"Hire for passion and intensity; there is training for everything else."
– Nolan Bushnell

After building all their tech with outsource partners, this startup wanted to take control back in-house. Hiring a CTO sounds like a logical next step, but the costs would be through the roof, and who could manage the process in the first place? We leaned in: restructured the team, put development on track and made the in-house CTO goal alive.

Startups have a laser-sharp focus on developing a viable business – a unique service or product to meet a marketplace need. Everything else is secondary. To grow fast and build a successful business, startups have to sacrifice on everything that's not absolutely mandatory. They use less optimal solutions, and not everything they build will be future-proof. It's all fine in the beginning, but once the idea proves to be a successful businesses, startups have to work off the technology dept before they can grow any further.

Our client is a Silicon Roundabout tech startup. They've built a solid business with a growing customer base in less than four years. They provide advertisement monitoring services and provide insights, for which they utilise hi-tech solutions. As an example, they maintain a worldwide network of mobile devices, all of which are tunnelled into the London office for analysts to use.

Most of our client's tech is proprietary, and the many custom components were developed by separate offshore teams and contractors, most of whom moved on since then. Documentation was non-existent, and some of the software required old operating systems, routers or other legacy technology to run. While the tech managed to support the day-to-day business, many processes could have been automated, and some systems were in need of an serious overhaul.

The startup grew to over 30 employees since it started, and was in the position to hire tech staff for maintenance works and IT development. But what talent would they need? Would they save money in the process, or would it be cheaper to keep the systems running with 3rd party providers? Is there anything that would be easier to move to the cloud – or simply taken care of with off-the-shelf software?

The initial idea of this startup was to hire a chief technology officer, who would take care of this process altogether. The London market for great talent is everything but cheap however, and no-one in the company could sit in the driver seat for a lengthy process of interviews, then onboarding and building a team. The business was groing, and directors had no extra time on their hands.

Our solution was to introduce an interim CTO instead, and coach one of the company's long-time employees to become the next full-time technology officer of the company. He was employed by our client in their first year as a technology manager with little experience at the time, but he showed great potential in becoming a full-fledged CTO and handle the task at hand, had he received the guidance. Therefore we joined him every week for a full day of workshops, and helped rebuilding the tech team, to:

  • Help reorganise the development works to have a clear structure between what's outsourced and what knowledge has to be kept internal
  • Help with hiring decisions and the process to restructure the internal team
  • Installed best practices like frequent code reviews and continuous integration / delivery methods
  • Arranged for training programmes for the in-house staff who could then become fully qualified network engineers or developers
  • Simplified the tech, and generated a huge deal of documentation to keep all technology easy to maintain and oversee
  • Keep the other directors up to date with all changes, without requiring constant supervision from them

Thanks to the initial planning, we could keep our involvement to the minimum. We organised weekly full-day workshops and code reviews, which went a long way in keeping the budget low while still getting the best out of our expertise. It also made it easy to scale back eventually, and hand over the tasks to the CTO: by the time we've left the client to their own devices, they were fully capable to manage and further develop all of their systems – ready to scale the startup further.

We don't share names in these case studies – while we are proud of our clients and their stories, we respect their privacy and business. For references, please get in touch with us directly.