Founders Hiring “Professional” CEOs to Run Their Company

Reid Hoffman’s new essay If, Why, and How Founders Should Hire a “Professional” CEO is worth reading for any entrepreneur or any executive thinking about joining a high growth startup. It’s a very personal topic for Reid, and an important one for everyone in the industry to think about. The concluding paragraphs:

20 years ago, venture capitalists were in a hurry to bring in professional CEOs.  Today, many of the same VC firms are busy touting their support for long-term Founder-CEOs.  Both approaches can work, which means that as an entrepreneur, you should focus less on what’s fashionable, and more on what’s right for you.  This is a highly personal decision, and the right answer depends on you and your team—including your co-founders and your VCs.  You might be a Steve Jobs, or you might be a Pierre Omidyar.  As an investor, I’m willing to back you, even if you’re not sure which one you are yet.  In every investment we make, we hope that the Founder-CEO will be able to lead the company to success, but if not, and if you realize as I did that you want to bring in a professional CEO, we’ll work with you to find someone who is a true partner.

So as it turns out, Ben Horowitz was right.  You always do want a Founder-CEO.  But that person doesn’t always have to be the Founding CEO.  Being there at the start isn’t the only path to being a founder.  “Founder” is a state of mind, not a job description, and if done right, even CEOs who join after day 1 can become Founders.

4 Responses to Founders Hiring “Professional” CEOs to Run Their Company

  1. Part of what I do for a living is referred to as “professional CTO-ing” or building the sites that run the startup from an operational perspective. It’s also called reverse-incubating. (/plug) At any rate, we look for Founder-CEOs who have the most focused vision and have researched the needs of their market closely. More to the point of the blog post, the CEOs that we work with are almost never the people who created the idea initially. They were brought on because the founders have no idea what to do with it!

  2. It makes a lot of sense to me that these two roles—that of founder and that of CEO—would be separated. I have worked with both types, and the personalities do not always match at all. What I expect from most founders is to be creative types that are good at dealing with ideas. I think of the job of CEO as much less interesting, but just as crucial. I don’t think “idea people” are usually good at the complicated management tasks like budget planning, staffing, and choosing office space.

  3. As there are huge amounts of posts on the web, I considered yours intriguing and decently watched. That might zest things up.

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