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Should the Computer Science Guy Be CEO? 150

Posted by Cliff
from the right-leadership-qualities dept.
compuguy84 asks: "I'm a Computer Science major. A Finance Major friend and I are starting a business based on an innovative idea I had. I came up with the concept and developed the overall model we would use. He loved it, and we've been working on our business plan ever since. We've both donated our respective expertise, covered major ground, and agreed from the start that everything will be split 50-50 (ownership, power, etc). Unfortunately, the time has come to incorporate, and potential investors have advised against assigning Co-CEO's. So who should be the CEO? Should the Finance Major get the job based solely on his Business knowledge, or should the Computer Science guy get the job because it was his idea? We've both have shown ourselves to be savvy business folks, but I don't have the 'schoolin'. All signs so far point to giving him the job, but I can't shake the feeling I'm getting robbed. If it was my idea, shouldn't I call the shots at the end of the day? Has anyone been through this? What did you do?"
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Should the Computer Science Guy Be CEO?

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  • by SeanTobin (138474) * <byrdhuntr@hotmai3.1415926l.com minus pi> on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @07:43PM (#15071968)
    Seriously, if this is anything big enough to where you have investors, let your friend be the CEO. Go ahead and take on the role of CTO or whatever 3-initial title you find appropriate.

    You're going to have enough on your hands just making sure that your idea gets implemented correctly. Let someone else handle the issues of licensing, stocks, quarterly filings and investor reports. Do what you each do best. Don't let your friend muck with the servers, and don't you go stepping in the books.

    That doesn't mean that you should give him free reign or that he is more valuable. Make sure that if you agreed to split 50/50 in the beginning, that you are still split 50/50 as far as profitability and ownership goes. Just make sure that you're clear that if there is a technical issue to be resolved, you are the final word. Also make sure that you understand that a Finance Major should have the final word on financial matters.

    As far as splitting "ownership, power, etc" don't bother. Again, let each of you do what he/she does best. Let your friend have all the "power" on the corporate side of things, and you have all the "power" on the technical implementation side of things. Leverage your strengths and don't let jealousy get in the way of bringing something to life.

    And remember - keep him away from the damn servers!
    • So make him CFO.

      If you won't be comfortable with the other guy calling the shots, then don't let him call the shots. How the hell should we know if this guy will be better at directing the company than you? Either one of you could be pushy idiots and we'd have no way of knowing.

      Don't put an idiot in charge of your company, if that's what you're asking.
    • by ePhil_One (634771) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @08:27PM (#15072219) Journal
      You're going to have enough on your hands just making sure that your idea gets implemented correctly. Let someone else handle the issues of licensing, stocks, quarterly filings and investor reports. Do what you each do best. Nonsense. This was his idea, he needs to be the CEO because he has had the strategic vision to see the viability of the product. Make the other guy CFO and have him deal with the Financial matters you mention like a CFO should. A company needs a CEO and a CFO, the CEO will not have time to do the job of the CFO too. Mind you, the CEO will also not have time to do the work of a CTO, and pretty soon he's going to have to throw off that part of his job.
      • by TopShelf (92521) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @09:47PM (#15072624) Homepage Journal
        Really, this all depends on the stage that the company is in. If (as it appears) that this is in the very early days and the task at hand is to take this great idea and bring it to market, then the "idea guy" (in this cash the techie) is probably the better choice. Once the flame is lit, the business grows and it's time to start focusing on day-to-day profitability, the stronger the case becomes for a "business guy" to take over, much like what's happened with Google. The two founders are still hugely important figures, but they brought in a true pro to run the operation.
      • So why not make the finance guy the CFO, make the techie the CTO, and they hire someone to be the CEO.
        The CEO is answerable to the shareholders - ie the submitter of this question and his friend.
        • Yes.

          The CEO is answerable to the shareholders.

          But this comment, and several similar comments, make the mistake of asserting that the CEO answers to our hero and his friend.

          The CEO should answer to those investors our hero is so interested in acquiring. And, in theory at least, if our hero and his friend take key positions on the Board of directors, they are supposed to answer to the shareholder, their investors.

          If our hero and his friend make decisions the investors aren't happy with, the investor

          • Ted Nelson tells the story of a friend of his, who founded a company, and wanted to avoid those boring meetings. At one meeting his investors decided to issue a second round of stock. He no longer controlled 51% of the stock, and those investors took control.

            Add a non-dilution clause and you can keep your 51%, but you should still go to those meetings.

      • You're right about the CFO part, but wrong about the CTO part. Once you bring VCs in the company isn't just your baby anymore. Nothing sucks more than getting canned from your own company. Make the finance friend the CFO, make the CS guy the CTO, and hire a different guy neither of you know to be CEO. That way, you control the technical and financial parts of the company, you get the contacts of a guy who has (hopefully) been a CEO before, and you have somebody to blame if things don't go right.

        It doesn't m
        • It doesn't matter who's idea something is. That has nothing to do with the CEO's function. Also, you don't even need a CEO right away...

          The investors want 1 person to be in charge. This avoids a stalemate whenever the two founders disagree, though it doesn't get around the fact that in the end they'll need to listen to the investors. Its just that in general the investors can only be involved occasionally, and they can't waste their time resolving every difference of opionion these two have.

          And they want

          • Oh, and I do think the person with the vision is definately the better person for CEO. He's going to have to go in front of customers and sell them on his vision, he's going to set the direction of the company

            I agree with that.

            But call him the 'Acting CEO' or something. That way you show you have the intention of hiring a real CEO at some point and you can avoid some of the hard feelings.
    • Just make sure that you're clear that if there is a technical issue to be resolved, you are the final word. Also make sure that you understand that a Finance Major should have the final word on financial matters.

      What isn't a financial matter though?

      "We should get solution X and not solution Y". "Sorry, but X costs more than Y."

      "We should spend more time getting Z right before it gets released." "Sorry but that'll mean extra costs and less revenue."

      The reverse applies as well of course - in a tech company

    • Your aproach sounds good. However I think something should be done to ensure the CEOs interest follows the line of thought that the company was founded with. This might be somethign as simple as limiting the scope of control the CEO would effectivly have without advice and maybe consent from you. It would be impossible to expect that every decision be floated first but maybe the ones costing large sums of money like switching supliers to get one thing cheaper but other things will cost more or taking loans
    • I agree that there's enough for you to worry about without having to manage the company as the CEO. However, instead of letting your partner be the CEO, I have another suggestion:
      Hire an experienced manager to be your CEO. You be the CIO, he can be the CFO, and together you can be co-chairs of the board of directors (in which case your newly acquired CEO reports to you).

      Running a business successfully takes some knowledge, some experience, and some luck. I think you'd do yourself a favor by bringing in s
  • by LunaticTippy (872397) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @07:44PM (#15071984)
    I wouldn't want to deal with the bs that a CEO has to deal with. Meetings, dressing the part, pandering to investors, etc.

    If you allocate ownership equally he won't have more power than you do. Plus, you can use your tech skills to gather incriminating evidence you can use to blackmail him to your way of doing things.

  • You (Score:3, Interesting)

    by invisik (227250) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @07:45PM (#15071986) Homepage
    I think you should become the CEO as they seem to be closer to the ideas and workings of the company (the "visionary"), whereas the Financial types hammer the books and tell you how much you can spend on your ideas (not as irreplacable as you are). There's no reason salaries and perks can't be similar. Finally, it often doesn't matter what the title is, as long as things are working out. But I still think it should be you.

    -m
  • by linuxbaby (124641) * on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @07:45PM (#15071987)
    Tell the potential investors that this really is 50/50, and refuse to compromise on that. It would be a fatal mistake.

    In business, you'll ALWAYS have well-meaning people suggesting you go directions you don't want to. Push back. Show some backbone. Don't let others dictate your future. This is YOUR company, ONLY YOU decide how it's going to go. (In this case "you" plural : the both of you.)

    ESPECIALLY at this early stage, you need to get VERY used to saying "no" to others' suggestions.

    P.S. I'm "president and programmer" of my 60-person company. Yes, a computer guy can make a good CEO.
    • by BewireNomali (618969) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @08:07PM (#15072120)
      from personal experience, VC guys shy away from 50/50 situations for two reasons: 1) that results in stalemate... it conceptually ends in deadlock should principals disagree; and 2) it suggests that the participants in hand are less than honest about their respective contributions to the relationship, which means there could be trouble ahead.

      I started my (independent pharm research) firm and took Chief Analytics Officer. My CEO is a finance guy who worked at a pharm for ten years. It was shaky, but I got three guys who had significant pharm experience and let them run the company and I was responsible for overseeing data collection and analysis.

      Finance guys speak the same language. Let them deal with each other.

      From personal experience, finance and management guys deal in broad strokes. Engineers and science guys are by nature pointillists, driven and consumed by meticulous detail. By very nature, these two types are diametrically opposed. Nothing good comes of the science guy pretending to be a manager (although it would be easier for a science guy to pretend at managing than the converse).

      Also, nothing infuriated me more than having to sit through insufferably boring finance meetings. I longed to be in the lab, where I knew what the fuck was going on, what made sense... it was my domain.

      I'd suggest that you consult with other VC guys and get the sense of what they say, but my personal opinion, from observation and experience, is that there is a very good reason for the disparate disciplines. Don't underestimate the value of a strong finance person with good market vision and what sounds like foresight (to get involved with your idea and invest time and energy and effort into it). In order for it to be the best it can be, refine your concept, and let him troll for cash.

      • Are you that guy that I keep seeing featured in Forbes and Fortune and the like who started his own pharmaceutical company? Your story seems awfully familiar to me from what I've read in those mainstream magazines. In any case, I applaud your foresight to know what makes you tick, and how best to use your talents to make a company grow.

        I'm torn on this Ask Slashdot because I can see it from both sides. Personally, I think I would make a good CIO or CTO or maybe an executive level IT Project Manager, but

      • Also, nothing infuriated me more than having to sit through insufferably boring finance meetings.

        I'm giving up mod points to reply here, but you're the first person I've seen mention the question of boredom.

        Business people do the boring stuff: Schedule, organize, alphabetize, prioritize, distribute, beg, plead, cajole, backslap, laugh at stupid jokes, kiss ass - in general all the crap you have to do to make the trains run on time.

        Did I mention paperwork? Federal income tax. Federal FICA & Medica

      • I tend to agree, but the really important usually isn't what the answer is but why the answer is what it is. I assume the VC are saying "we will only budget one execution for your company, so you can't have two heads to roll", and from what I've seen lately have disposable CEO is pretty fashonable so not making an asset person the sacrificial lamb makes sense.
    • What does it matter? If he's talking to VCs, he's fucked anyhow.
  • The best companies are the ones where the founders realize early when to get the right people into those jobs. Just make sure you two split 50-50 the stock. And, make sure to use a lawyer to set everything up (incorpating, division of stock, etc.).

    You could be COO/CTO, he could be CEO/CFO.

    Have fun!
    • I'd suggest reverse: CTO/CEO and CFO/COO.

      Why? Because CEO / CTO deals with vision, direction, relationships, etc.

      COO deals with day to day operations, financial issues, HR, etc.

      Once the company gets going, you split both again. You may hire a good CEO for vision / partnerships or you may hire a really good technical person to be the CTO. Depends on where the skill sets fit the best.

      On the other COO/CFO side, you get an anal finance guy as the CFO and a really good MBA type for COO. A COO has to be a really
  • Don't corporate structures have it so that there are different positions at the same level? Like, if he's CEO, then you're "President" or "Chairman of the Board" or something?
  • Business strategy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by denissmith (31123) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @07:48PM (#15072013)
    The business strategy is not strictly finance or product, and the proper person for the CEO position is the one that best understands and represents the strategy - marketing, client relations, team leadership, growth areas. Just knowing who was trained for what is not going to answer this question. Who can inspire a team of coders on rewrite? Who can bring opposing views together and get the best out of everyone? You need to rethink the position in light of what the challenges to the business are, not what specialty the parties studied. That said, finance guys are not always the best choice for start-ups.
  • Stop quarreling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by linuxwrangler (582055) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @07:49PM (#15072015)
    Don't waste your time thinking about whether or not you are being robbed by your business partner and more time thinking about whether or not you are being robbed by your investors.
  • If your friend has been working on the business plans and can serve as a "face" for the company, then he should be the CEO, if only for those reasons. He should probably also be the CFO, although most finance students out of college don't have any practical knowledge to speak of. Since you're clearly the nuts and bolts guy, you should be the Chief Operating Officer, or COO. When I interview clients to evaluate their companies, I ask the CEO or CFO about the financial questions and the COO about the opera
  • If you have to ask then you do not need to be CEO find some else. I also have my own software company and I have some one else be the CEO I am the chairman of the board so I have the last say if I feel like it but rarely use it. Do what you do best let some else do the rest.
  • by rossifer (581396) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @07:51PM (#15072035) Journal
    To start this off: no matter what, you're both "Founder".

    The job of the CEO of a startup is public relations. Whoever is better at this job should be CEO. In either case, you're the CTO and he's the CFO. Whoever isn't the CEO can also be the COO if you both want two titles.

    If he's got better people skills, then he's the CEO and CFO while you're the COO and CTO. If it's you, then you're the CEO and CTO while he's the COO and the CFO.

    To say it another way, there's a school of thought that you need to have some coverage of the three human archetypes (Maven, Connector, Evangelist/Salesperson). Whoever is the strongest evangelist/salesperson gets the CEO title.

    Regards,
    Ross
    • Second place I've noticed it this blatantly, and still just as wrong.

      The CEO is in charge of the company. That doesn't mean he does PR.

      When your company is run by PR, that way lies even more lunacy than when your company is run purely by tech, or purely by business.

      The CEO needs to be a generalist who knows how to delegate, has common sense, and knows how to make the right choice.
      • There's an important difference between what you think I said and what I actually said. I do not, under any circumstances, recommend that the PR department run the company; but as an early stage startup (fewer than five people), the CEO's job is primarily PR.

        Obviously the CEO also has other responsibilities, including eventually leading the strategy and culture of the company, but when it's just you and the other guy, the thing that distinguishes the CEO from the other job is that the CEO is going to be t
  • Depends... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow.wrought@g ... m minus language> on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @07:51PM (#15072041) Homepage Journal
    Do you want fortune or glory? If you want the company to be successful than having a business major at the helm is going to sit better with investors and will likely help you gather better employees, too. Once you're talking about investors though, your idea no longer really matters because they will own it. So, as long as all you're doing is managing you idea, let your buddy be CEO and do what you do best- create killer apps. To put it bluntly, don't let your ego blow the chance for success because you feel the need to have CEO in front of your naame.

    My $.02

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @07:52PM (#15072042)
    I know lots of CS people who are Ferengi, and I know lots of finance people who are numbers geeks. The person who has more business sense - capitalism, sales, greed, and also management skills - should be CEO.

    DO NOT do anything 50-50 in your company. 50-50 is the road to misery. At the end of the day, one of you is going to have to be the one with the final authority, and the final accountability. Make somebody 51 and somebody 49. If you disagree, Mr. 51 makes the call, and gets the blame. In a 50-50 environment there is uncertainty about who makes the decision, and uncertainty about who is held responsible. This is not the way to run a business.
    • by theobscurest (613689) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @09:14PM (#15072467)
      I'm not sure why this was modded down, but I have to agree with this. I founded and own a business with a partner and we were advised to do exactly this 51/49 split. Although my business partner is one of my best friends, we have covered ourselves well through our operating agreement, in the event anything bad ever happens. Also, if the two top people (who are at the same level in our case and presumably in your case as well) cannot agree on something, decisions can still be made by the person holding 51%. In our case, it made additional sense to do it this way, since if I, as a woman, hold 51% or greater ownership in the business, it is legally a woman-owned business, which may be some advantage for us in the business world.
      • by jthuck (233281) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @12:41AM (#15073440)
        I couldn't disagree more. The difference between 51/49 and 50/50 isn't 2%; it might as well be 99/1. My father started a business 51/49, and at one point "the other guy", the one with 51%, decided to vote my father off the board with his majority stake. The board then voted to fire him. At that point he held 49% of a private company where he had no say.

        It all worked out in the end; my father started his own business (100/0 :) and within a month already had most of his customers begging him to do work.
        • Huh? It sounds like the 49/51 thing worked perfectly... the 51 guy made a decision and now is responsible for it.... ie: his company is now losing all it's customers to the guy he fired... bet the Board feels pretty stupid about voting your father out right about now...
        • Great, he had a shadow of the right idea but completely and utterly failed to implement it correctly. The idea behind a 49/51 split is to provide a clear path in the event of a major disagreement. It is not to provide all the spoils to the person with the 51% share.

          Next time do 51/49, with a buyout requirement in the event that the subserviant partner is required to leave and/or take a demotion.

          What so many people who like the idea of a 50/50 split don't understand is that choosing 50/50 is like decidin

          • Sorry, didn't finish that last thought...

            The fact that you have strong feelings about this now, and that the two of you are conflicted over who should have the decision making authority demonstrates that your company was/is ripe for a very costly power struggle if you were to maintain the 50/50 partnership. As hard as it sounds, make the decision now and the company will be better off in the long run.

            As for who should be CEO - many posters have provided good ideas, but I would like to point out that if i

        • The one with 51%, decided to vote my father off the board with his majority stake. The board then voted to fire him.

          You've just touched on the point I wanted to make, so I'll agree with you and elaborate...

          Any answer of who gets to act as CEO needs to include the full realization that incorporating makes it no longer "your" company. Incorporating basically means you have sold out and now draw a salary (and a hefty portion of the profits in the form of dividends), but the relationship now resembles an
  • Hate to say it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bogtha (906264) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @07:52PM (#15072043)

    But if you need to turn to Ask Slashdot for advice, you shouldn't be the one that makes the tough decisions for your business. You readily admit he's the better guy for the job, so let him do his job and you do yours. You have an equal amount of shares, so ultimately you are equal no matter which of you is CEO.

    • by McCarrum (446375)
      ... and asking for advice, even from Slashdot, is a bad thing?

      Reading the threads here, looks like some good advice - even if it is from both camps. Ask Slash allows you to gather (and cull) opinions and expand your mindview. And as a side note, good to see a Ask Slash that was interesting, from the orig poster and from (most of) the poeple submitting comments.
    • Well said. Not only that, but "CEO" is just a pretenious title in a startup. If he has the Finance experience, I'd say put your pride (and presumptiousness) aside and work on the business. If you let a little thing like this derail you from the task at hand - starting the company; you probably won't get very far.

      Just my .02 cents. I've started/run had a couple of failed companies. On the last one I realized, that I wasn't a CEO - I was an engineer; and the two are most often mutually exclusive. CEO's
    • Yep. Going to Slashdot for business advice isn't terribly bright.

      I for one, believe that they should give everything away as open source, and that making money is evil. Oh, and something about Bush... grrrr.
  • by LurkerXXX (667952) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @07:52PM (#15072046)
    So let him be CEO, and you take the title of President.
  • Been through it (Score:5, Informative)

    by bmarklein (24314) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @07:55PM (#15072069)
    I've co-founded several companies - a couple of them are gone, a couple of them are still around, none household names, but all were fairly serious efforts (VC-backed, one had 30 employees, etc.) I've got a CS background and started as a software engineer, and I've usually been CTO of the companies I've co-founded. One way to handle it is to be both CTO and chairman of the board of directors. One of the jobs of the board is to oversee the CEO.

    If it really were to come down to firing the CEO, or other major decisions like taking investment or expanding the stock option pool, you'd need the board to vote on this, and it sounds like you're set on a 50/50 stock split so you'd have equal say. But having the chariman title would at least be a signal to the outside world that you don't "work for" the CEO, which is really what the issue sounds like here.

    I have actually seen one instance where a co-CEO arrangement worked, but I do think it's the exception. Whatever you decide, good luck, I hope the company is a success!
    • Not is not like they can't be 51/49 common stock and 49/51% preferred either if it's a strictly financial concern.
    • IMHO, the most successful startup companies have CEO as the top sales position. For the CEO position, technical and business knowledge/expertise take a back seat to charisma and leadership skills.

      There is a very good chance that neither of you will be CEO by the time the company goes public. The more VC funding you take, the more control you give up. Lose too many seats on the board and you will be removed.

  • One CEO, one President.
    Done.

    Honestly, I'm surprised non of your investors suggested that.
  • If you're going to be taking care of the actual business operations, you should be the Chief Operating Officer. Technically the COO reports to the CEO; the CEO takes care of the major aspects of the company, its general direction, etc. The COO manages all of the actual Operations of the company.

    I have a similar dilemma, as I am also starting a business with a friend (although we both are Finance Majors). I suggest that you actually take on 2 titles like Chairman/CEO, President/COO.

    Bottom line though, i

  • As soon as you need serious funding the VC will come in and as a condition of giving you said serious money - tell you who the CEO will be.

    Seriously both of you lack the skills needed to be CEO - the job takes a Rolodex (that you don't have), experience (that you don't have), and the ability to create things like a coprate culture (that you probably don't know about).

    For now, who ever wants to be replaced becomes the CEO - with the idea that both of you have your long time possitions filled out (COO/CFO f

  • You can do like QNX (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tester (591) <olivier@crete.ocrete@ca> on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @08:08PM (#15072130) Homepage
    QNX has a really nice structure, they have two co-founders. One is the CEO and one is chairman of the Board and they switch every year, but they really run the company together. You can do that, and have you has CTO and your friend as CFO (titles you'd keep).. Titles like Chairman and CTO, and CEO/CFO are really cool.
  • Titles don't matter nearly as much as your written legal agreements - especially with the VCs but also with your partner(s).

    If you truly have a great idea, money spent on an attorney now is money very well spent. It may keep you from spending much more money on attorneys later and may even prevent you from losing your friendship with your partner.
  • Google precedent (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mnemonic_ (164550)
    Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, has a PhD in CompSci from UC Berkeley; the two founders are both "presidents" of separate divisions. Then again, Google would probably be succesful with 10-yo CEO; their success relies on mature businesses along with continuous innovation, not marketing (have you ever seen a Google commercial?). But at my company (Eclipse Aviation, an aircraft design startup firm) the CEO serves a distinct purpose from the engineers. He has a business background but he absolutely believes in o
  • do you really need investors? how much capital do you both need to get things running?
  • and fair.

    Flip a coin!
  • The salesman should be CEO, whichever guy that is. CEO is a job for a people-person. Its about selling... Selling investors on the company, selling potential partners on the idea, making strategic decisions that improve the ability to sell the products and in a 2-man operation, selling the product itself.

    That's usually not the CS guy. Most of us got in to CS because we like building stuff. CEO is not a builder job, its a seller job.
  • I've been in your shoes and gone the CEO route. But it was the wrong choice because I was wrong about having somebody else to fill the CTO slot.

    It's very hard to be BOTH CEO and CTO. The jobs are too different. So one dimension of your decision should be, do you have somebody good and in town and definitely lined up to be CTO if you run things?

    Oh, and if the biz guy ISN'T CEO, then IMHO you want to make him COO. Look at Ballmer. He was a great COO, even if a horrible CEO.

    If the CTO thing isn't a

  • In the end, it's in your best interests at this point to go with whatever will protect your stake in the company and make it fruitful. I would be somewhat wary of him getting the CEO title, if I was inclined towards having strong opinions - just because it would be likely he'd make a decision I wouldn't like and my only recourse would be to go through the board (time consuming and indirect at best).

    It kinda sounds like both of you are in it for the title though, and that's something to be wary about. I thin
  • I own an LLC and yes... Technically I'm the CEO, but until I find myself making millions of dollars (only in my wildest dreams) and have to answer to shareholders, I won't go around conforming to what typical CEO's are doing.

    Mostly... Since I do 90% of the labor, it is more like I am the Marketing, Engineering, HR, and all company departments combined, but I digress.

    Just incorporate and split your ownership 50/50 for right now and do the things that need to be done in order to get the business moving. Organ
  • It's hard for us to comment who will make the best CEO because we don't know you or your partner. You will know the person best to lead the company to success; talk it over with your business partner, with friends, and let it ride until the natural answer emerges.

    I have two comments for you, though:
    1) Be prepared -- right now -- to give up the credit. If you're in this for the fame, get out now because sadly it's unlikely to succeed. If you're happy to see your idea taken to its successful fruition but n
  • Isn't Bill Gates a techie who is the head of Micro$oft? That proves to a certain extent that it can work.
  • The one with the vision needs to be the leader.
  • Man1: "I want to be the captain!"
    Man2: "No, I'm the captain!"
    (ship sinks)
  • WTF is any Slashdotter qualified to decide who's qualified to run a corporation? Most of us can't even run a betting pool.
  • Bill Gates isn't CEO of MSFT.

    But he holds all the power...

    Balmer IS the CEO, but when people talk about MSFT, it's BILL's company. He calls the shots. So you don't have to have the CEO title to steer the company.
    • Bill Gates isn't CEO of MSFT. But he holds all the power... Balmer IS the CEO, but when people talk about MSFT, it's BILL's company. He calls the shots. So you don't have to have the CEO title to steer the company.

      That's because up until a couple of years ago Gates was the CEO. He is and always has been the driving force behind the company, and though he gave up the title of CEO to Ballmer, he still made sure that he is going to continue to be in control. He only gave up CEO work so that he could fo
  • I've been witness to both sides of this equation. There are no easy answers, because human nature is so f'ed up.

    If the nerd/scientist gets the CEO position, nobody will take him seriously, because of the herd mentality that most "business" people suffer from. They don't care for or respect anyone who isn't a "business" person like them. They only see creative types for the value of what they can do for the businessman. It's likely that venture capital will be next to impossible to acquire. Furthermore,
    • If the nerd/scientist gets the CEO position, nobody will take him seriously, because of the herd mentality that most "business" people suffer from.

      I'm sure the founders of google would have something to say about that. The fact is, your advice smacks of passimism with no supporting evidence. Fact is, business isn't that hard, it's just irritating. The geeks can learn business better than business people can learn the technical stuff that is actually produced.

      the nerd/scientist CEO will spend all his ti

  • I've been there and also worked for the VC side. Here is my advice:

    The CEO role is someone who will be the face of the company. You have to have the ability to articulate the vision, sell the product, sell people on joining, have a strategic and big picture view you are driving the company toward, etc. The CEO needs to have the skills to create organizations to match goals, problems and people. This is very key. Once you get past a small group and swart having an organization the CEO job is not about Y
  • Go Co-CEOs (Score:2, Informative)

    by mysidia (191772)

    If it makes potential investors nervous, you've got to ask why... It should make you nervous to take 50/50, and then give the other guy the official label and final word, unless it's purely symbolic and you agree something to the effect of "CEO in name only," with no special benefits, and an agreement to that effect.

    There are lots of businesses in the world. The business IDEA is something very important however, it is your whole basis for starting. Technology decisions need to be made well, or th

  • Really he should be CEO, you should take several of the lesser titles to make employees know you are both powerful. You could takes titles of CIO, CTO, and Enterprise Architech. Something else you should think about do you want to spend a large amount of time dealing with investor relations, hr issues, accounting, and so on. If you guys are both majoring in what you like, I would think you would prefer to be involved with technology and he would prefer to be running the business side. If you both have eq
  • CEOs do not last; you want to be CTO, especially if VC is involved.

    Expect that whoever is CEO will be pushed out in favor of whoever the VC's want to run the business. This won't happen during Angel funding, but it *will* happen in either the first or second round of VC funding, if your company gets that far.

    In general, the CEO is a titular position, and it's one where you normally bring in a good schmoozer, and give him stock grants and options on top of that so that he or she hopefully acts in the best i
  • Being CEO is incompatible with doing any of the productive work of the business. It's a full-time bureaucracy job. Assuming you were basing your business model on your ability to do something, you need to be free to actually make the shots, not spend all of your time calling them.
  • CEO of a two-person company? Whoopie. Seriously, I'd keep "C-level" titles off the business cards until there's enough people to fill up a conference room. In smaller companies, I've seen people split up into the "sales director" and "operations director" and get away with that.
  • We've both donated our respective expertise, covered major ground, and agreed from the start that everything will be split 50-50 (ownership, power, etc). Unfortunately, the time has come to incorporate, and potential investors have advised against assigning Co-CEO's. So who should be the CEO? Should the Finance Major get the job based solely on his Business knowledge, or should the Computer Science guy get the job because it was his idea?

    First off, congratulations on having found potential investors! T

  • The CEO's job is not to sleep at night. If he's sleeping through the night then he's not doing his job.

    You are the idea guy, so relish that position. Your job is to come up with the ideas and the CEOs is to make sure they HAPPEN. You can basically hang any operations/execution failure over his head, and he should welcome that responsibility and accountability.

    One idea would be to have a scheduled change of CEO one year from now, and plan on shifting the executive roles among the two of you. Titles are f
  • One solution that I've seen is to give each of you two titles; make one of you the CFO and the other the CTO, then draw straws to split CEO and President.

    These titles would be relative; you might not want your business card to say both, since the President's partner is the "Vice President/C[FT]O" (not the CEO) and the CEO's partner is the C[FT]O (not President).

    There is a lot of work involved in getting a company off the ground. At some point, you'll have to do a re-structuring. By then, you'll have e

  • If you don't have more than 50% legal control in the company, and the charisma to back it up, it will get fscked up on you. Relationships sour over time, and as money starts rolling in there will be tons of people with no vision and a lot of passion and power to drive things in the wrong direction. Don't get your hopes too high. It sounds like it's already out of your control. Enjoy the ride as much as you can.

    That said, if you do have control and charisma, be humble about it and listen to both other pe
  • by JollyFinn (267972) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @02:38AM (#15073892)
    Lets make this straight, what needs to be done in the business at first.
    You need to develope the thing.
    2nd you need to sell the thing.
    3rd you need to do some paper work.
    4th discuss with investors if you cannot do above well without pouring more money to it.

    The 2nd part happens after most important risks related to business have already taken. And 3rd part isn't big deal until you have your start hiring people. 4th part is only important if you plan to hire or cannot sustain your living entire developement time.
    So basicly if your thing isn't ready nor the business person do not add value to your business so you are already getting ripped off by giving him 50% of your business. And if its ready the business person should invest the money atleast equal to 5 times the salary you would of taken when developing the thing, in order to match your investment on the business.

    I'd say read the Eric Sink:s articles beginning here. They teach part of the business part that geeks need to know. Basicly business part is easy if you need to know it. And computer guy is far better in the helm of software company than a business person. Since software person understands whats possible, and what not and proper technical trade offs.

    Of course if he can do developement too and his domain expertice is needed for making the product then it wouldn't be obvious who should get bigger part. Oh and 50% /50% deal someone ALWAYS gets ripped off since people don't invest equal amounts of time to the business.

    http://software.ericsink.com/bos/Geeks_Rule.html [ericsink.com]
  • Works like a charm.

    We are in a similar situation. my mate and me, together, control 77% of the shares, on equal grounds. I am the IT brain in the company, and I act as chairman of the Board. He has way less IT background, and focuses on the daily operations as CEO, while also being in the board.

    That puts me "officially" in the highest rank, which is a signal to customers and investors - we ARE a technology company. It also puts him into control of all the "getting revenue" stuff.

    And it works.
  • What does a CEO do anyway?

    I can understand CFO, CTO and COO being full-time jobs in most companies, but what are the responsibilities and powers of a CEO. Seems to me that in a two-person company, the role of a CEO is rather trivial.

    p.s. As a one-person company, I'm CEO, CTO, COO and CFO all at once! I'm not PR though; too honest for that ;) Also, I'm the janitor, cleaning crew and delivery boy.
  • What are the roles? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FuzzyDaddy (584528) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @08:48AM (#15075080) Journal
    I work for a small company (~20 employees) which was founded by a PhD doing research on DoD SBIR contracts. He was the President (we had no CEO) for many years. After a few years, some of those research ideas panned out into products which we needed to develop and sell. The founder realized that there was too much work to do, and we brought in a CEO. This was a guy he knew well (he'd been on the board of the company for a long time). There is a lot of work the CEO deals with that the founder is happy to be rid of - marketing, scheduling, setting priorities. Most of the important decisions are joint decisions anyway, but the CEO is responsible for pushing to get the decisions made. The founder has gone from 90 hour weeks to 50 hour weeks, and seems much happier for it. He still is involved in fundraising, hiring, etc, but it's not all on him.

    Honestly, I think it's a question of both what you want to do and what you think would most likely make the company succeed. Take and guard your ownership stake. Then stick yourself where you think you'll be most valuable. If the company can't survive without you, that's the value that you have. Just make clear from the begining that you intend the company to be run by consensus, not CEO fiat. If you've got a partner who is doing work that you can't or don't want to do but which needs to get done, that's a good thing. A CEO isn't all powerful, and if you two agree on that, I think you can be very happy and effective as a CTO.

  • I've been in this exact situation... and while it's not a fantastic solution there actually is one;

    Bring in a third party. Ask them to invest a little if desired... create three CxO positions; a CEO, CFO and CTO. Pick the role you want and create 100 "shares of the company". This third party, give them 2 shares... just 2% of the company. That means that the two "head honchos" have equal voting rights at 49% each, but there's a third party that has a "stalemate breaking" 2% share that can result in a 51% vot
  • A Couple of links (Score:3, Informative)

    by cgreuter (82182) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @05:00PM (#15079787)

    Both Eric Sink [ericsink.com] (the founder of SourceGear) and Joel Spolsky [joelonsoftware.com] seem to think so. (You'll have to search for the relevant articles yourself--I'm not going to dig through years worth of archives for you.)

    Their thinking is:

    1. If the guy in charge doesn't understand the technology, he (or she) will make bad strategy decisions. Spolsky's example is John Scully's decision to build a device that recognized handwriting (which is impossible, or at least very hard) vs. Bill Gates' asking his developers to write a reusable rich text edit control (which Microsoft ended up reusing for everything).
    2. At the small company level, business stuff (aside from law and accounting, both of which can be outsourced) tends to be easy enough that a geek can learn it without too much trouble. Therefore (says Eric Sink), it's a better use of money to get technical people than business people.

    On the other hand, the business guy is your friend and anyway, he's willing to talk to investors and answer the phone during the daytime (I'm assuming) so he's probably worth keeping around.

    I think that what I'd do in your situation is give the business guy the job of CEO but retain a 51% ownership of the company. That lets him do the day-to-day business stuff and give the people he talks to a sense that they're talking to the guy in charge while at the same time letting you set him right if he tries to do something stupid.

    Disclaimer: I have no actual experience in this. I'm just makin' stuff up.

  • Agree wholeheartedly with those recommending against pure 50/50 split. Even close partners can have an acrimonious falling out; don't have a situation that risks deadlock. Beside 51/49, another possibility is 49/49/2 -- with the small share going to someone mutually respected and familiar with the business. In normal times of agreement, they're passively along for the ride, perhaps a useful advisor. If there's a risk of irreconcilable disagreements, they can mediate and if necessary cast the deciding influe
  • Sounds like you need to find a third option...
  • Have you told your friend you feel like you are getting robbed? Your slashdot ID links to the company page so it would be easy for your friend to find out that you are talking publicly about this. If that isn't a problem that is fine but I sense it could cause tension.

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