Being a tech startup, the challenges are formidable and sometimes difficult to get through. These startups are overwhelmingly dependent on their technology leadership for their success. As a culmination, the absence of high-quality leadership can seriously constrain their strategic planning and execution, plunging them on a descending winding.
According to data from Tracxn, 277 new businesses shut down in 2017 alone, while a corresponding Nasscom report uncovered that 55per cent of the new companies who broke down; had raised external funding. We, therefore, believe that funding or lack of it is perhaps a lesser determinant acumen for a technology startup’s continued growth than the quality of its technology and its leadership team. We also believe, when a startup scales the need for technologists modifies with the current stage of the organization. Have you ever thought, why the different stages of a startup require technologists with different capabilities?
Role of Lord Brahma
A startup is just like this mighty world created by Brahma, the creator. At this infant stage of a tech-enabled company, you might need a technologist in the form of Brahma, a technologist who can create. A CTO needs to act like a Creator while the startup is still incipient. At this stage, the product-market fit has not completely advanced, and the organization is small enough to rally around the improvement of the core product or service.
Typically, the founder wears the job of a CTO at this stage, and their accentuation is on ‘creation’ – developing the item alpha and beta with the support from a core technologist team. The essential authoritative structures are prominently missing; and typically, they are not by any means required at this stage.
Role of Lord Vishnu
A startup traverses to the second stage when it has demonstrated its product-market fit and has raised the expected assets to develop its scale. The CTO’s role and responsibilities at this stage of a startup are that of a Nurturer: the tech leader needs to nurture and scale the tech team by enlisting or hiring an ever-bigger number of engineers, developers, and other individuals. The role which the Cosmic nurturer i.e. Vishnu plays is quite similar to a CTO at the second stage of a startup. Both of them nurture the creations with their supreme powers of insights and management.
As the organization builds up its operations, it begins to manifest a need for necessary systems and processes in place. The Nurturer CTO, therefore, needs to make sure that development carries on like a well-oiled machine. Their critical focus is now on people and project management skills.
Role of Lord Mahesh
The third stage startup has matured with a large-scale team and operations. The CTO’s role now shifts to that of an Unlearner: all existing systems and processes that have served the organization so well in the past stage are no longer sufficient to carry it forward as the business strives to penetrate deeper into the market and has to fend off competition. Isn’t it very similar to the role of the third but the most important Hindu cosmology God Shiva or Mahesh? Mahesh who acts as a destroyer to destroy the old monotonous ways of the civilizations and then supports the ecosystem in creating a whole new set of rules in order to run this mighty universe.
Equivalent to the role of “Mahesh” in Hindu Cosmology, the CTO now needs to destroy and dismantle the old ways of working and inject new thinking and energy into the technology team. The person needs to hire senior-level managers who come with their own baggage and internalized processes from their previous organizations. The task now is to reorient and regroup the technology team and provide them with a new direction that addresses the new challenges the business is focusing.
Tech startups often lag behind in this competitive market because they struggle to successfully navigate the transition from the first stage to the second, or from second to the third. To a large extent, the responsibility for flawless transition rests on technology leadership. Tech Leadership acts as the strongest weapon for any tech-enabled startup or growing organization. In other words, the CTO with the right skills or lack thereof can make or break a startup’s milestone transitions from its birth to maturity. While the choice is clear for nascent and small startups; mature startups need to painstakingly assess the decision between having a visionary or a technocrat as their CTO. A mismatch could set the growth of business back by months, if not years – something that a startup can ill afford.