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Does Your Start-up Really Need a CTO?

Vietnam’s Cititech argues not necessarily

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 04 May 2017


PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

If you have a start-up idea as a non-technical founder, the prevailing assumption is that you must look for a chief technology officer (CTO) to build the product. One must search high and low across the start-up ecosystem at events, meet-ups, and conferences to find the right person for the job.

Cititech, based out of Vietnam, is challenging this notion. Cititech is a third-party development firm that specializes in mobile and artificial intelligence, and they routinely work with start-ups and tech companies to develop their products.

CEO and co-founder of Cititech, Duong The Vinh, began as a tech entrepreneur himself.

“Basically, I sold my company Slife Media to C&K Holding (Korea) 3 years ago. One year after, I focused on mobile development and had my very first customer…ANTS (a company backed by FPT) by the time I founded Cititech Technologies,” he says.

As an outsourcing company, Cititech bills by the hour. Because they are a premium mobile development company, Duong says that their rate may be high for some. They are open to other forms of compensation, if a project intrigues them enough.

“Some projects we co-invest and co-create, so we take some equity in that start-up,” he says, adding later that they have a hospitality start-up built via this model that the company will announce soon.


The pros and cons of outsourcing

Duong says each project has its own interesting story. One project that makes him most proud is Womi—a mobile app that uses artificial intelligence to analyze vast quantities of data to enable its female users to take control of their reproductive health.

However, Duong admits that outsourced development may not work for everyone. He says the biggest challenge of collaboration between Cititech and their clients is communication, not just across languages (many of their clients are not Vietnamese), but across time zones.

“Luckily today we have a bunch of tools which can help us push development productivity like Trello, Slack, Zeplin,” he says.

So when should a start-up or small business avail of a third-party development firm like Cititech?

“I think it depends on your goal. If you have limited time and money to hire the best talent, you should partner with a third party firm like us,” he says.

He points out that many of the biggest names in tech have used outsourced development at some point. Slack, one of Silicon Valley’s biggest unicorns, availed of third-party software engineers in its earliest days, while Skype contracted out to a development team in Estonia. The list - Klout, AppSumo, Github, Basecamp - goes on.

Therein lies Duong’s biggest pitch for why businesses should consider outsourced development at all.

“You should focus on what are your most unfair advantages,” he says. “Because start-ups not only just build a product - you must get a ton of things done, such as business development, relationship building, marketing, human resources, legal…”

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