What partnership recommendations would you give startup CTOs?

3.8k views1 Upvote12 Comments

Chief Technology Officer in Services (non-Government), 2 - 10 employees
We were overcharged by the partner we chose, but there was no doubt about the quality of development work we received or the technical setup. Our servers were set up properly and we were on modern technology. We had proper scaling and everything was technically sound. We were just overcharged for it and as a startup, we don't have infinite cash. So you need to be careful who you trust. 

I've heard many stories of tech partners going rogue, where they exit a startup having left back doors open. Then, because of a dispute with shareholders, they hire people to exploit those back doors. There are also situations where development partners take the code and leave the sales and marketing partners with nothing. From a development point of view, a lot of people think, "Well, we wrote the code. We spent a lot of time and effort on it, so it is ours." And if your sales and marketing partners were adding nothing, then that might be justified. But in a lot of cases, nobody's going to use your product if they don't know about it, regardless of how good it is. And for people to know about it, you need sales and marketing. As much as I would love for tech to be magically discovered by customers, that doesn't work.

So my advice would be to think carefully about the partners you choose and think carefully about how they would behave when times get tough. Success papers over a lot of cracks but when the rain comes, the paper will be washed away and the cracks will let in water.
Senior Director Of Engineering in Services (non-Government), 51 - 200 employees
Do your due diligence when choosing prospective partners.  Someone who only competes on price might not be the best choice and could become even more costly in the end.  It is important to research and understand the model that partners use and ensure it aligns with how you intend to work as a startup.  How do they ensure you being able to take over long term support of what they implement is also a key question to ask so you aren't left holding the bag when they eventually are no longer on contract with you.
CTO in Healthcare and Biotech, 2 - 10 employees
Identify your strengths - how were you trained and who do you have on your team? What is in the critical path and would it be overcome by work, skill, or connections? Is it a temporary need or something that will be critical to future products and services as well? You could build a tree where the final answers to all of those questions either point to one of three options: hiring in talent or consultants, leveraging existing talent or investing in building internal skill, or approaching partners with a mutually beneficial proposal. If you do decide to approach a partner, make sure you know what you can do for them and why they should want to partner with you. 
Chief Technology Officer in Healthcare and Biotech, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
Consider carefully your tech stack because what you set in place at the beginning will be potentially what your future team praises ("thank goodness we started on this foundation") or curses ("why did we do it this way?"). Perhaps explore the partners who can give you solid expertise and advice based on a proven track record.

Also be sure to look for partnerships with the hyperscalers like AWS, GCP, Microsoft, Oracle ... what free credits can they give you, and importantly too, what relationships can they help you build? Check for their innovation labs, VC communities, etc. - free credits are good (great, even) but you can get far more. Don't be bashful in asking these cloud providers what they can do for you as a startup.

Also, look for products that can grow with you. For a simple example, say you're taking up a SaaS accounting package. Do you want one that's simple and cheap but tops out at a certain size business? What footing can you set where you're embracing partners and products that will scale with you, and enable your business instead of constraining it?

As one more, look for a great DevOps platform from the start. Automate, automate, automate as part of your DNA.
Chief Technology Officer in Software, 11 - 50 employees
Do your due diligence and define the ideal relationship your company is looking for before reaching out to prospects. By identifying the exact areas where you need strategic partnerships, only then can you pick the right fit. 

Consider technology expertise, cost, and the relationship model early on.
Chief Information Technology Officer in Finance (non-banking), 51 - 200 employees
Startup CTOs will always need the support of a trustworthy Software development team, find yourself the right team from the beginning to avoid headaches down the road! 
Senior Vice President, Engineering in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
Any startup struggles with hiring the right talent initially to give a jump start to their product. It's very important to do a partnership in the initial days with a diligent and proven track record development agency that can provide enough quality resources on time to get the development started. 

Apart from development partners, I believe partnering with cloud providers is another important area to look at, no product today can be successful without having a presence on one or the other cloud provider, the early you get in touch with the right choice the better it will be for a smooth launch later on.
VP of Engineering in Software, 11 - 50 employees
Due diligence is key. Listen to, but do not blindly trust, marketing and sales speeches. Test everything, involve in-house specialists, talk with former and actual customers of future partners and providers, work with your legal department for every NDA, licensing and contract you may be involved in. 
Director of Engineering in Services (non-Government), 2 - 10 employees
I would make sure that they question you hard on the objectives that you set to achieve. Prepare a high-level brief, not a very specific one. You no-doubt will have the detail, but a great way to gauge the potential partners' capabilities to 'walk in your shoes'. The level of empathy to you challenges you detect during these initial discussions are a strong leading indicator for future success. Also explore commercial constructs where their success in making you successful is financially beneficial to the partner. 
Vice President of Software Development in Finance (non-banking), 1,001 - 5,000 employees
The recommendation is to have partners engaged in the initiatives for sure. Depending on where in the trajectory the tech is, the need would be varying. We might need reasonably more in the initial stages and tapper down as things get stabilized or the team gets built or they have acquired the right skills. Also, this would be a factor on what is the varying part of the budget, it is better to lean on partners for this as we can always add/reduce as the budgets get evolved. 
The recommendation is, to look at the task in hand, how long, depth, and so on, basis that looking for someone who has been there and done that. If someone starts experimenting with you, then there would some level of uncertainties that you will be buying into, if that is fine and it is a factor or other variables (for ex cost, time to acquire people) you might be fine taking the risk.
In short, it is advisable to have a partner who can help bring in the missing capabilities, help with the expedition of the programs, and for sure when the budgets are varying.

Content you might like

Team lead19%

Project lead58%

Domain lead8%




CTO in Software, 201 - 500 employees
Without a doubt - Technical Debt! It's a ball and chain that creates an ever increasing drag on any organization, stifles innovation, and prevents transformation.
Read More Comments
46.4k views133 Upvotes324 Comments

Coaching and mentoring11%

Facilitating/scaling Agile45%

Removing impediments23%

Owning best practices11%

Leading Scrum meetings4%

Tracking progress2%

Sharing Agile knowledge across the org2%

I’m not sure2%

Something else not listed here0%



Director of IT in Education, 10,001+ employees
Learning, Pseudocode, Code completion, quick answers
Read More Comments
2.6k views2 Upvotes2 Comments