Should a founder be a C-level executive of his startup?


Considering the fact that a startup usually happens because of a founder's initial vision. Is it a good idea to have a founder as one of the C-level executives of a startup company?.

What qualities should a found have before choosing a C-level title ?.
Or is it better to call yourself a 'Founder' or 'VP' ?

Getting Started Co-Founder

asked Oct 13 '09 at 04:42
547 points

6 Answers


After calling myself "CEO" and "President" and "CTO" and all that, I think "founder" is best.

Lots of MBAs and whatnot are C_Os. So what? Not everyone is a founder.

And it tells anyone else that you're the real deal.

answered Oct 13 '09 at 05:15
16,231 points
  • I like that explanation. – Web Thinker 14 years ago
  • I'm game for your explanation, Jason! – Sandeep Satavlekar 14 years ago
  • Somewhere else on this site, someone posted an answer to a similar question where they said something along the lines of "Founder (or co-founder) is a good title because it doesn't sound pretentious (no title inflation) in the early days, and ages well as the company grows." I can't find that answer or question right now, but it's because of that point that I completely agree with this answer here. – rbwhitaker 11 years ago


If you are the founder, then just call yourself the CEO. If you are the one who makes the final decisions, you are the CEO.

If you are very young, VCs may eventually tell you that as part of the growth, the time will come for a "professional" CEO to replace you. Fine. In the meantime, you are the CEO.

For all the other co-founders, avoid C-level titles because they lead to title inflation at the wrong time. In a group of less than 8 people in a startup, the best structure I have seen is one CEO, and maybe some director-level titles (engineering, marketing). Sometimes a part-time CFO is justified. That's about it.

answered Oct 13 '09 at 05:02
Alain Raynaud
10,927 points
  • +1 for the comment about title inflation. – Paul Mc Millan 14 years ago


Call yourself "Founder" to start. Everyone knows what it means.

When you start a company, you will likely wear all the hats at one time or another, so any distinction between technical, management, financial or operational roles is a bit of a joke. There are much more important concerns (finding customers, making money, etc.) to worry about than your job title.

Until your business gets off the ground, it's premature to assign grand titles. You might as well call yourself Emperor of Nothing.

answered Oct 13 '09 at 05:50
D Thrasher
894 points


I agree with founder, don't get too title heavy.

To give you an example I've met a man running a startup just today. There are 7 partners. Each are president's of something. There are also about 20 volunteers, everybody is Vice President or director. All these titles really do is devalue the work of those who actually to President / Director level work.

A founder is CEO, CFO, CTO, Director of everything and a trench worker. That is likely what you are. There is not a clear distinction of when you become a CEO, but I'd say when you have multiple employees and have accepted capital rounds or have a steady flow of clients and the focus switches from gaining new customers to maintaining existing ones.

answered Oct 13 '09 at 06:51
Alex Blom
231 points


If your question was relating to semantics, and what to call yourself - then Founder or CEO will do just fine.

If your question was "should you be calling the shots?", then that depends. Some great ideas get lost because the brilliant engineer behind it didn't have the business skills to get the project off the ground. Others adjust and learn the ropes as they go behind a great idea (Zuckerberg for example).

If you're not comfortable a) making tough decisions b) selling your product c) speaking to groups and networking d) managing people - then you may want to get a more business savvy person to work with you. Focus on what you do best and cough up some equity for someone to do the stuff you probably don't like to do any way. It's still your baby, but without business acumen or a shitload of passion, ideas can get stalled without skills on both sides of the house, and it's rare to find them in one person.

My two cents.

answered Oct 13 '09 at 10:23
892 points
  • Justyn, good pointers. Voting you up :) – Anup 14 years ago


I agree, "Founder" is best. Also, these titles are only important in some kinds of management structures.

answered Oct 13 '09 at 05:20
Marcus Blankenship
376 points

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