensures that overall IT infrastructure and digital solutions contribute to overall company development. A CTO should constantly oversee the current state of processes and customer needs to dynamically adjust the tech side. 

    Operational Management 

    Growth and scalability are impossible without balanced operations. Therefore, a CTO needs to deliver the required results with a minimum time span and investment. The executive constantly monitors the processes, looking for areas to improve. They need to have a good grasp of project management frameworks to choose the one that allows business objectives to be met hassle-free.

    Team Management

    Since startups usually lack resources or need to maximize runway, you will not want to hire a technical team supervisor. Instead, this role is delegated to the CTO who works with the IT team on a daily basis to help the developers overcome current challenges, and shares expertise to boost efficiency. What is more, the CTO is responsible for the recruitment of the right talent and continually optimizing team resources.

    Performance Tracking

    Although the IT department is not at the core of the company, it still needs to remain productive to meet business objectives. The CTO monitors the performance of every team member and looks for ways to improve it. A qualified leader closely communicates with the team and brainstorms new ideas with developers that may boost innovations and decrease risks and expenses.

    Necessity of a CTO for a Non-Technical Startup Business 

    Some may think that the role of a CTO in non-tech startups is not essential. Indeed, a non-tech startup can suffice without a CTO, but not without the technologies that drive business growth, scalability, and reduce costs. 

    If you decide to cut costs by not hiring a chief technology officer who aligns tech with your business objectives and oversees implementation. Here are some risks that you may face:

    Lower Productivity of the Tech Side

    Efficient technological outcomes are possible only if developers are properly managed. Otherwise, an IT team may lack clear vision, necessary support, and management. Developers may fail to understand business objectives and adjust the tech side. Other executives are unlikely to devote sufficient time to the IT team because it distracts from their core responsibilities and they lack the expertise to fix or spot technical issues in the first place.

    As a result, you invest in a tech team but do not get a strong technological outcome. This may result in inefficient processes, loss of productivity,  slower growth, or, in the worst outcome, business failure.

    Misaligned Tech and Core Business

    A CTO has wide technical experience and knowledge that facilitates finding the right digital solutions and technologies on a timely basis. It requires not only prior hands-on expertise but also daily monitoring of IT trends. No one else in your team has the time and knowledge to monitor and analyze emerging technologies. 

    Therefore, you risk investing heavily in the wrong tech to streamline your operations or boost business KPIs. Technical debt accumulates, and you find yourself in a situation where you need to invest even more to completely rethink your tech side. This contributes to a loss of profit and unnecessary expenditures.

    Lost Tech Opportunities

    The technological landscape is highly dynamic. Many new technologies appear every day. For an employee with no tech background, it’s easy to go for hype and highly expensive tech instead of cost effective or easier to implement solutions. 

    Another risk is merely choosing the wrong technologies and solutions that will not deliver the expected results. To make a prudent decision, it is necessary to have wide expertise and a deep understanding of the business needs the tech supports. While the latter isn’t a problem for a qualified non-tech executive, the former may become a real challenge. Consequently, you risk investing in the wrong team or tech and wasting resources.

    Consider Aleph1 Your Trusted Partner 

    Hiring a CTO is expensive for a startup. According to Zippia, the average annual CTO salary in the USA exceeds $154,000. It may be too much of an investment for a non-tech startup that typically allocates resources for core needs. However, having no technical support and guidance may result in a loss of profit and competitive advantage. Therefore, many choose to seek technical guidance from third-party agencies. 

    Aleph1 is proud to be a reliable tech advisor with 10+ years of practical experience. Our experts will eagerly analyze your niche and come up with relevant, affordable digital solutions that will facilitate achieving your business objectives. We can build a solid technical foundation to streamline your operations, boost customer service, and help you take a leading position in your industry. 

    We are advocates of quality. To ensure our clients receive the help they require, our team will perform a  deep dive into your business needs to come up with relevant solutions. Contact us today to find out what tech will speed up your business development today and into the future.

    Summing Up 

    While the role of a chief technology officer in a non-tech startup is not a must, the head of a technical department can significantly affect your business growth. Technologies are essential to reduce costs and improve business performance. Without a qualified technical specialist on your side, you risk implementing the wrong tech strategy, investing in irrelevant digital solutions, and failing to execute them correctly. 

    The responsibilities of a CTO in a non-technical startup include developing a tech vision that aligns with your business objectives, deciding on a tech stack, and managing an IT team and operations. Non-tech employees are  busy with their core duties to have enough time and lack expertise. 

    The CTO in your non-technical startup is a reliable partner that stays behind the scenes but has a major impact on overall performance. If you do not want to hire CTOs or merely cannot afford them, you can always seek technical guidance and support from third-party IT agencies.


    What is a CTO in a non-tech startup?

    The role of a chief technology officer in a non-tech startup develops a tech vision and aligns it with core business objectives. The CTO will build, manage the IT team management. It is an employee who creates and implements a strong technical foundation to ensure your core operations run smoothly and your products meet the tech demands of your customers.

    What can a CTO offer a non-tech startup?

    A CTO offers the non-tech startup technical guidance and support to boost team efficiency, product development and scalability. With the right tech and team, CTOs ensure the tech side delivers maximum efficiency.

    Is a CTO a must in your non-technical startup?

    While you may not hire a CTO for your non-technical startup, you still need technical support and advice. You can turn to reliable IT agencies that will study your business needs and come up with relevant technological solutions to facilitate achieving business objectives.

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