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Should the Computer Science Guy Be CEO?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | 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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There are plenty of shots to go around (5, Informative)

SeanTobin (138474) | more than 8 years ago | (#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!

Re:There are plenty of shots to go around (2, Insightful)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072000)

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.

Why not... (1)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072389)

Why not ask The Woz [] ?

Re:Why not... (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072409)

Just how often do you find "evangelic bad boy" together as a phrase?

Re:Why not... (1)

HTTP Error 403 403.9 (628865) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072463)

Just how often do you find "evangelic bad boy" together as a phrase?
I think "evangelic bad boy" was Jessica Hahn's pet name for Jim Bakker. []

Re:Why not... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15073920)

Now there's a timely quip.

Re:There are plenty of shots to go around (5, Interesting)

ePhil_One (634771) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072219)

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.

The right guy for the right time (3, Insightful)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072624)

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.

Re:There are plenty of shots to go around (1)

Malfourmed (633699) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072480)

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 arguably everything has a technical element or implication.

Re:There are plenty of shots to go around (2, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072552)

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 out that could potentialy bankrupt the company before it is ready to perform.

This would be like as you suggested with the exception of the CEO having a duty to involve the other person on major decisions. I guess if there is a disagreement, something could also be implemented to fix that too. I was involved with a small company and was one of the three owners. I took more of a behind the sceens employee type role. This is how we did it except we had three people and there wasn't any stalmates. We set it so anythign costing over $5,000 required informing all of us and the consent of at least one of us. This number grew as the business did. Eventualy I cashed out to pursue another venture but it continued on for another 5 years or so before it was bought up by one of our local competitors who still runs the company as a seperate entity. (wish I had stayed for that:)

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15071977)

(or the terrorists win)

CEO? Sounds like a lot of work (5, Insightful)

LunaticTippy (872397) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:CEO? Sounds like a lot of work (4, Funny)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072036)

I wouldn't want to deal with the bs that a CEO has to deal with. Meetings, dressing the part, pandering to investors, etc.

...mansions, exotic cars, exotic interns, senators, million dollar severance packages. Yeah they have it rough.

Re:CEO? Sounds like a lot of work (1)

alienw (585907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072064)

You don't have jack shit if it's a small company. And if you have stock in the company, you get all that without any of the work.

Re:CEO? Sounds like a lot of work (1)

Ossifer (703813) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072315)

For every CEO with exotic mansions and million dollar interns, there are thousands who are not taking a paycheck, kicking in their own capital, working 80+ hour weeks, etc.

You (2, Interesting)

invisik (227250) | more than 8 years ago | (#15071986)

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.


get VERY used to saying "no" to suggestions (5, Insightful)

linuxbaby (124641) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:get VERY used to saying "no" to suggestions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072044)

Parent is not very good advice. You *should* listen to what the experienced investors are telling you about potential pitfalls to running a business. How many companies do you know that have co-CEOs? I can't think of a single one. It's probably good advice. Don't be a typical bullheaded "I know everything, no thanks for your stupid advice" slashdotter if your venture is potentially a big deal.

Just remember to have fun (1)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072338)

You *should* listen to what the experienced investors are telling you about potential pitfalls to running a business

"About the potential pitfalls", yes, but not about what to actually do. At the end of the day, a lot of people are going to give you advice, some of it will be good, a lot of it will be bad (and which category the advice falls into often has little to do with whether or not the people are "experts" or "experienced"), and what you have to realise is that only you are really qualified to know what decisions to take, simply because it's 'your company' - you have far more information about the details of your business than anyone else, have put far far more thought into it than anyone else, and everyone else who gives you advice is inherently doing so from a position of far less information and thought than you. This has been my experience with my business so far. So while I listen to everyone's advice, and take it all in, I first think carefully about whether or not it really applies to my business. I seldom say "no" to anyone giving suggestions though and I don't "push back" --- I just nod and listen, then go think about it for a while.

Also, what you "should" do isn't always necessarily what's "best" to do in the sense that you probably also want to have fun as you go. If you only ever do what you "should" do, i.e. what is logically the 'best thing for the company', you may well forget to actually enjoy what you're doing, and end up in a position where you don't really want to be.

To that end, my suggestion to the submitter is to simply ask yourself "do I want to try out this CEO thing" -- "does it appeal to me?". If you want to be CEO, then unless you suspect you'll be so bad at it you'll run the company into the ground, just do it, even if it's not "optimal". If it turns out that you hate it, you can always just swop around after a year or two and let the other guy be CEO. And then you'll know.

I'm the CEO of my small business (computer science guy turned CEO), and while I enjoy some aspects, one thing I definitely miss is having much time to actually code --- I hardly ever have time for it anymore.

Re:get VERY used to saying "no" to suggestions (5, Insightful)

BewireNomali (618969) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:get VERY used to saying "no" to suggestions (1)

merphant (672048) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072356)

My company is going through financial troubles right now because the head of the company is an engineer. He is a great guy and smart, but his real talents lie in engineering, not in business.

IMHO the CEO's job is to meet with people and push the company in directions that will make the company better and more profitable. This requires people skills and finance skills, not engineering skills. The CTO can be written in as a joint partner, make just as much cash, have loads of influence, and not be bothered with as much management b.s.

Sure, a an engineer CAN be a great CEO, but what's the point?

paintball duel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15071989)

Use neutral third party as the judge and scorekeeper. *Loser* takes CEO job, as it should be.

Pick the right person (1)

linuxtelephony (141049) | more than 8 years ago | (#15071998)

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!

Multiple "head" positions? (1)

MagicDude (727944) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072010)

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 (3, Insightful)

denissmith (31123) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (4, Insightful)

linuxwrangler (582055) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

CEO isn't the only C*O title there is, you know (2, Informative)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072019)

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 operations.

By the way, I will have to charge you now for my corporate planning advice. Just kidding (but not really) :)

If you have to ask.... (2, Insightful)

ghinckley68 (590599) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072023)

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.

CEO is the public relations person. (4, Insightful)

rossifer (581396) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072035)

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.


This is fundamentally wrong. (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073907)

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.

Depends... (2, Informative)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072041)

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

Who has more business sense? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Who has more business sense? (5, Insightful)

theobscurest (613689) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Who has more business sense? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072651)

Did you say woman ?

Re:Who has more business sense? (5, Interesting)

jthuck (233281) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Hate to say it... (4, Insightful)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Hate to say it... (2, Insightful)

McCarrum (446375) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072456)

... 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.

Re:Hate to say it... (1)

bergeron76 (176351) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072496)

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 need to have good people, sales and networking (not tech. networking) skills.

Re:Hate to say it... (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072592)

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.

There are plenty of titles for you both. (2, Insightful)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072046)

So let him be CEO, and you take the title of President.

Depends ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072052)

Who's the better bull shit artist? That's your CEO

Make him CEO, take 51% voting stock (1)

PimpDawg (852099) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072063)

If it doesn't work out, you can vote him off the island.

Been through it (4, Informative)

bmarklein (24314) | more than 8 years ago | (#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!

Easy solution (1)

EvilMagnus (32878) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072072)

One CEO, one President.

Honestly, I'm surprised non of your investors suggested that.

COO, holmes. (1)

imstanny (722685) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072073)

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, if you want your business to succeed, the jobs should go to the person that would be the best at it. And then salary can be split however you feel is fair.

Doesn't really matter - you will be replaced (1)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072084)

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 for your friend, CTO/Head of Engineering for you). Frankly, if your company will require many more people and you need to recruit - you should probably pickup an HR type droid and make him CEO... boost his ego, make him useful for now, but set the expectation he will be the VP of HR when the real CEO shows up.

There are lots of precidents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072088)

I can think of several companies started by and run by techies. The multi-millionare who lives a couple of blocks over from me started out as a machinist. Running a company is a matter of vision. The technical skills (financial or programming) will get your company going but once you start hiring other people, it's your vision that will propel the company. There are plenty of tasks to go around. You don't just need one person to be the 'boss'. Divide up the work according to what you enjoy. Take equal pay checks. Make it a real partnership.

In any event, most startups fail. Make sure that, if you give it your best shot and it doesn't work, you still remain friends. Many of the people I know had to try several times before they hit paydirt. Look at the big picture and don't get too wound up.

BTW. Many people think that MBAs are the worst thing that ever happened to North American business. The correlation between being a good manager and having business training is approximately zero. (Trained managers will, of course, disagree. I invite them to cite any statistics that prove otherwise.)

You can do like QNX (4, Informative)

Tester (591) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072130)

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.

Hire a lawyer (1)

linuxwrangler (582055) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072132)

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 (2, Insightful)

mnemonic_ (164550) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072134)

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 our company's goal. He probably doesn't remember his calculus, but he can sure as hell sell our product, to wealthy lawyers or government officials. He's the face of our company, somebody that other businessmen can feel comfortable with (Paul Allen among others). Our CEO is the face of our company, and the media loves it.

Are you a number crunching geek who puts people to sleep during presentations? Or can you captivate an audience with a mundane software project? Are you a Steve Jobs, or a Bill Gates? At its best, a CEO can lead a company through cut-throat business and coddle its consumers. At its worst, the CEO is little more than a figurehead who won a power struggle. Powerstruggling is an aspect of business of course, but a team player will always get further than the one tries to steal the other's thunder. Don't be an asshole and let the business dude run the business, unless you want to stop writing code.

a different question (1)

j1mmy (43634) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072154)

do you really need investors? how much capital do you both need to get things running?

Easy Solution (1)

SaidinUnleashed (797936) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072160)

and fair.

Flip a coin!

The salesman (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072164)

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.

Nobody can be both CEO AND CTO (1)

Jon Kay (582672) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072188)

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 problem, you should think about which of you has a deeper grasp of things. That's why Gates was so good at it, even though he started with more of a programmer POV. It's true that you spend most of your time selling, but that didn't stop Gates, and understanding things is a big plus to selling big.

the usage of 'robbed' really says something (1)

kendoka (473386) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072241)

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 think you should really be more focused on who's best willing to handle the responsibilities.

On the other hand, if it's really you that's done the lion's share of the work, and your friend has just been there largely for moral support, then it's lame for him to get CEO because he basically did nothing.

Eh... Why have a CEO at all? (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072245)

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. Organizing now like you are multi-million dollar company is kind of pointless until you get your product/service out the door or at least in a nice presentation for potential VC's.

Needing to take the credit can destroy a business (1)

Mogest (62599) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072264)

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 no mention of your name, then you've got a good base to start from. Love your product and your customers, not yourself.

2) The CEO gets ultimate say on how the company runs. However, you will both be assigned duties in your managerial roles; make sure those roles are clearly assigned. Who handles the budget? Who handles the tecnology direction? Who handles the marketing direction? Under normal circumstances, that person will be solely responsible for their departments.

It's only in an exceptional circumstance that the CEO should veto any decision, and there should be some serious discussion if it happens. Make sure the CEO is not a micromanager!

Best of luck with your business.

We Love to HATE Him (or just hate him) (1)

MJanofsky (927999) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072269)

Isn't Bill Gates a techie who is the head of Micro$oft? That proves to a certain extent that it can work.

Re:We Love to HATE Him (or just hate him) (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072394)

Bill Gates has not been the CEO - the nominal "head" of Microsoft - for some time. Ballmer is the CEO and gates is the "Chief Software Architect." He is still Chairman of the Board, though, so ultimately he has the influence to fire Ballmer and replace him with somebody else.

He's neither. (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073832)

He's neither the CEO nor a techie. He's a cold-blooded businessman.

CEOs get blammed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072305)

Make your friend the CEO, not only does he have the business knowledge, but you will have more time to work on cool stuff.


CEOs get fired when things go wrong and the investors/board want someone to blame.

don't forget the chairman (1)

pci (13339) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072325)

I'd say if your big enough to have investors, consult them for advice.
Or if you want to make a decision
MBA = CEO/CFO/COO, so he can deal with the parts he knows best
Techie = CTO and Chairman of the board (ala Bill Gates), all the power and it will minimize the day to day operational and finance issues from your world.

You be the CEO, he can be the CFO. (1)

smagruder (207953) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072333)

The one with the vision needs to be the leader.

Well... (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072392)

Letting Jobs be CEO sure worked out well for Woz...

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072458)

Do you even have a clue about what you are talking about? Or are you implying that Steve Jobs caused Woz's plane to crash thus starting the chain of events that caused him to leave Apple?

Two men build a sinking ship... (1)

Jukashi (240273) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072415)

Man1: "I want to be the captain!"
Man2: "No, I'm the captain!"
(ship sinks)

What a fucking ego (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072422)

Robbed? This is a great example of people who think they are better than what they really are. The business person should be CEO, not the technical person. This guy wants the glory of being CEO when he doesn't even know what a CEO is supposed to do.

The CEO needs to be business savvy, has to be a politician, has to be able to keep the focus on business goals, etc. He also has to be an incessant saleperson, as well. You have NOTHING of what it takes to be a CEO. If you have great technical ideas, stay technical.

Actually, you know what, buddy? Yes, you should be the CEO. I love hearing stories of how egos rip apart otherwise great friendships/companies, etc.

Chief Executive Officer (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073891)

From Wikipedia:

"A chief executive officer (CEO) or chief executive is the highest-ranking corporate officer or executive officer of a corporation, company, or agency."

That's all.

Does the highest-ranking person have to know anything about business? Or technology? Or anything?

No, he can delegate all of these. What a CEO has to have is common sense, decency, and vision. At least, that's how I interpret it.

The CEO is, in other words, the person who makes decisions like "Don't be evil." The CEO would be the person at Dell who wakes up and says "We're not paying the Microsoft tax anymore." Or the CEO would be the person at Ford who says "Alright, people have enough F150's, let's put a huge chunk of our R&D people into making a pure electric/fuel cell one."

It's in the CEO's best interests to listen to the CFO, CTO, and other three-letter acronyms. But a three-letter-acronym is focussed on a specific way of making the company better. The CEO is the one who makes the decisions governing the entire company, and most companies are not entirely about business. We hate the ones who are -- Microsoft, for instance.

Don't Ask Slashdot! (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072431)

WTF is any Slashdotter qualified to decide who's qualified to run a corporation? Most of us can't even run a betting pool.

Although I hate to say it... (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072488)

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.

Re:Although I hate to say it... (1)

ocbwilg (259828) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073028)

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 focus more on the technical stuff anyway (aka, Chief Visionary).

Re:Although I hate to say it... (1)

definate (876684) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073826)

He gave up CEO to protect Microsoft when there were talks of Microsoft being split up due to it's impending (at the time) monopoly status.

No CEO (1)

sam0737 (648914) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072515)

Speak to your investor, "We just have CTO and CFO, there is no CEO...", loud and clear.

let him be ceo (1)

tscheez (71929) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072530)

take the CIO, CTO, COO whatever. You'll get to a place at some point where you will be dealing with so much crap as CEO you'll miss the hands on tech stuff that you got your CS major to do.

The question is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072569)

Which one of you is taller?

You should have asked these questions long ago... (1)

LionMage (318500) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072573)

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, the nerd/scientist CEO will spend all his time dealing with accusations of being "inflexible" and "not suited to the job."

If the business major gets the CEO position, the nerd/scientist gets relegated to the CTO position. The nerd/scientist will only last with the company until (a) the CEO decides to oust the nerd/scientist so he can keep all the glory for himself, or (b) the venture capitalists have decided that the idea factory is no longer worth keeping on the payroll. If (a) doesn't happen, then (b) almost certainly will, unless you can avoid the VC trap altogether.

In the particular situation described by the querant, I feel bad for him because regardless of which path is taken, it will probably end badly; either way, the friendship between these two men will likely disintegrate.

The moral of the story is: There are no friends in business. Friendship and business don't mix, so don't go into business with someone you actually consider a friend.

The geek perspective: Business people exist in a culture of exploitation, though of course they don't see it that way and will bristle with indignation if you suggest so. To me, this doesn't change the fundamental facts. This isn't a screed against capitalism! I rather like capitalism. I just have a problem with "business" people. MBAs in particular are people I have no use for, as most of them are parasites.

The only real solution: If you're a geek and you want to start a business, learn how to run a business yourself and absolutely refuse to buy into the concept that someone can go to school to study "business" without understanding the actual business/market they'll be dealing with.

Maybe I'm just being cynical, so take everything I just wrote with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, it looks like the querant is already stuck with his partner, so the best advice I can give is this: Yield the CEO position to the other guy, make sure you're a CTO, and make sure your contract is iron-clad and bulletproof. And retain a good lawyer in case your buddy tries to sideline you. Perhaps even demand a majority stake in the LLC (51%) if you can negotiate that, as compensation for giving up the power position. But whatever you do, have a good, ruthless lawyer at your beck and call. Make sure that if they have an option to get rid of you, it's an expensive option (for them), so you'll be able to land on your feet.

CEO isn't about the glory, but about success (1)

pcause (209643) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072606)

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 YOU but about the organization you create and how it works and making that organization succeed. If you talk and say "me" instead of "we" you are not the right person for the job.

But more, the CEO gets to make the final decisions on things, that is he job, because the CEO is the one ultimately held responsible and accountable for success or failure. In the vast majority of cases, the founder management usually are replaced by more professional management as the company grows. Yes, Dell and Gate and the Google guys all stayed at the top of the companies they founded, but this is the exception not the rule. that means whoever is CEO is likely to get replaced *IF* you actually succeed and grow the business significantly.

Finally, as someone else said, your legal agreements are key. The number of partnerships that go bad is huge and the break ups are messy. Assume the worst and get things defined in writing. Also make sure that you and your partner have agreements that say you Will vote each others share to put the other one on the Board. Ands remember that it is likely that if you raise VC you will not be in control of the company because while it is your idea it is there money and if you ask for someone's money they want control.

Web 2.0 indeed (1)

ljnelson (143073) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072643)

Questions like these prove we're in another bubble.

Background's not as important as savvy (1)

davewill (21519) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072649)

It doesn't really matter that you're CS and he's Finance. What really matters is which of you will give the company the best leadership. The two of you should be able to agree on that. If not, it could be a long and rocky road.

Go Co-CEOs (2, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072686)

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 the business has an increased risk of failure -- without a good marketable product, even excellent financial decisions will not help, if you don't have an IDEA for a product.

Finances are important, because you need resources to develop technology based on an idea. Finance decisions need to be made well, or the business has an increased risk of failure. The IDEA may still be an asset, but without the resources to develop it well-managed and supporting the most important elements of proper research & development, marketing, and manufacturing, you have no product based on the idea.

There are other things that are very important for a business that develops a product, that are not finances OR technology, but are related to them both: Where and how you get supplies, how you get your great new technology made into a product, i.e. how you get it manufactured, how you price and sell your products, and how you protect the business, like any warning labels you need (Legal) and how the business chooses to represent itself and its product (Public Relations).

There are decisions to make that involve many things other than finance, and added finance background is no indication that one guy should be CEO over another guy: it will depend almost entirely on things that have not been mentioned in the article.

The best CEO may be neither of you, or both of you -- it depends on your other abilities, like Leadership skill, and experience in CEO roles.

If you are 50/50 in terms of power, then perhaps you should consider Co-CEOs despite investor nervousness, or find and hire a third person to be officially "labelled" CEO; give that person a 2% stake in decisionmaking, leaving each of you a 49% stake, and agree that the CEO has no special to a final word: final decisions are always ones that either all 3 of you support, that 2 support and 1 opposes, or that 2 of you support and the other is not available on an extended basis.

Giving that third person a 2% stake, assures there would normally not be a "tie": where neither side agrees, so no decision is made. I'm afraid if you place the other guy as CEO, even if you're supposed to be 50/50, you've given him de-facto, authority to break ties in his favor, and with only 50%, you can't later deprive him of that right once assigned -- of course it depends on the wording of your agreement the CEO's job description, and his ability to have either agreement/description ammended without you having to read and sign off on the change.

Re:Go Co-CEOs (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072732)

P.S. I mean 49%/49%/2% with the 2% stake restricted in some way to prevent the third person from assigning his stake, without permission, except simultaneously half his original stake to you and half to the other guy, whatever's necessary to make sure noone could get 51% if they managed to buy out the third guy.

He should be CEO (1)

jbplou (732414) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072691)

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 equal shares of stock in the end who cares about titles. For an example look at Sun they are being led by a man who has technology at his core not business and it is only half successful.

Ob. Firefly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072736)

Mal: Do you want to run this ship?
Jayne: Yes!
Mal: can't!

Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15072744)

A real CEO already knows the answer to the question.. That's why they are the CEO.

When you've gotta ask the question should I be the CEO.. the job isn't meant for you.

CEOs do not last; you want to be CTO (1)

tlambert (566799) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072808)

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 interests of the company, rather than in their own best interests (i.e. you try and make it their best interest to act in the best interests of the company).

Some people also try to elect themselves as board chairman: that's another position you won't be able to keep, when your founders have two board members, and you have a number of other people on your board, the VC's are generally going to get what they want out of things that come to a vote. If you try to control this by *not* bringing in other people on your board, you're making a bad business mistake, since these are the people who are going to get your product initially adopted into other companies, and who will get your product talked up to other companies at other board meetings (i.e. your Uncle Bob is not a good choice for board member, unless Uncle Bob is already on the board of a Fortune 500 company).

In my experience at startups, one of the founders starts out as CEO, and then get pushed out of that position. Also, in general, the CFO and CTO positions are less likely to get pushed out of the management structure, as time goes on. At the very least, you will need a fallback, or your will have formed a company only to get a lot of stock and become an employee (and *maybe* a board member; maybe not, depending on the amount of stock).

Bottom line is that if you are going to take VC money, and you want some control over your company direction, make sure that when you get pushed out of the CEO/President/other top role, that you have a fallback position that the VC's aren't going to want to take from you.

-- Terry

Avoid the job if possible (1)

iabervon (1971) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072815)

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, CTO (1)

Slipped_Disk (532132) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072852)

If you are [C]hiefly handling [T]echnical matters, it makes more sense for you to take the title of CTO (Chief Technical Officer). This is from the standpoint of someone who has run a corporation with outside investments.

Your friend, with business experience & the business degree is best suited for CFO or CEO, and will likely be able to converse with investors & potential clients on a financial level that people would expect someone with that title to be able to.

You on the other hand, since you came up with the original concept, should have stewardship over the implementation and management of the projects that will form the foundation of your business. You will also be responsible for speaking to investors & potential clients on the technical aspects of your business, plans for scalability, redundancy, etc. and essentially convincing them that it's a "Good Idea"

In terms of getting "Ripped Off", make sure that your stock is split evenly when you incorporate, and you're fine.

CEO of a two-person company? (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072873)

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.

CEO or CTO (1)

aj9703 (951932) | more than 8 years ago | (#15072903)

In this case, since it is equal partners all along, you need to move on and give and let give. As a CS major myself, my biggest concern is not coming up with good ideas. It is putting them to reality, bringing them to life. I think you should let him become CEO and be the brains behind this project by taking in the CTO if nothing else. However if you still feel robbed, do it the google way. Both of you become presidents and guide the project together for now and bring in some other expert with proven experience as the CEO.

Excluded Middle? Plus: Attitudes and Other Tools (1)

martyb (196687) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073010)

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! There are many who have had great ideas but could get no further than the idea. That investors are interested enough in your project that they are looking into HOW to make it work is a major accomplishment. 'Tis easy to focus on problems and to not take comfort in successes. There will ALWAYS be problems... celebrate what you have already accomplished! I promise that kind of an attitude will help wonders in making it through the challenges that WILL come.

<TIC>OTOH, I hope it was NOT your intent to go to your partner and tell him, "8 out of 10 geeks on Slashdot think I should be CEO, so that settles it!" :^) </TIC>

That said, I have to ask: "Why does the CEO have to be one of you two?" Sure, it's nice to have authority, but in my experience that brings responsibility for those decisions, too. When you're up to your eyeballs in alligators trying to get over a hurdle in development, do you really want to be totally overwhelmed with management problems, too?

I'm sensing there is a fear that you are going to be boxed into a corner with the *responsibility* to do something, but lack the *authority* to carry it out. That's an understandable fear. Your potential investors have fears, too. I have no idea of how much funding you're seeking, but if I were to put up, say, $1 million, I sure as heck would like to know that common, typical problems would not arise and cause the company to fail. Having a deadlock situation on critical decisions has to be high up on the list.

I would offer, therefore, a suggestion: hire a CEO. S/he would have the responsibility. But you (plural, both of you) would ultimately have the authority as you are the co-owners of the company. Better yet, you will have the input of an interested third party. One who just might be able to provide an objective, tie-breaking perspective that would not have come to either of you.

I can already imagine you're thinking: "We can't afford to hire someone else." Let me ask you this: "In light of your current problems in trying to make THIS DECISION, can you really afford NOT to?" Many, many more difficult decisions will come along. You've already had to spend considerable time and effort trying to solve this problem. How much mre time will you have to give up for those new problems? Hire someone you can trust and let THEM do the dirty work FOR you! Be honest... wouldn't you rather be programming right now instead of dealing with this?

Seriously, you might even find that your investors have more than cash to bring to the table. I would not be surprised if the already have someone who would do a better job than EITHER of you ever could. S/he can bring real-world experience of what works. And more importantly, what DOES NOT work! Just make it abundantly clear as you set up your company that the CEO works for YOU.

In the end, it's just a job. If things don't work out, have the company buy out your shares (you DO have that in your articles of incorporation, right?) and then go off and start something else. I've found it's okay to make mistakes, I just try to make new ones each time! <grin>

Lastly, I'm sure you have heard the adage: "hindsight is 20/20." I've found much wisdom in that. So, why not draw on that wisdom, today? When faced with a difficult decision, I have found it extremely helpful to practice what I call: 20/20 Foresight. Just imagine it's some time in the future (a month from now, a year, or even 20 years). Then, imagine looking back on this decision as if you made one of the choices which is open to you. What are the likely outcomes? Think of how it would affect all the participants. Imagine that those actually DID happen, and you are now telling someone how things unfolded. Without rationalization or self-justification. How do you FEEL? Proud? Happy? Ashamed? Afraid? Would you say, "I'm sure glad I ..." or would it be "Damn! I wish I..."?

I repeat, this is just a tool I have found helpful when facing a difficult decision. You may well find out that either way, there is no clear winner. So, rejoice! Pick either one, stop fretting about the decision, and get on with your day. You made the best decision you could, with the information you had, with where you were at, at that time. Accept it and move on. BTWP.S. Above all, be curious, have some fun, tell some jokes, and celebrate your successes. And, it you get a few free minutes some time down the road, let us know how it all worked out! Good Luck!!!!

All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why. - James Thurber (1894 - 1961) US novelist, humorist, cartoonist

CEO is a title, not a job... (1)

ParanoidCowboy (670365) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073049)

I'm sorry to disagree with most of the /. opinions, but so be it.

CEO is a title, not a job, different corporations have CEOs that are responsible for a variety of different tasks; reading the job description of different CEOs make many seem like different jobs, the only similarity being the title.

The most successful CEOs are those that have the best interpersonal skills and are capable of harnessing the support of his/her workers to accomplish organizational goals. Having a financial background is not always a requirement, nor is it always helpful. Often times, finance types are too focused on the details of the organization and are unable to think about long term strategy, personnel issues, and other decisions that are the priority of the chief executive officer.

If your partner is better organizational leader, has better interpersonal skills, or has a better vision of the future of the company, then by all accounts, he should be the CEO. If you feel that you have those abilities, then you should be the CEO.

As a private company, you have no obligation to declare a CEO - and at this stage in the venture, it seems like a better idea to use titles that more reflect your current roles (financial officer and programing officer, etc). If and when you decide to go public reevaluate the situation. Laws of various listing bodies (stock exchanges and what not) require the CEO to oversee things that perhaps neither of you are capable of.

In summary - CEO is a title that your organization only really needs if its going to go public. As long as you and your partner both understand your respective authority and talents within the organization, there's no need to be burdened with the overhead that accompanies the title. Stick with descriptive titles of jobs performed - (It's difficult to have a chief executive officer if there are no other executives.) When it's time to go public your company will have a better understanding of what's needed to function, what skill sets are available internally, and who fills what role. In more cases then not, the job usually goes to an outsider.

Sounds like trouble (1)

Schlaegel (28073) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073161)

"All signs so far point to giving him the job, but I can't shake the feeling I'm getting robbed."

Sounds like you don't trust each other. Trust is needed for any relationship, but even more so for the "50/50" variety. Don't doom this before it starts, instead work out your trust and roles before you take the plunge.

PS. Now I sound like a marriage councilor.

insomnia (1)

rnd() (118781) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073241)

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 fairly meaningless anyway.

Good luck!

play the name game (1)

Khopesh (112447) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073396)

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 enough experience and perspective to justify some view that you just can't see now (like a non-owner as a CEO, or one of you takes the lead, or you've sold the company and it doesn't matter, or you're bankrupt and it doesn't matter).

Bottom line: Don't sweat it, this don't matter right now ... you BOTH have soooo much work to do that it's better to have the shared responsibilities. Dual CEOs don't look good on paper, so don't do that, but CEO/CFO and President/CTO will do for the first stage.

Besides, you are quite likely to know the better choice after taking turns for a while.

Hate to sound like a pessamist prick... (1)

localman (111171) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073410)

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 people, your heart, and your mind.

Good luck.

make a deal (1)

viperstyx (578360) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073431)

CEO gives n% of shares to non-CEO. therefore one person is CEO and gets power while the other person gets power in the form of shareholders. or fuck the mentors, do co-CEO.

Decide what your jobs are, not the titles (1)

cyranose (522976) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073682)

The key thing is that you get a voting seat on the board. I like the one suggestion of you being chairman/CTO while the more traditional background goes to the CEO. But maybe you really do want to run the day to day operations, staffing, bills, etc.. I'd think you have more technical work to do if you're starting small. Biggest mistake I ever saw in a startup was starting with a CEO, CFO, etc.. and so on and hasving no actual product.

I'm personally of the mind to hire the CEO as a non-founder and go with an upside down pyramid with the real power in the hands of the founders. But that's me.

Good luck.

MBTI? (1)

definate (876684) | more than 8 years ago | (#15073806)

Who has the MBTI type which more closely represents the needs and wants of this position?

If you've studied programming and have a deep interest in economics/business then you might be better for this position. A lot of programmers go this way. They get into programming initially, until they learn they want more. You seem reasonably entrepreneurial, so you might fit this build. Generally these people have an MBTI type of ENTJ. Where is real programmers and science types are usually INTJ. But this doesn't mean you can't be out of the norm and not work well.

Do the Jung Typology Test [] and find out more about yourself at Portrait of an ENTJ [] and here The Portrait of the FieldMarshal Rational []

Overall for a business you need to know more about business/economics (and maybe some politics for fun?), not finance, not technology. Whom ever has the best skill set and want for this, should have the position.

If you have left it to asking for people on /. for whether or not, perhaps you don't want it that much, or don't have the forcefulness for that kind of position.

Although remember what happened with Paul Allen and always stay firm with what's in your best needs! After all that's what business is, interacting entities all striving for what's best for them, and coming to a medium.

You need no stinking business expert! (2, Interesting)

JollyFinn (267972) | more than 8 years ago | (#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. []
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