What’s the difference between a CTO and a CIO, and why do technology startups and scaleups typically talk about CTOs and not CIOs?

A technology business is one where the primary method of interacting with the customer is digital in nature. This almost always means the business is producing a piece of software, and the value is delivered to the customer through the software.

e.g. you might be a selling an app to support people who have ADHD into the NHS, or you might be selling some software to report snags when housebuilding into the construction industry.

Regardless of the size of business, a CTO is chiefly responsible for producing the digital products that face the customer (or suppliers, partners), whereas a CIO is chiefly responsible for building the “information systems” that a business requires in order to operate.

A CIO for example might deploy a new CRM system, or be responsible for building new dashboards that help the business surface and analyse performance against whatever KPIs the business sets.

The way I look at it is it that it’s the CTO’s job to click their fingers and “magic up” whatever product the business needs in order to get the value out to the customers. But part of why I put it that way might be so I have a legitimate reason to pop a picture of the late Paul Daniels on the screen. Now that’s tragic.