Untitled design (3)

The role of Chief Product Officer: what is it and do you need one?

Until the 2010s, the role of Chief Product Officer was practically unheard of. Since then, however, the role has been steadily growing into a mainstream discipline. 

Recent data suggests that around 30% of the Fortune 1000 companies now have a CPO. That’s up from 15% in 2022. And it’s not just large, established companies that are embracing and investing in Chief Product Officers, either. Practically all venture companies, particularly in Europe, are prioritising this as a key executive role. 

For example, we’ve recently helped to hire CPOs at Prodigy Finance, FreeNow, Sympa, Billwerk+, Lunar, Iziwork, and Microverse, among others. 

The maturity of product leadership and management is centered around big tech hubs – mainly in the US and Western Europe – and we’d say it’s still developing in many regions as a stand-alone function. However, with the rise of big digital organisations in the last decade, the role of Chief Product Officer has really taken off. 

So, what exactly is a Chief Product Officer (CPO) and do you need one for your company? In this article, we’ll walk you through: 

  1. Profile & responsibilities of a CPO 
  2. The three types of product leader 
  3. When to bring in a CPO 
  4. Should you consider a VP or Head instead? 
  5. What a CPO gets paid 

For most startups, the founder is the company’s first product leader. But as the company grows and gains traction, you'll want an experienced and focused hand to take the reins.

What is a Chief Product Officer? 

A Chief Product Officer is a high-level executive, responsible for overseeing and guiding the development and management of a company’s product portfolio. This is a key strategic position that plays a pivotal role in shaping a company’s product vision and ensuring that their products align with market needs. 

CPO Demographic breakdown 

According to our own research, there are around 10,000 people working in product leadership in Europe – roughly 700 of those have the active job title of Chief Product Officer. When it comes to gender diversity, there is a heavy male to female weighting with 77% of CPOs being male and 23% female. 

When looking into the academic backgrounds of CPOs in Europe, we found the most popular degrees for product leaders are Business Management, Computer Science, and Economics. The vast majority of CPOs have a master’s degree and held a tech-oriented role before moving into product leadership. 

Although the CPO role is gaining traction across all sectors of the tech industry, there are a few that particularly stand out. For example, the highest numbers of CPOs are working in SaaS, IT, Fintech, and Security and the average tenure of a CPO in any one role is roughly two years.  

Responsibilities of a CPO 

As with all roles, the exact responsibilities of a CPO vary depending on the industry, company, and market they’re working in. Here are the 7 most important ones: 

  1. Product strategy: The CPO defines the company’s overall product strategy. This involves identifying market opportunities, understanding customer needs, and aligning the product roadmap with the company’s goals. 
  2. Product development: The CPO leads the product development process, including conceptualization and design. 
  3. Product roadmap: The Chief Product Officer is responsible for creating and managing the product roadmap that outlines the timeline and prioritization of new features, enhancements, and products. 
  4. Market research: To understand customer needs and trends. Research informs the product strategy and helps companies stay on top of market changes. 
  5. Product launch: The CPO oversees the launch of new products or features and supports the sales and marketing functions to bring them to market. 
  6. Performance and risk management: As well as monitoring product performance (tracking adoption, customer satisfaction and revenue), the CPO handles identifying and mitigating risk. This includes competitive challenges and adapting to market changes. 
  7. Talent management: CPOs build and manage high-performing product teams – including hiring, mentoring, and retaining skilled product managers, designers, and engineers. 

The difference between a good CPO and a great one 

As well as the responsibilities outlined above, a skilled CPO can also successfully foster a culture of innovation within the company. They encourage creative thinking, support exploration of new technologies, and identify opportunities for disruptive product ideas. In addition, the great ones are expert collaborators – working cross-functionally with various departments – and excel when it comes to stakeholder communication and engagement. 

The three types of product leader 

In the world of product, there are three main types of leaders. They are: 

  1. Business-focused: A business-focused CPO grew their career in product roles. They generally have an early background in sales, customer development or management consulting and focus on business-specific metrics such as revenue, user acquisition, and product awareness.
  2. Design-focused: This is perhaps the least common career progression route into senior product leadership, but it does happen. These leaders are focused on user experience, user interfaces, and the broader user experience, usually coming from UX/UI and design backgrounds.
  3. Technical background: – Typically, these are leaders who started out in tech and moved over into product. Think of extroverted engineers who want to and can answer the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of product development in addition to ‘how’ we’re going to do it. Leaders with this type of background also open themselves up to combined CPTO (Chief Product and Tech Officers) roles.

When making a hire, you’ll want to think hard about the kind of product leader you need. Consider what you want this person to drive and be able to achieve in their role and what makes sense for your business in the long run. 

Unsure which type of CPO you need?

We can help you make the right choice. Get in touch with our expert product team for a free consultation.

When to hire a product leader and do they need to be a CPO? 

The short answer to this is, it depends. The size of your company, business strategy, how you want to build your team, and the stage you’re at all play a role. Developing a solid product team early on can make a big difference to your ability to execute on value. However, the hire you make must suit your growth plans. As a founder or CEO, you can assign whatever job titles you like. But here’s how we see it. 

For most startups and young scale-ups, the founder is the company’s first product leader. They’re the ones with the vision and knowledge, and product is usually one of the areas they’re most passionate about. As the company grows, however, the founder/CEO is going to get pulled in many different directions and will have increasingly less time to focus on product. Although they’ll still want to remain involved to some extent, they’ll have less capacity to execute. 

There are around 10,000 people working in product leadership in Europe – roughly 700 of those have the active job title of Chief Product Officer.

If this is the stage your company is at, you’re best off hiring a Head of Product or VP Product. You need someone who can take things off your plate and run the day-to-day product leadership work. As a CEO, if you’re still planning to be hands-on in developing the product strategy and vision yourself, and your product team will remain relatively small for the time being, you probably don’t need a CPO just yet.

Instead, look for a VP or Head of who can handle a small team and run product operation well. Usually, we see this hire coming on board after the first significant fundraise. 

You can’t take a title back…

Remember, you can also never take away a C-level title once you’ve given it out. So, when a company is young and growing, it’s a good idea to leave space at the top for you to hire a CPO later, when you really need one. 

Now, at a more established level, when you’re on a high growth trajectory and have more budget to play with, this is the time to bring in a CPO. This is the person who can do everything someone at VP or Head level can do but also bring in the big picture and set the product agenda for the entire company. 

They’re the person who can build you a product roadmap for the next 3 or 5 years and get you on track to being a leader in your field, rather than simply keeping your product development ticking over. As a founder or CEO, you want to bring on a CPO when you’re looking for a product leader who can lead bigger teams, including managers, and take the reins when it comes not just execution, but also vision, strategy, team, and culture for the entire product function, as well. 

Compensation: average salary of CPO in Europe

What a CPO gets paid depends on several factors. This includes company size, location, and sector, level of investment in the company, experience, and responsibilities of the role. 

To date, we’ve hired more than 20 product leaders across a wide variety of tech sectors in Europe. We’ve also conducted extensive compensation analysis and benchmarking using the Talent Intelligence platform Navis. 

What we’ve found is that compensation packages for CPOs are usually a mix of base salary, equity, and bonus. Typically, the package falls within the range of 160,000 to 240,000. But these ranges are not absolute. They can be higher or lower depending on the candidate and the company that’s hiring. 

Here are five examples of real (anonymized) compensation packages for CPOs from the last year: 

  1. CPO, France, B2C SaaS, €145k base + 30% bonus + equity 
  2. CPO, Germany, B2B SaaS, €170k base + 20% bonus + equity 
  3. CPO, Ireland, B2B Fintech, €200k base + €40k bonus + equity 
  4. CPO, UK, Fintech, €250k base + €75k bonus + equity 
  5. CPTO, The Netherlands, VC, €220k base + 50% bonus 

Thinking about hiring a product leader?

We can help you. We've hired great product leaders for tech companies all over Europe.

Building a successful career as a Chief Operating Officer

Chief Operating Officer

Sunny Pahal has spent years building a successful career in BD and Operations. In 2022, we connected Sunny with a Head of BD role at Vintage Cash Cow and she has since been promoted to Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the company. We caught up with her to speak about COO hiring, what founders should look for in a COO, and the right time to hire one. 

Sunny, tell us a bit about your career. How did you get into BD and Operations?

My career has mainly been in business development (BD). I see myself as someone who is responsible for helping companies to grow. It’s about looking at concepts or ideas or visions for an organisation and working out how to turn them into a reality. Then testing and iterating on those realities until you’ve got something that is helping your company achieve scalable and sustainable growth.

One of the things I’ve been able to do a lot of in my career is to diversify myself. Working in BD, you touch every area of a business. That doesn’t mean you have to be an expert in every area, but you do have to understand how businesses tick and build a solid foundation of business knowledge and a commercial mindset.

Be a business thinker. Be a strategic thinker. And remain very people focused. If you want to build a career in BD, and especially one where you move to a C-level position, you’re going to have a lot of people in your team and you need to be able to lead, inspire, and drive them forward in their work and in their careers, as well.

I read somewhere that being a Chief Operating Officer (COO) is like being the Swiss army knife of a business. And I do feel like that’s what my career so far has prepared me to be. I love to learn. I’ve always wanted to learn how to do different things and build my armory of skills. That’s one of the main things that I think has helped me most in my career so far, and will hopefully lead to more success in the future, too!

When do you think is the right time for a company to hire a COO?

When a business starts, there are different kinds of founders and entrepreneurs on board. The CEO is often a great visionary, and great visionaries need great integrators by their sides. That’s the role of the COO. They take the visions and opportunities of the CEO and make them a reality. They work out how to put them into practice.

The sooner you have somebody like that on board in the company, the better. Because they bring that balance between visionary and integration to life. It’s a combination that enables you to scale and move far more quickly than trying to single handily tackle all those elements yourself. Being the visionary and making every element a reality alone would be a tough ask for anyone.

Great visionaries need great integrators by their sides and that’s the role of the COO. They take the visions and opportunities of the CEO and work out how to put them into practice.

Let’s talk about the first few months in the role. What should a good Chief Operating Officer focus on?

My first priority was to understand what the business goals were for that quarter and what the business was aiming to achieve overall. Because that ultimately drives what you’re doing in the areas you’re responsible for. Then you can break that down per function or department.

At Vintage Cash Cow, I have a three-way spilt of responsibilities between Sales, Ops, and People – which I love.

First, I need to understand what the business is prioritising, then I can break down those goals and ask myself, what does that mean for the sectors I lead? What should my teams be targeting so we hit those company-wide goals? And do we have the right infrastructure in those departments to achieve that?

Then you need to work with your team and your managers to enable them to take ownership and start working on clear objectives that align with the business strategy. That’s the best place to start because you want to understand the business at a big picture level, but also still keep driving the business forward at the same time.

At the start, it’s important to get to grips with what the success metrics are at different levels and understand what is achievable and when. Can it happen with the resources and people we have, and if not, what needs to change to make it happen.

You mentioned you’re leading Ops, Sales, and People. How do you create balance between the three?

We have a very unique culture. I really think culture should be in every hiring process, because getting the right cultural alignment is key to bringing people together and getting them working well together.

Even if people work in different departments and roles, sharing the same values goes a long way to them integrating well. And also to understanding better how they integrate with one another and seeing the benefits they bring to each other.

It’s about clearly defining who is responsible for what and demonstrating how those pieces of the puzzle fit together. This really helps to facilitate a strong bond of teamwork.

When you're hiring a Chief Operating Officer, go for complementary skills, where you can enable, support, and learn from each other. Your business will move a lot faster that way.

In my role, yes there are three different departments that I lead under the Chief Operating Officer umbrella, but I really see them as a trilogy that comes together as a united group. That’s what it means to me to be a good leader, to bring the right people together and enable them to do more than they could on their own.

If a founder or CEO wants to hire a Chief Operating Officer, what should they look for in a person?

I’ve been fortunate to work with a range of different entrepreneurs and CEOs, and I think the first thing you have to do is make sure the person you’re hiring is aligned with you.

They should be on the same page as you and have the same values as you. This is critical. Because, ultimately, you want your Chief Operating Officer to get behind your vision for the company and help you turn it into a reality. For that to work, they need to be bought in to what you’re doing  100%.

Also, look at the balance between your skillsets. Look at your own strengths and be honest with yourself about what areas need to be reinforced. Then balance this with the skills of the person you’re hiring. You don’t want everybody chasing the same things. So go for complementary skills, where you can enable, support, and learn from each other. Your business will move a lot faster that way.

Did you enjoy this post?

Join our newsletter community to get more interviews like this delivered straight to your inbox once a month.

You might also like:

Flair cover image

Hiring a VP Engineering for Flair


VP Engineering.

< 1 month

to introduce candidates.

2 months

total time to hire.



“We had a great selection of profiles to do the first calibration, which helped us to actively think about who we really wanted to hire and exactly how the candidate profile should look.”

Timur Köklü, CMO Flair


SECTOR: B2B Software; HR Tech

STAGE: Start-up

Flair.hr is an early-stage B2B SaaS company in the HR-tech space. Founded in 2019, the company creates HR solutions for mid-size and enterprise clients with 60+ customers across Europe, USA, Canada, and Australia. Flair is headquartered in Munich, Germany, but the team of 40+ international FTEs works remotely across Europe, South Africa, Ghana, South Korea, Thailand, and Georgia.



Flair brought us on board when they decided they wanted to hire a VP of Engineering. This was a challenging hire for Flair because they are a “young, small but fast-growing company” and they already had a lot of developers on the team that this leader would be in charge of. The role was a “super high priority” and the team were determined to find a “great fit” here. Flair chose to work with us because of our proven track record in finding exceptional engineering leaders for early-stage startups, our extensive network of tech leaders, and our entrepreneurial mindset.


The Big Search worked closely with Flair to find their first VP Engineering. In 2 months we:

✓ Conducted thorough market mapping and analysis.

✓ Introduced a selection of relevant, pre-screened candidates.

✓ Supported our client and candidates through the interview process.

✓ Facilitated offer negotiations and closing.

✓ Delivered a reference report on the final candidate.


Within 2 months of partnering with us, Flair had their VP Engineering. Krzysztof Rutka is a skilled engineering leader with a proven track record of building, growing, and managing high-performing product engineering teams. Krzysztof has a wealth of experience from B2B and B2C companies, with particular expertise from SaaS-focused organisations. A perfect fit for Flair!


“The process was so smooth and fast. We had calculated 2 to 3 months for the search and we made the hire in exactly 2. The speed exceeded our expectations —  we were even a bit surprised that we were able to hire a great person for this role so quickly.”

Tim Köklü, CMO Flair


Ready to hire an engineering leader?

Let’s talk.


    How we helped Dexter Energy land a winning CTO


    years of experience.


    weeks to successfully close the search.

    €10 million

    in funding raised by Dexter Energy.



    “We are delighted to have partnered with The Big Search for our executive recruitment needs. Their professionalism, preparedness, and ability to provide top-notch profiles was exceptional. We highly recommend their services.”

    Luuk Veeken, CEO & Founder Dexter Energy


    SECTOR: Climate tech; AI

    STAGE: Scale-up

    Dexter Energy is an Amsterdam-based climate tech scale-up that offers forecasting and dispatching solutions based on AI and cloud-based technology. Founded in 2016, the company has raised over €12 million in funding. The latest round was a Series B in April 2023.



    Following a successful Series-A fundraise, Dexter Energy experienced a huge increase in demand and decided to expand their leadership team. The company was looking to hire a seasoned tech leader with strong data and machine-learning experience. The cultural element of this hire was crucial, too. Dexter wanted to connect with people who believed in their mission and were ready to “jump into the fire”. We were more than up for the challenge.


    The Big Search worked closely with CEO & Founder Luuk Veeken to find a CTO for Dexter Energy. In less than 2 months we:

    ✓ Conducted thorough market mapping and analysis.

    ✓ Delivered a shortlist of high-qualified, industry-relevant candidates.

    ✓ Provided strategic guidance to the leadership team.

    ✓ Implemented a robust recruitment process.

    ✓ Offered interview support and compensation benchmarking.


    In just 7 weeks of partnering with us, Dexter Energy had their CTO. Mehmet Sencer Karaday has 15+ years of tech experience and has previously held leadership roles at WeTravel, Meta, and Booking .com. In addition, he brought a strong entrepreneurial spirit and can-do attitude to the table that fit Dexter’s culture perfectly.


    Ready to hire your next leader?

    Let’s talk.


      How we helped Billwerk+ hire 2 top executives in 3 months


      CPO and CTO.

      <4 weeks

      to introduce both candidates.


      offer out 2 months after search kick-off and CTO after 3 months.


      SECTOR: Fintech; B2B software

      STAGE: Scale-up

      Billwerk+ is Europe’s leading specialist for subscription management, payment services, and billing solutions. Founded in 2015, Billwerk+ is trusted by over 2,000 leading companies and employs more than 150 people across five locations.



      After being acquired by the PE fund, PSG Equity, Billwerk+ wanted to bring seasoned product and tech leaders on board to help scale the organisation. They were looking for strategic executives who could build out and energize teams in a growing, product-led organisation. Billwerk+ chose to work with us because of our proven track record in hiring top product and tech leaders for the B2B SaaS sector, as well as our solid network of CTOs and CPOs in Europe.


      We worked closely with CEO Ricco Deutscher to hire Billwerk+’s first CPO and CTO. Our team kicked off the project by taking a deep dive into the company’s challenges and needs — to fully understand their growth plans, and the type of talent they should bring on board. During our partnership we:

      ✓ Delivered calibration profiles to align on the right kinds of people to look for.

      ✓ Thoroughly vetted potential candidates and provided a relevant, high-quality shortlist.

      ✓ Kept our client up to date with bi-weekly progress meetings.

      ✓ Introduced the candidates Billwerk+ would go on to hire in less than 4 weeks.

      ✓ Supported our client with the interview process, offer negotiations, and closing.


      Within 3 months of partnering with us, Billwerk+ had their new CPO and CTO.

      David McGuinness, CPO

      David McGuinness comes from a pure B2B SaaS background and has worked in PE-backed companies — as well as ones that have gone through acquisitions. David has been the first product hire into several companies, and knows what it takes to build successful teams and functions from the ground up.

      Martyn Arbon, CTO

      Martyn Arbon is an accomplished tech executive, with a successful track record of leading functions in high-growth B2C, B2B, and SaaS businesses. He has extensive CTO and CPO experience in a diverse range of industries including HRTech, FinTech, MarTech, Social, Digital, and eCommerce companies.

      Our time to extend an offer to David McGuiness was 2 months following project kick-off. For the CTO role, Billwerk+ made an offer to Martyn within 3 months of partnering with us.


      Ready to hire your next leader?

      Let’s talk.

        Untitled design (19)

        How to hire your first CFO: 6 top tips with examples

        As a startup founder, you may have reached a point in your business where you realize you need a Chief Financial Officer to help manage your finances and make strategic financial decisions. However, hiring a CFO for the first time can be a daunting task, especially if you don’t have experience in financial management.

        Often this role is the first hire for your leadership team. This person can set the tone for the management organization, and the culture of the whole company. Perhaps most importantly, your CFO will be your partner in difficult situations.

        This critical hire is essential to get right. Even though there are no perfect candidates, getting this one right will be the best way to pave the bumpy road of tech startup growth into a highway for scaling. Your CFO works with every department in your organization. They have the ability to instill employee trust in your company and to bring calm during times of turmoil. If they can keep their cool during difficult times, the organization will be able to overcome almost anything.

        Here are six tips to help you hire your first CFO:

        1. Define your most necessary needs

        Before you begin the hiring process, it’s essential to clearly define your needs and budget for this role. Consider what specific financial tasks and responsibilities you want the CFO to handle, such as financial reporting, budgeting, fundraising, and strategic planning.

        A great tactic to achieve this is to ask yourself: “If this person achieved these three challenges, that would be a critical success.”

        Once you know what the core of your CFO’s success would look like, it will be much easier to find the right person to thrive in this opportunity.

        It may feel obvious, but during this assessment phase, you need to determine how much you can afford to pay a CFO and what benefits you can offer. Having a clear understanding of your needs and budget will help you attract the right candidates and avoid overspending.

        Keep in mind that candidates aren’t only looking for compensation, but their whole daily experience with the company as well as future growth opportunities. Build the whole picture in your mind so you can confidently communicate what you offer to candidates.

        2. Look for experience and expertise

        When hiring a CFO, you want someone with experience and expertise in financial management, of course. Look for candidates who have worked in similar industries or companies, and who have a track record of success in managing finances, and achieving goals that you want to achieve with your business.

        Don’t forget to look for candidates with a strong understanding of financial technology – this is an underrated CFO skill that can really help you streamline your financial processes and keep your spend lean.

        One common mistake that is made when assessing past experience is only looking at metrics for financial statements.

        A CFO’s role is far more than the balance sheet. This person will work with almost everyone in your organization. So, what projects have they accomplished in the past that have enhanced the way the full team works? How do they assess the validity of a new tech stack from the marketing team? Do they ask critical questions, but still keep an open mind?

        These details will really help you identify which candidates will be looking after the health of the business, not just the financial statements.

        3. Consider cultural fit

        In addition to experience and expertise, it’s important to consider cultural fit when hiring a CFO. Your CFO will be working closely with your team and will need to have good communication skills, adaptability, and a collaborative mindset. Look for candidates who share your company’s values and vision, and who will be a good fit with your team’s culture.

        A great way to assess cultural fit during an interview process is to incorporate a casual element into the meetings.

        You can do this by offering to make them a coffee when they arrive, and see how comfortable you two are together while doing something that is not work-related. Or, invite them to have lunch with some people from different teams to understand how easy or difficult it is for them to be themselves.

        You’ll be spending a lot of time with this person and it’s important that everyone feels comfortable being around them as well.

        4. Conduct thorough interviews and assessments

        When you have a shortlist of candidates, conduct thorough interviews and assessments to gauge their skills, experience, and fit with your company.

        Ask them about their experience in financial management, their approach to financial strategy, and their experience working with startups. Use the STAR method when formulating interview questions. This gives candidates the ability to structure their responses in a full-lifecycle structure so you can see what problem they solved, how they solved it, and what the outcome was.

        It’s important to be prepared to critically review a candidate’s experience and personality. But perhaps even more important is to be prepared to present yourself and your business confidently. No finance professional wants to join a company that doesn’t have clear metrics or a clear vision. So, know your numbers, know your needs, and practice pitching your value before the meeting.

        Need help developing a short list? Get in touch with us today.

        5. Get input from advisors

        Get input from advisors or mentors who have experience in financial management or have hired CFOs before. They can provide valuable insights and feedback on your candidate selection and interview process. They may also be able to recommend candidates or connect you with resources for finding qualified candidates.

        The best way to do this is to reach out to your network and ask experts you trust for their opinion. Find your connections on LinkedIn who have successfully hired a CFO before what they wish they knew before they started the process.

        Additionally, ask other financial professionals what they look for when assessing a potential company to join.

        6. Recognize when you need to bring in the experts

        Getting this hire right is a key element of any growing technology organization. Like we mentioned earlier, there are no perfect unicorn candidates. But to root through the unknowns, it can be worth it to solicit the help of a recruiting agency.

        You’ll get a neutral and practical point of view from a partner who isn’t emotionally attached to the business.

        Handing this task off to the pros means more time to focus on the business while knowing we’ve got your back. That’s what we do. We take hiring executive roles seriously – we put ourselves in your shoes, and find the candidates that will be worth your time to talk to.

        Hiring your first CFO can be a critical step in your company’s growth, and these tips can help you find the right candidate for the job.

        Remember to define your needs and budget, look for experience and expertise, consider cultural fit, conduct thorough interviews and assessments, and get input from advisors.

        With the right CFO in place, you can focus on growing your business and achieving your financial goals.

        You might also like:


        Ready to hire your first CFO?

        Let’s talk.

          Untitled design (6)

          Hiring your first CTO: Essential steps for startup founders

          As a tech startup founder, you understand the critical role that technology plays in the success of your business. To stay ahead in today’s competitive landscape, it is essential to have a strong technology vision, strategy, and execution. This is where a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) comes in.

          A CTO is responsible for shaping your company’s technology roadmap, managing technical teams, and driving innovation. Hiring the right CTO is crucial for the long-term growth and success of your tech startup. In this article, we will explore why a CTO is important and provide seven essential tips to help you hire the right one.

          Why is a CTO Important?

          This role brings technical expertise, strategic thinking, and leadership to your startup. Here are some key reasons why taking this work off your plate and hiring an experienced CTO is essential for true growth.

          Technology strategy and vision

          A savvy tech leader will be able to define, execute, and own your product roadmap. They know how to prioritize feature requests based on the timelines allotted to deliver the best releases every time.

          An experienced CTO will align technology initiatives with business objectives, ensuring that your company remains innovative and competitive in the fast-paced tech industry.

          Technical leadership

          A CTO provides technical leadership, guiding your engineering and development teams to build robust and scalable solutions. They know how to make the most efficient use of your tech stack to keep developers agile without weighing them down in processes.

          Keeping an ear open and a critical eye on the roadmap, the right Chief Technology Officer will foster a culture of innovation, collaboration, and continuous improvement.

          Product development

          When you successfully make this hire, you gain a true partner who can drive efficient and effective product development cycles. They keep the team motivated, streamline processes, ensure quality control, and optimize development timelines.

          They are the human connection between the work product and the business goals… and they know how to manage both sides for the most efficient launches.

          Scalability and infrastructure

          A savvy CTO ensures your technical infrastructure can support the growth of your startup. They make informed decisions on technology stacks, architecture, and scalability, keeping your systems resilient and adaptable. They don’t only focus on new development but they prioritize cleaning up old tech debt and making sure they don’t create new code that might not scale in the future.

          It’s impossible to see every development opportunity’s impact on future roadmaps, but this person’s experience makes them uniquely capable of this task.

          Technology partnerships

          This might seem like something you won’t need until further in the future, but actually, tech partnerships can help you scale even faster than just relying on development teams.

          A great CTO hire will establish and nurture partnerships with technology vendors, investors, and other industry players. These collaborations can open doors to valuable resources, funding opportunities, and strategic alliances.

          Now, let’s dive into the six essential tips to help you hire the right Chief Technology Officer:

          Define your requirements and expectations

          Before initiating the hiring process, clearly define the specific skills, experience, and qualifications you expect from your CTO. Consider factors such as their expertise in relevant technologies, their leadership abilities, and their alignment with your company culture and vision.

          Most importantly, make sure they have their own ideas of what your Engineering teams need, and they don’t just follow what you say. You want to be challenged by someone with a different experience than you; that’s what makes you effective partners.

          Seek relevant (but not “perfect”) experience

          Look for candidates who have a proven track record in a similar industry or technology domain. A CTO with relevant experience will bring industry insights, a network of connections, and a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities specific to your startup.

          That said, don’t limit yourself just to candidates who have worked in your industry. An outside perspective can be wildly valuable and a smart hire can get up to speed quickly.

          "By far the best TA I’ve worked with throughout my career.”
          Niklas Sundbaum, CTO FirstVet
          Niklas Sundbaum
          CTO, FirstVet

          Assess technical expertise

          Conduct thorough technical assessments to evaluate candidates’ proficiency in the core technologies and frameworks your startup relies on. Consider using coding challenges, technical interviews, and reference checks to gauge their technical abilities. But don’t limit your view to their technical skills.

          A great CTO will lead other technical staff who will do most of the world. But excellent leadership starts with a deep knowledge of what their team is actually executing every day.

          Determine cultural fit

          A CTO must align with your startup’s values, mission, and work culture. Do you enjoy their sense of humor? Does it feel comfortable to chit-chat about your personal lives? This is something you’ll be doing every day and its essential that you trust and feel comfortable with your leadership team.

          Assess their ability to collaborate effectively with cross-functional teams, communicate complex technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders, and adapt to the fast-paced nature of a startup environment. 

          Leadership and management skills

          Evaluate candidates’ leadership and management capabilities by asking for their approach to specific people tasks.

          A strong CTO should be able to mentor and inspire technical teams, foster a culture of innovation, and drive results-oriented performance. Yes, it’s an engineering role, but they need to be able to navigate many different types of personalities and be a role model for the whole organization.

          Find a collaborative problem solver

          Look for a CTO who can work effectively with other stakeholders, including the CEO, co-founders, and investors. They need to respect employees of all levels and be able to gain the respect of everyone as well.

          Don’t be afraid to contact references and see how they collaborated with teams in the past. Their ability to align technical decisions with business goals, communicate effectively, and build strong relationships is vital for success.

          Hiring your first CTO can be a critical step in your company’s growth, and these tips can help you find the right candidate for the job.

          Not every CTO is perfect for every role, so personalizing each of these steps is a great way to find the right leader for your organization. With trust and the right expertise in place, you will be growing your product offering and impacting the bottom line in no time.

          Ready to hire a CTO?

          Our team will find you the right one. Get in touch with us to start meeting great candidates.

          You might also like:


          Ready to hire your first CTO?

          Let’s talk.

            Untitled design (5)

            Hire your first CMO: Why you need one and what to look for

            For startups looking to invest in high-growth environments, hiring the right Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is a critical decision. This role can significantly impact your growth and success with the experience, strategic vision, and leadership that can bring to a marketing team. An experienced marketing leader can help startups build brand awareness, drive customer acquisition, and achieve sustainable business growth.

            In this article, we will explore why hiring your first CMO is important and provide five essential tips to guide you through the hiring process.

            Why is it so important to hire a CMO?

            First, let’s discuss why hiring a marketing leader is important as you embark on your growth journey. We are all being marketed to every day and marketing is the avenue to awareness and eventually, loyal customers.

            It may feel like anyone can be a marketer, and in some ways, everyone in your organization contributes to the brand’s value. But a successful marketing program will truly thrive with someone at the helm who has been in the weeds of it all before. 

            Strategic Marketing Expertise

            Most importantly, a CMO can offer you years of hard-earned expertise. There are endless tactics in the marketing world, but a great marketing leader can see which will be more effective for your specific phase of business. Startups often operate in highly competitive markets, so making a well-crafted marketing strategy is crucial. A CMO brings strategic thinking and industry knowledge to develop effective marketing plans aligned with your business goals.

            Brand Development and Positioning

            A seasoned CMO will bring experience in research to develop effective brand positions and value propositions. Playing a pivotal role in shaping your startup’s brand identity and positioning it in the market, a great marketing leader will conduct qualitative and quantitative research to build a messaging strategy that will resonate with your audience.

            An experienced expert will know how to remove their own opinions from the process, develop truly compelling brand stories, establish brand guidelines, and ensure consistent messaging, fostering trust and differentiation.

            Market Insights and Customer Understanding

            Your business can’t grow without having a pulse on the customers’ problem and how you solve it. Shed light on what steps to take next with market insights and customer understanding.

            A CMO’s expertise helps identify target markets, understand customer needs, and analyze market trends. They conduct market research, monitor competitor activities, and translate insights into actionable strategies. This kind of work could even help shape a product roadmap!


            Revenue Growth and Customer Acquisition

            Who doesn’t want revenue growth and customer acquisition? Of course, this is something you want anyone in your revenue organization to achieve.

            A skilled CMO designs and executes marketing campaigns that drive customer acquisition, engagement, and revenue growth. They optimize marketing channels, leverage data-driven insights, and measure campaign performance to maximize ROI. And, they know how to track their campaigns’ performance and change details to optimize results.

            Team Leadership and Collaboration

            For a growing business, it’s absolutely essential to have a leader who fosters a healthy work environment. A CMO leads and inspires the marketing team, fostering a culture of creativity, innovation, and continuous improvement. They collaborate with other departments to align marketing initiatives with overall business objectives.

            A company that works together and wants to support each other’s goals is one that succeeds. The marketing team has to work with every team in the company. Years of developing that skill allow a CMO to really thrive in this aspect of their role. 

            Ok, I’m on board. What should I look for in my first marketing leader?


            Look for candidates with relevant experience in marketing, preferably in your industry or a similar one. Experience indicates that they have a solid understanding of marketing principles, strategies, and tactics. It also suggests that they have faced various marketing challenges and have learned from them.

            Strategic Thinking

            A marketing expert should possess strong strategic thinking skills. They should be able to analyze market trends, identify target audiences, and develop effective marketing strategies aligned with your business goals. Look for candidates who can demonstrate their ability to think critically and create innovative marketing plans.

            "I would recommend The Big Search because of the fast and collaborative partnership we had. We were introduced to a good mix of relevant candidates for our VP Engineering role and the process was so quick and smooth. We were even a bit surprised that we were able to hire a great person for this role so quickly!”
            Timur Köklü
            Timur Köklü
            CMO, Flair

            Digital Marketing Expertise

            In today’s digital age, it is crucial for a marketing expert to have a strong understanding of digital marketing channels and tactics. Look for candidates who have experience with varied backgrounds such as go-to-marketing planning, search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, email marketing, brand development, and paid advertising.

            Analytical Skills

            Marketing decisions should be data-driven. A strong marketing expert should be able to analyze marketing metrics, track campaign performance, and derive actionable insights from data. Look for candidates who are comfortable working with analytics tools and have the ability to interpret data to optimize marketing efforts.


            Marketing requires creative thinking to stand out and drive results. Developing unique and engaging campaigns that capture the attention of the target audience takes the instinct to try the right tactics – and the confidence to test what’s working.

            Look for candidates who have a track record of innovative marketing ideas and the ability to think outside the box.

            Excellent Communication Skills

            Marketing experts must effectively communicate their ideas, strategies, and messages to various stakeholders. Look for candidates who can articulate their thoughts clearly, both when speaking and when writing. They should be able to develop compelling marketing content and deliver presentations with confidence.

            Adaptability and Learning Mindset

            The marketing landscape is constantly evolving, especially with constant advancements in technology. Look for candidates who are adaptable and willing to embrace change. They should have a learning mindset and be open to acquiring new skills and knowledge to stay updated with industry trends.

            Team Player

            A CMO should be able to collaborate effectively with cross-functional teams, including sales, product development, and customer support. Look for candidates who can work well in a team environment, listen to other’s perspectives, and contribute to collective decision-making.


            Ultimately, a Chief Marketing Officer should be focused on achieving results, driving business growth, and growing an efficient team. Look for candidates who can demonstrate their ability to set and achieve measurable marketing goals, increase brand awareness, generate leads, and contribute to revenue – all while being an inspirational figure for your business.

            Hiring your first CMO can be a critical step in your company’s growth, and these tips can help you find the right candidate for the job.

            Remember that you’re hiring an expert who will bring in a fresh perspective on the market and make decisions with data. With trust and the right CMO in place, you will be adding incredible value to your business’s current goals as well as its future.

            Thinking of hiring a marketing leader?

            We'll make sure you get the right one. Get in touch with us for a free consultation with one of our executive search consultants.

            You might also like:


            Talent Acquisition: Definition, Strategies, and Best Practices

            People make or break companies. They are one of the greatest assets of any organisation.

            Having the right people on your team in the right roles is crucial for growth, innovation, and building a positive company culture.

            The challenges lie in defining the roles you need for your business to achieve its purpose, and then finding and attracting the right talent for those positions.

            Every organisation is different. You will have different people needs depending on the stage your company is at and where you want to get to. This is where talent acquisition plays a vital role.

            What is talent acquisition?

            Talent acquisition is the strategic process of finding the right people to join your team. It’s about analysing your long-term talent needs, and identifying, attracting, and retaining people who make your company better and help achieve your goals.

            The right hire will have the skills and experience to do well in their role. In addition, they’ll be motivated by your mission, have a mindset that matches your brand, and be a strong cultural fit in your team. Talent acquisition is the process that helps you find these people.

            As a function, talent acquisition can sit within the HR team, be its own team within an organisation, or come from external services. With talent acquisition, you are hiring with a long-term focus, rather than just plugging vacancies. Having a strong strategy to guide this process is important for:

            • Scoping and prioritising your hiring needs
            • Ensuring hiring aligns with your business strategy
            • Driving sustainable and scalable growth
            • Employer brand and onboarding – to set new hires up for success
            • Enriching people development and L&D practices
            • Improving employee retention
            • Compensation benchmarking
            • Improving diversity and inclusion

            Is it the same as recruitment?

            Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, so it’s easy to confuse the two. Traditionally, however, they are not the same. Recruitment is the practice of filling vacancies. Talent acquisition, meanwhile, is recruitment’s newer cousin that anchors that practice in strategy.

            Picture it like this: if recruitment were a plaster, then talent acquisition would be the whole first-aid kit.

            Recruitment is largely reactive and focuses on short-term headcount needs. It’s about getting bums on seats.

            Talent acquisition on the other hand, is proactive. It’s a long-term strategy that factors in a company’s mission, vision, and goals and acknowledges that people are key to achieving those.

            Recruiting is, of course, one part of it. However, it goes far beyond that. Talent acquisition is an ongoing process that assesses a company’s current and future talent needs and focuses on identifying, sourcing, and onboarding high-quality people for specific, well-thought-out roles within an organisation.

            Is talent acquisition the same as HR?

            Human resources is the department of a company that upholds the interests and needs of the people who work there. This involves supporting existing employees in areas such as training, compensation, employee satisfaction and wellbeing, and company culture.

            Talent acquisition focuses strategically on sourcing and hiring new talent. They take a long-term approach to finding the right people to meet the goals of an organisation, and are specialised in finding and attracting good candidates for specific roles.

            Talent acquisition can operate as an independent function or sit within a wider department of an organisation. That means that talent acquisition could sit within an HR department, alongside other functions, but it is not the same as HR.

            Is talent acquisition an internal or external function?

            That depends. The size of a company, the stage of growth it’s at, and the make-up of the team all play a role.

            Some companies choose to have internal talent teams, others decide to outsource, and yet others take a hybrid approach. It really depends on your needs and resources.

            If you don’t have an internal talent acquisition team, or you have a team that lacks capacity or tech hiring expertise, those are great reasons for considering bringing in external experts (like us!).

            What is the process?

            The process of talent acquisition will vary depending on your company and the industry you’re in. However, after identifying a hiring need, a strong talent acquisition process can generally be broken down into these 8 steps:

            1. Role kick-off

            This is where it all starts. You will want to align with your hiring manager to make sure everyone understands the purpose of the hire and the value they would bring to the organisation. Consider where the new hire will sit in the team, the expectations of the role, and any key traits that would make someone a good cultural fit.

            Also, remember to discuss practical aspects like hiring process, budget for the role, and next steps. Everyone involved in the hiring process should leave the meeting knowing what to expect.

            2. Calibration profiles to align

            Put together a list of 5-7 candidate profiles that the hiring manager can consider for the role and ask for feedback.

            Include a few different archetypes – profiles that are somewhat different to each other in terms of seniority, career journey, and background. This is critical to encourage honest and transparent feedback. It will help you understand what you need to focus on and what to avoid moving forward.

            3. Define a clear scorecard for the role

            Use the feedback from step 2 to define a clear scorecard for the role and get buy-in from the hiring manager.

            If you’re not familiar with it, a scorecard is a list of 3-5 criteria that encompass what it means for someone to be successful in the role you’re hiring for. It is the foundation of candidate assessment across the hiring process and ensures alignment.

            Always refer to the scorecard when giving or receiving feedback and be quick to revise it if the role or expectations are evolving. Quite often, especially working with early-stage start-ups and scale-ups, the scorecard will be reiterated a few times.

            Do not assume that hiring teams are always 100% set on what they are looking for. They also learn and align on what success looks like as they get more exposure to talent and the market.

            4. Set a clear search and candidate engagement strategy

            At this point, you are hopefully feeling comfortable with the ideal candidate profile. Now, you need to decide where to find relevant talent and how to engage with them. Be organized here and prioritize. Think of a dart board and the most ideal candidate is in the centre. As you move further away from the centre, you’re also moving away from your ideal candidate. Decide where your cut-off is.

            Next up, engagement. When you write a message and a subject line, think about your target audience. What are their patterns of behaviour and engagement on the market? What about reminders and their frequency? There is a fine balance between spamming candidates and being seen.

            5. Interviewing and assessing

            Whatever your interview style (ideally structured or semi-structured), consistency is key to ensure a fair interview process. Tailor the interview process around the scorecard so you focus your conversation on what matters. This method also allows for a more objective assessment and ultimately helps reduce unconscious bias.

            If you have several rounds of interviews in your process, be mindful of the bigger picture. Take a moment to zoom out and look at the entire hiring process. Ideally, every step will be meaningful and adds value rather than being repetitive. No candidate wants to have the same conversation over and over again. And neither does your team! Having repetitive interviews throughout a process is damaging for candidate experience and employer brand.

            This is where you can use your scorecard to help you. Ideally each hiring step and assessment zooms in on a few scorecard criteria. Not trying to cover everything at every stage will help you have more in-depth conversations and avoid meaningless repetition!

            6. Ongoing candidate and client management

            Talent acquisition managers are in a unique spot – bringing together qualified candidates with employers who are looking to hire. Speaking from experience, we can do some cool things and change people’s lives for the better.

            Aim to build genuine and honest relationships with your candidates, clients and hiring managers, and keep them in the loop. Afterall, candidates can become clients and the other way around. Show them the same respect you want others to show you.

            7. Support offers and hires

            Talent acquisition specialists are the main constant in the recruitment cycle of one individual. Candidates meet other people along the way, but this is usually the person they stay closest to. The rapport that develops during this time, puts talent agents in a good position to consult and support with offer creation – regardless of who is extending it. The aim is for both sides to be comfortable with the offer and excited for the opportunity.

            8. Onboarding

            Although talent agents don’t usually own the onboarding process, there needs to be tight collaboration between them and people teams (or the founders/leadership team where people teams are absent). This allows for a smooth welcome and onboarding that will set new hires up for long-term success.

            Make higher quality hires.

            Need help acquiring top talent for your team? You're in the right place.