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CTO vs. Product Engineer/Development - What are the differences?

Until now we have always outsourced our technology development. Now we are at a critical point where we need to add this key talent to our team. What makes more sense for us to be able to raise funding, a CTO or Product Engineer? Until now it has been the founders vision and execution, we need someone to own this function now, but also share in our vision. Ideally it would be someone that would have a stake in the business and not just an employee.

How do I go about finding such a person if I am not running in the same networking circles? We are putting together a roll up strategy and need this venture to be tech enabled. So this is obviously a huge factor in scalability.

Any help would be welcomed.

22 Replies

Aaron Call
1
0
Aaron Call Advisor
Partner at MediCoventures
Greg,

Not knowing your product but knowing startups - I believe what you want is a VP of R&D or a VP of Product Development.

In my experience, CTO describes a VERY technical, scientific and seasoned individual that will probably not be very deep into the weeds of the technology - less hands on.

Product Engineer is someone primarily in the weeds that can get sh*# done and do it well but is not visionary enough.

This is where I see the VP of Product Development being the right person for what you need - someone who is technical enough and startup oriented enough to drive the business from a product perspective, but also someone who can get into the weeds when needed.
Martin Omansky
3
0
Martin Omansky Entrepreneur
Independent Venture Capital & Private Equity Professional
I suggest a CTO if you are planning on (a) having the CTO work as a senior member of the team; (b) a contributing member to the strategic positioning of the firm; and (c) compensating him/her with a relatively large amount of stock or options. On recruitment, we have found that a good place to go for higher level people is the relevant professional association; for working engineers - those that might work well but have no company-wide administrative duties, we often look to university placement offices.
David Austin
1
0
David Austin Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur
Not intending to point out the obvious, but the only consistent difference (from startup to startup) is that a CTO is a C-level executive. All the other differences are determined by how you set up your organization. Personally, I'm not a big fan of bringing in people to a startup at a high level unless necessary and the person is very well vetted. It's shocking how seldom that is the case.
Greg Wood
0
0
Greg Wood Entrepreneur
Process oriented leader who understands the value of connecting the dots.
Thank you. I see both points but with a small team and lots to do, I need someone that has a great background (for investors) but can still get their hands dirty. This position needs to offset some of the outsourced costs that we have.
Dan Meier
1
0
Dan Meier Entrepreneur
Reinventing Manufacturing Management Software
I sadly share the opposite conundrum. I'm a technical person with a strong technical vision, lots of industry experience, and developinga solidproduct that's gaining interest in my industry. But I'm having difficulty connecting with a business-side cofounder to drive business development and fundraising.Potential partnersacknowledgethepotential in the product and the plan, but they demur, claimingno "passion" for theindustry (manufacturing). GE has been spending tons of money advertising for engineers in their Industrial IoT efforts for the same reason -- the industry just isn't sexy.

So...I'll follow this thread closely! :-) Many thanks for raising the topic. Making connections is what it's all about, and one never knows where the next opportunity will originate!
Thomas Sutrina
0
0
Thomas Sutrina Entrepreneur
Inventor at Retired Pursue Personal interrests and family
Is technology holding you back, not enough to convince people to fund your venture? The bird in your hands is not the right bird or a sluggish bird. What has to happen to get the money coming in? The person you pick has to be able to get over that barrier, CTO development engineer what ever. Start with the solving the task to get over the barrier, this is the minimum. Then once over the barrier what else is needed that should come from this individual? It could be skills he has or the experience on paper and through contacts. Now you have a requirement list. The people that you hired to do the technology development obviously do not want to loose your income but the people that actually do the work an not responsible for finding work will be more open to suggest where and who to look at.
David Pariseau
2
0
David Pariseau Entrepreneur
CTO and CoFounder at Particles Plus
I've filled "all-the-above" roles and my hands have always been "dirty" work-wise. In my view the CTO designation indicates that you have someone who is both technical and can lead (and often actively participate) in development and who has significant skin in the game, so that a significant portion of their compensation is upside is based on the performance and ultimate success of the venture.

As opposed to being merely salaried, with perhaps some bonus incentives. In a large company their role might focus on technology and R&D, in a startup that role, in my opinion, should also encompass development (internal and external) and managing the roadmap with input from the other disciplines.

Steve Getman
1
0
Steve Getman Entrepreneur
Partner/CTO/CIO at Flash Point Communications
In my experience "CTO" indicates a larger role than managing the development and direction of a product or products. I do that in my current role, but also much more. Martin provided a good guideline above I think.

If you're a start up, you likely don't need a CTO at this point.

Feel free to reach out. I'm happy to answer any questions or provide any advice I can.
Greg Wood
1
0
Greg Wood Entrepreneur
Process oriented leader who understands the value of connecting the dots.
My business partner and myself have been the visionaries for the last 8 years but tied down my a major sponsor/consulting project that has held us back from growth. During that time we were able to build up a brand and a subscription business that we are looking to use as a platform to pull other small companies together to make a very unique platform.

The key missing position when pitching to investors is that high level tech person. Tom, I think you gave sound advice. It does really come down to who and not what they can do. I need someone that we can get along with and that has a background that can lead us into the next phase of our business. That is what investors are going to be looking for...
Dave Savage and Beverly Molander
0
0
Authors and Educators to Families and Professionals- HeartfeltMemorialServices.com: Creating Meaningful Experiences
My background is in product development.
The second part of your question is where do you find suitable prospects.

One way is in articles written about product development in your industry trade magazines. Do a web search on the digital edition websites. If your product has a crucial component, also look at the trade magazines focused on that type of compenent or technology.

Also look at the list of keynote and and workshop speakers of past and future conferences. Many times the listing also includes their bio and contact info.
Ask any prospects if they know of any simmerly qualified peers who might be open to a change. DaveSavage.com
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