I have been the lead developer of a startup (and I was promised the CTO position) for over six months. There are 6 people in it including me (another developer, the CFO, the COO, and two marketing guys). The mindset of the company is benevolent (the CEO wants it to be "a big family").

As the pressure increases (we missed three releases in a row), the CFO and the CTO try more and more the get everything back under control. However during our global calls, when we discuss new potential features it often goes like this:

  • Anyone: I have this idea
  • CEO: that's cool, is it hard to do?
  • Me: Not hard, but it'll take a bit of time, I have to adapt the architecture
  • CEO: C'mon, you messed up, you should have put the data here to begin with
  • Me: We did not have the need, I try to focus on the core of the product

I can understand that the missed deadlines can lead to a control envy, but how can I politely say that it look likes distrust, and that it is unpleasant?

  • It sounds like you're working for a bunch of 18-year-olds. You better get some software development experience somewhere else first. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 25 at 22:41
  • In my opinion, the only way Stephen's excellent comment could be improved would be if the age was more like "13" year olds. – Fattie Feb 25 at 23:48
  • How much professional experience do you have? – dan.m was user2321368 Feb 26 at 1:09
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    @PeteW Sure, the issue is not that the objectives changes. My issue is that: since he finds my estimations too high, he criticizes my previous work, with no real justification, while being relevant. It is quite hard to lead a project if your technical decisions are arbitrarily questioned on a regular basis. – GlinesMome Feb 26 at 6:58
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    The CEO wanting it to be a 'big family' is often a red flag, and not a sign of benevolence. – jcm Feb 26 at 11:15

This looks like bad planning from all concerned (and a very top heavy organisation), you should start capturing any information you may need in the future, not make it up as you go. If it's happening multiple times then that's a problem.

Let them know that when things are not in the original design specifications then they will cause delays. If they can't understand that basic point then you need to look for other options. You're the tech, you have a lot of leverage. But repeatedly missing deadlines is not a good look so don't expect people to respect your competence if you're not producing results. From their viewpoint it's frustrating at best.

You need to get the workload to where you hit the deadlines and fulfill requirements. That's a huge part of being a CTO.


The mindset of the company is benevolent (the CEO want it to be "a big family")

Unfortunately, I would just walk away from such an environment.

Startups are a dime a dozen. The one, and only, reason to work for one is that you're rolling the dice that it will "hit! big!" and your options will be worth something. If you think about it, interestingly if today you change from "startup A" to "startup B" ............. there's actually no change at all in your slim odds that you'll get a cheque for $320,000 (less half in tax of course) 13 years from now. Just think about it: you're holding a lottery ticket, which is fine. The draw is on Saturday. For some reason, you swap your ticket for another, the draw's still on Saturday and the prizes are unchanged.

No difference.

No need to work for clowns.

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