🌱 Hiring an Fractional CTO part-time

An already seasoned CTO able to help you both by executing well and sharing their experience. They would be assisted by junior or intern developers to prepare your startup to scale. Then once ready, they would stay or transfer the project to a full-time CTO They are also known as fCTO or CTO as a Service.

Principal Characteristics

Short Term Costs

Low  but  Mastered  You will have them working full time for few weeks in order to get good foundation. Then 2 days a week to oversee juniors. They should be seen as an investment not a cost. Otherwise you might be doing something wrong.

Proof of Concept

High  Experienced Fractional CTOs have seen tons of projects succeeding or failing. Some are used to prototype products quickly using a mix of low code, AI and SaaS. Some knows how to keep iterating from their prototype. So no need to throw everything away once the Proof of Concept (PoC) is validated.

Long term costs

Low  and  Mastered  Opportunities created should repay the initial cost 10x. And Technical Debt should be reduced. You should take shortcuts thanks to their experience. They would unlock some opportunities. Your foundation being robust you will avoid costly mandatory refactors. Good foundation will allow you to scale easily and will ease the recruitment process.


Low  If you hired the right person, your foundation should be good. No Bus Factor as you would already have a team. In case of any issue with the CTO you will have a greater chance to quickly find a replacement.

Future proof

Good  You should have good foundations with a low Technical Debt. Your project should scale well. Allowing more developers to join easily. You then won’t need to hire only overpriced senior developers. They might even be ready to step in as a CTO full-time when needed.

Ability to pivot

Good  Even if they don’t accept to continue the mission. They have seen a lot of project pivoting. They will spare you some issues.

Reassuring for investors

Medium  Better if they plan to accept to be hired full time in your company. They usually bet on the team as much as on your elevator pitch. Investors might not even ask if your CTO is full-time or not.

Ease to find

Low  Doable but you will need some luck.

You can try :

  • YCombinator (startupschool.org/cofounder_matching)
  • LinkedIn
  • Some freelancer job boards
  • Contact startups incubators / accelerators

Key Advantages

ℹ️ The best of both worlds

It might be a relevant choice if your project is estimated more than $30 000. And if you want to master your costs. You would have an experienced CTO who would have an incentive to share their experience with you. You would also have a team of cheap and highly motivated juniors.

ℹ️ Hard to find good interns

Good interns are head hunted. AI might change that. In some countries interns have no minimum wages. It will be relevant to propose them at least $700/month (North America or North Europe) in order to attract good ones. Furthermore the value they will add to your company will largely deserve at least this amount. You will also want to find ways to keep them motivated. Provided your CTO will be patient enough to take the time to coach them properly.

ℹ️ At some point in your journey, you will focus on sales.

It might be not smart to have a full-time CTO during few months. You can discuss with your CTO if he would accept some freelancing and work as fCTO to reduce some costs. And then come back.


⚠️ Don’t hire an intern/developer, then find an Fractional CTO

Very few will accept to lead developers they didn’t hand picked. Most of them have seen that casting mistakes are very costly. The human factor plays a major role in a startup’s failure or success. And chances are that you would have failed to recruit a relevant profile. The Fractional CTO will more easily hire developers who will match better to your project and their leading style. Make sure to discuss with them about the company’s culture you are looking to build/avoid.

⚠️ You don’t want a project manager who will only delegate tasks

You want someone able to build your project’s foundation in a pragmatic way. And then being able to embark and empower your team.

⚠️ Few CTOs will be comfortable with this way of working

Especially accepting to reduce costs by hiring juniors or interns. Some might simply refuse your proposal. Be transparent upfront.

⚠️ Make sure your CTO has not more than 3 projects in parallel

Unless they are a 10x developer, they won’t be able to keep up the pace while remaining efficient. Be ready to take the initiative to propose a retainer. Aim is to incentivize them not looking for more projects. And making sure they will prefer your project over others. Ask them to be transparent on that. It is too risky for your startup.

⚠️ Inexperienced Fractional CTOs tend to burnout quickly

A Startup is not a sprint, nor a marathon. It’s a relay race. Make sure your Fractional CTO is aware of that.

Red Flags

🚩 Red flag if your CTO asks the juniors to create your project’s foundation and then just plays the overseer role.

They should spend their initial time preparing the project for the others.

🚩 Red flag if your CTO is not aware of the Product/Market fit concept.

🚩 Red flag if your CTO is not forcing you to advance in an iterative way.

🚩 Red flag if your CTO doesn’t acknowledge that the human factor plays a major role in a startup’s failure or success.

🚩 Red flag if your CTO is not taking the time to regularly read articles, books or attend to tech conferences.

🚩 Red flag if your CTO using a framework/technology without knowing why.

Especially a recent one. They should demonstrate you that their choice is junior-friendly. Controversial topic: Javascript and Java are not the most junior-friendly technology. Far from it.