May 26, 2023

Nurturing Innovation: Hiring an Early Stage CTO for Invisible Foods

Georgia May

The Company

Invisible Foods is a fast-growing start-up developing an image recognition algorithm that connects fruit & veg wholesalers and importers with potential purchasers of surplus food to make food loss avoidable and a thing of the past.

Due to today’s strict retail demands, 350 billion EUR of fruit & veg food products that do not meet specific quality requirements are being thrown away. However, at least 50% of these products can be saved - and that’s precisely where Invisible Food fits in.

Invisible Foods’ goal was to hire a co-founder/CTO. In addition to having a solid technical foundation, this person had to be genuinely interested in reducing food loss, aligned with the team's culture, married with a leadership mindset, and geared towards future growth.

Why choose Acelr8 Executive?

As a young and growing startup, Invisible Foods needed more experience, means, and knowledge to attract and hire leaders. Following our first conversations with the team, it became evident that a solid, objective and non-biased hiring process was needed, along with support and guidance throughout the entire process to help them find their co-founder/CTO.

So, we followed four steps:

1. We understood their needs and analysed the business.

We created a structured meeting plan and conducted various stakeholder interviews, exploring its desired culture, mission & vision and role scope. Additionally, we plugged in our market insights and data collation.

2. We established a hiring process.

Our mission was not only to find the right person for the role but also to equip them with the tools to attract quality talent in the future. We started by defining the process stages, the stakeholders involved, and the estimated timeline. As this was the first hiring of a C-level executive, we built a topic-based process equipped with a question guide to support the hiring team in their assessments. We then ensured that each member of the hiring team understood their roles, responsibilities and impact in the hiring process.

3. We documented and organised.

In the nature of Executive Search, diligence is critical. Our information and documentation is kept incredibly organised by our research team. Neville Mchina, Invisible Foods CEO, said this:

The biggest advantage of working with Acelr8 Executive was that they were super organised. They already had a process outlined that was set. All we needed to do, was plug in all the pieces to organise the panel interviews. Another great advantage was time speed and urgency; I felt they were within our company and knew how much we needed to have someone.

4. We activated our network.

All Executive search professionals come with a network (or at least they should!). As specialists in technology leadership roles, we naturally have candidates on speed dial, before going to market (via LinkedIn) or other tools. We continually examine our curated talent pools and network first to make the most out of the connections that we’ve built.


After 29 days of working together and with three candidates in the final interview stage, we hired an excellent candidate for the role of Co-founder/CTO.

Let's dive into some of the results:

1. Foundations of the hiring process

Invisible Foods made one thing clear - they needed a sprint. What was crucial to reinforce, was the importance of the foundational set-up. Within this period, timelines are mapped out, interview preparation is created, stakeholder expectations are agreed upon, and insights are shared.

2. Team engagement

The benefits of establishing a high-touch engagement with Invisible Foods meant that our time-to-hire was exceptionally short (29 days). By adding regular feedback loops, married with a combination of synchronous & asynchronous communication, we were able to anticipate any possible challenges or roadblocks. Also, involving several team members gave everyone a sense of ownership and engagement and offered a forum for their opinions and thoughts to be heard in this crucial hiring process.

3. Candidate experience

As mediators between clients and candidates, we always focus on the candidate's experience. This is not only in our engagement with candidates but also in the direct feedback and guidance we give our clients to improve from its perspective. As an early-stage startup, this exceptional experience organically grows the client's employer branding.

4. Candidate Quality

With our deep foundational work and understanding of the industry, we were able to convert our small cohort of presented candidates into the final stages. These folk demonstrated not only exceptional technical capacity and innate leadership skills but also backgrounds in environmental/sustainability/agricultural topics. The targeted precision of our search allowed us to convert one of the finalists into a first-time offer acceptance.

“The previous hiring experiences were very off-the-cuff and not very organised. But with Acelr8 Executive, we learned about standardising the process, engaging everyone: the team, mentors, and investors, and having everyone on the same page, working together. I would absolutely recommend Acelr8 Executive to any other startup, I have many peers in this world, and they don't even know where to begin. Acelr8 would sort it all out for you.” - Neville Mchina, CEO of Invisible Foods.

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