What Is It Like To Be The Non-Technical CEO Of A Tech Startup?

I was the non-technical founder you are talking about. I have a BSEE, but I hadn’t designed the products we were developing (Integrated Circuits) in years.

I needed to find what you need to find: A great VP Engineering/CTO.

You should put all your energy into finding this person before you do anything else. It took me about ten months to recruit the incredible VP Engineering I ended up working with, and it was worth it.

Now, you can’t abandon the technical side of the business just because you have a great VP Engineering.

The VP Engineering ran the show on the technical side of the company, but I was till heavily involved, and you should be too:

A. Be involved in recruiting every engineer.

This doesn’t mean you are going to do a deep dive technical interview on each candidate. It does mean you will interview every engineer.

And the candidates are going to want to meet you too. You are simultaneously selling the company to every candidate, answering questions about the company, and you are determining if you want to work with the candidate.

B. Be involved in the technical management and engineering review meetings.

I used to go to every design review, and I learned a ton.

You learn about the process. You learn how well prepared the team is. And you learn about the capabilities of the various leaders.

You will also learn who has management capability too. And finding good engineers that want to be engineering managers is difficult. So this is a pretty important meeting to go to.

The key to successfully working with technical people when you are not technical is being yourself.

You’ve lost the minute you try and prove your technical prowess. No one is expecting you to be a technical genius.

However, your engineering team is expecting you to be great leader. And a big part of being a great leader is finding a great VP Engineering/CTO to partner with you on your journey.

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