The role of the CTO in a technology business

  • by Amando Abreu
  • on 28 May 2023

Warning: This is a highly opinionated article after 10+ years interacting with non-technical business owners in tech businesses.

Business owners, especially non-technical ones, seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what a CTO is.

The T stands for technology, not engineering. In a technology business where technology is a central part of the business, the CTO is a business role.

If you have a business that relies on technology but it’s not a central part of it, the CTO can be less businessy and more technical. For example: You have a business that sells shoes online. The technology is not a central part of the business, it’s just a tool to sell shoes. In this case, the CTO is more technical and less businessy.

How can a technologist make technology that serves the business if they are not businessy in nature? They can’t. And how can a business person make a business from technology if they don’t understand technology? They can’t!

If you understand business but not technology, you are missing key info. And on the other hand, if you only understand technology and not business, you are also missing info.

As a business owner, you need a head that has knowledge and experience with BOTH technology and business, and how they interact. Otherwise, you won’t understand your technical people, and they won’t understand you.

Many companies, when they put out a job ad for a CTO, the job description is actually that of a developer.

People in general misunderstand what a CTO is, but investors ask to see one and people erroneously think it means a developer -> someone who can code what we want them to code.

In a technology business, the CTO is a business role. Always has been, always will be.


In an early stage tech business, the CTO role is incredibly broad. As the organization grows the role gets less broad, when you start hiring VP of engineering, CDO, CIO, etc.

Sometimes you may just want the CTO seat to be warm to show investors. And that strategy might work. But to not have a proper CTO in place who has built products like yours many times before, and seen the consequences of early decisions, is a big mistake.

I offer fractional CTO services for businesses like yours. I can even work alongside your current CTO, and transfer key knowledge onto your existing team. If you have hard problems you want to tackle but feel your organization lacks the knowledge to tackle fully, get in touch! I guarantee to ask very hard questions that lead to solving hard problems.

About the author

Amando Abreu is a serial entrepreneur, Fractional CTO, and engineer who has been involved in several startups and launched dozens of products. He has worked with companies such as trivago, Portugal Telecom, and Vizrt. He has experience in several industries, most notably e-commerce, SaaS, media, travel, insurance, property development, and construction.
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