Kudos to Martin Casado of a16z on great explanation of why startups need to hire a VP Engineering early, rather than waiting for the founders to be overwhelmed by the organizational challenges of scale.
The key insight here is that a VP of Engineering builds the process and the culture of a company's engineering org. How? The right VP will buffer the team from the daily fires within the business (ahem, the CEO), providing consistent leadership that will attract talent, retain talent, and deliver great product on time. Organizationally, the right VP also permits the CTO to pivot to evangelism, board interactions, and forward-looking tech planning that will keep the product advancing.
Highly suggest reading the whole article!
I believe all startups should hire a VP of engineering, and early — bringing them on before the problems begin, even if this may seem a bit too soon relative to total headcount. Many young startups believe they don’t need a VP of engineering because their engineering team is either sufficiently senior or perhaps too small. But it’s hard to overstate the importance of the role. A strong VP of engineering provides the backbone for an engineering function that withstands the pressure of the business, while also growing the org and without letting it collapse under the weight of an ad hoc process. Setting the right culture and the right process is something you want endemic to the organization, independent of size — and that’s exactly what hiring the right VP of engineering at the right time will do.