But, somewhere around 20 people you should have some excess time and money and choosing what not to do becomes just as important as what to do. Let's not do this manually, let's not build this in house, let's not piss off our customers, let's not stagnate, etc. At scale the minefield grows exponentially and it's not getting stuff done that's the core problem it's getting the right things done while not wasting resources.
Remember hiring people is easy, having them be a net gain is the hard part.
The CEO at my previous employer successfully took 3 companies to exit, each at around the 300 mark. Terrific starter and operator capable of making really tough calls (like saying no to ominous AAPL supplier terms despite the obvious upsides), but quite bad at delegating.
Still wondering many years later if there are any predictors for someone who can make this transition.
Who does what?
What happens when we disagree?
What are the ground rules for revisiting a decision?
Do we understand one another's approach to time management, prioritizing, delivery targets, conflict resolution, etc.
Members of the early-stage leadership team aren't clones. There will be differences. Can we calibrate smoothly, or will we forever need to "talk it out"? When there's a lot of churn in the founding team, usually it's because one of these four issues isn't being handled well. In severe cases, cycling new people into the job just starts the fail loop afresh -- no matter how amazing each new candidate might be.
I have just one criticism: I think the headline under-sells the rest of the essay. I see this more as the YC guide to growing your startup beyond phase one.
Easier said than done.
I slightly disagree here, I would rather start with the Second Job or Phase 2, 'Hiring a Leadership Team and Making Sure They Work Well Together'. The more you focus on finding and setting up the best team early on the better. You can do yourself a prototype, write code or do market research to see if you are on the right track. However, I recommend to setup the founding or leadership team before anything else. Once you have the team in place the project gets momentum and pace will be 100x compared to before. And finding the team plus setting up all legal matters will be a full-time job your first weeks if not months.
(Source: once worked at a startup with a CEO, 3 VPs, a Chief Architect, 5 engineers, and 6 high-school kids. Yeah, they didn't ship.)
If you and your co-founders are not capable of being the sole executives in your (early-stage) startup, you should seriously reconsider your team.
Once in later funding stages (A, B) you have much better financial power and thus, you'll update or upgrade your senior management team anyway.
How realistic is it to bet your company on people working for equity? In its early days most rational people will not join a startup for equity alone. A few will join for cash and comp; for most,cash alone is good enough.
Not so in Silicon Valley I suppose.
The main factor I see for CEOs in a startup is
Time horizon. If you want to be around for thirty
Years, have fun, and incidentally build a useful
Product - you will do things differently.
The Steve Jobs/ Sun Tzu type of anecdote is the best.
If you spend 50 percent of your time on strategy or
Thinking, it is for the best.
A final point is that keeping a good attitude is
Important, not just for you but also for your team.
This is often underestimated.
I would have preferred if the article used some other measures to indicate the state changes (profit, net promoter whatever) or at least discussed this a bit more.
That being said it's a pretty good article. I think it makes the product/market fit -> company building shift pretty clear.
Their new site feels tacky and generic kinda like this blog post. Taken together with less news on larger batches of startups in recent years, it feels symptomatic of a slow dilution/degration of the YC brand.
Despite its warts and un-sexy image, WordPress just works for most people's needs when it comes to a simple blog, has a wide range of plugins that solve most anything someone would need from a CMS, can be truly customized, and allows them to move on and spend time on more important things.
We wanted to make it easier for people to find posts. WordPress gave us more control with templates and plugins.
Totally agreed that we have work to do re: design. Will be pushing more updates in the next few days.
I have some feedback as well, Firefox tells me the following: "Connection is not secure. Parts of this page are not secure (such as images)"
I would say that the first job of a CEO is building the company, the second job is building the product. If I have time after all of my other priorities were done, then I would help with the product (as in commit code, create or collab on a design or product workflow, etc.). The title CEO isn't just a random arrangement of letters: sure, it's fine to be part of the product in the beginning when there's only a couple or few people, but once it moves beyond that (and not at the 20 person level like this post says) the CEO should really trust that the CTO and the product team can do their job while the CEO handles all the other non-product aspects.
The problem with this is you don't really have a company until you have a product to sell. And not all products can support companies. The roles in the company have to orient around the product. Product has to come first.
The mentality that important decisions within a new company boil down to which friend gets which corresponding C-level title is just trivial to me. You don't have a product and you're wasting time on the unimportant things. Literally, your startup needs a CEO to guide the ship and a team who can help build the product. Not a CEO, a COO, CTO, CMO, a Director of Engineering, a SVP of Marketing, and who knows what other fancy titles you can come up with.
Product is king. Without a product, you don't have customers nor revenue.
I think the title is catchy, but not in tune with the message of the article. The article would be more accurately titled "The role of the CEO in the first three stages of a company's lifecycle".
If the board wants to expand, the CEO works to expand. But increasingly boards fear rampant expansion. Some aren't looking to cash out via an IPO or buyout. That path is becoming exceedingly difficult. Some want to see profit much earlier. I know one startup with TWO customers, big customers, that is totally focused on them and isn't seeking to grow. That board places customer focus above anything else and instructs their CEO accordingly. He isn't happy. His dreams of rampant expansion and market dominance have been quashed, but he is still doing his job as CEO.