Are we correct with our startup titles?


we are a team of 6 persons and currently working on a startup. The three of us are invited in a meeting so we need to address our selves.

Since we are a startup we avoided titles like CEO, CTO etc, and concluded in Director, Senior Developer, and Marketing Manager.

How do you find these titles? Each of us have the knowledge and experience needed.


asked Nov 2 '11 at 04:06
125 points

7 Answers


Titles get in the way of whats important. Down the road they can cause undesirable and unnecessary problems. Imagine your friend is your Marketing Manager today. Maybe your company grows and you find the funds to hire someone even better. Are you going to hire a VP of Marketing? How is your Marketing Manager/cofounder friend going to feel about that.

How about the three of use the official title and signature of "Cofounder Company X, Discipline" such as

  • Co-Founder, Software
  • Co-Founder, Marketing
  • Co-Founder, Operations

Disclosure: I read this tactic in a blog post somewhere. I could not find it to cite the source. If I find it I will update.

answered Nov 2 '11 at 11:13
Mike Nereson
411 points


Titles can be important if you have to communicate with other companies.

Would it be easier for you to get an appointment (or talk to a bank about a loan) if you were called "President" (US) or "Managing Director" (UK), or if you were called "Applied Philosopher"? Could you make a sales call as "Senior Developer", or would it be easier to get an appointment and would you be taken more seriously if you were "VP of Finance"?

In my opinion these are the only times titles make much sense in a small company. Note that different industries have different expectations about titles, and that one person can use a more than one title if that helps the business. (I still find it faintly ridiculous when I talk to the "President" of what is obviously a one-person company, but perhaps I am alone in this.

answered Nov 2 '11 at 05:26
946 points
  • What is your opinion instead of *Director*? – Nikolai 12 years ago
  • Director works well in UK. A trifle unusual on the other side of the pond. (I suspect Director may imply a legal status and liability under the various Companies Acts in the UK.) – Mike 12 years ago


Titles are part of your marketing and should be taken seriously: your title tells people in a flash if you are a do-er or a decision maker, and some of the people who will be important to you will care about your title. Don't be afraid of CEO/CTO/CMO/CFO titles. If in U.K. you could use Director of XXX, if in America you could use V.P. of XXX. But if, for instance, you are the most senior technical person in a start-up, CTO makes most sense.

answered Nov 6 '11 at 18:11
Darren Cook
179 points


Please take this as constructive advice. You will very quickly run into issues with running a company by committee. It sounds to me like you are not taking what you are doing seriously enough to have figured out your roles in your startup. The C titles, and other titles, convey your role, and your decision making capacity to outside people. Taking on those titles can often make some people feel like they have less prestigious titles, but you have other documents that split up corporate roles, responsibilities, etc. internally.

If you want to be taken seriously then someone will ask who your CEO, or President is, and you better have an answer. The other C titles are more optional. If you don't want to sound too corporate then go with President and VP of X. That is less stuffy than the C titles, but conveys the same info. When someone asks for whoever handles your finances you can send them to a person who leads that effort.

If you have 6 people then remember this:

  1. Your operating agreement, other investor documents, shares, etc. will say how money is split when you all sell the company for a billion dollars. Your title at that point is completely irrelevant.
  2. Your operating agreement will state who can obligate the company for debt, etc. If you don't have this... stop now.. get it.
  3. You need to have decision makes tasked with specific aspects of the business
  4. People with decision making abilities need to have proper titles.

My recommendation is that you should mock up an org chart, pretend you have unlimited people, make up an overblown crazy org chart. Then circle those org chart "responsibilities" with a color for each person. Then, you self elect into your outward titles.

answered Nov 7 '11 at 00:29
Gl Stephen
21 points


I don't think the distinction of being a "senior developer" is especially relevant to an outside company. Do you also have junior developers? Does anyone care?

It's fine to say "Jim is part of our engineering team", or "Jim runs our engineering", or "Jim designed our ecommerce algorithm". In a team of 6, most of you are pretty much in charge of an entire function (engineering, marketing, sales, etc.). Just say so.

answered Nov 2 '11 at 06:59
Alain Raynaud
10,927 points
  • So if I use Developer and Marketing how should the Director be refined? – Nikolai 12 years ago


Sure, those are fine for now. You'll likely be refining and updating roles and titles as you progress, so just make sure you print business cards in small batches :)

answered Nov 2 '11 at 07:34
Brian Karas
3,407 points


People, you will be communicating with, want to know, who is in charge of making decisions.
They don't have time to wait while you will be deciding who, why him, how much, where. They need answers.

So be straightforward, if you are in charge of making technical decisions and, as you wrote, have knowledge and experience, then name yourself as CTO. Who is in charge of marketing - CMO, if third person is making last decision, call him CEO.

When you have money to hire people on these positions, I think you can name yourself just a co-founder, who is able to pay ridiculously big money for specialists. If you want to stay with "cool" naming, become a President of Marketing/Technology/simple Big President.

If you want local variants, find them, as example, general director, marketing director, technical director.

Seniors/managers are hired specialists, who can be outsorced. Directors are making decisions.

Everybody understands that where are CEO's,CMO's,CTO's there is the board of directors, but today, with all that startup hype, people are used to meet with 22 years old CTO's of "three man startup".

answered Nov 2 '11 at 17:06
1 point

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics: