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.