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in a


Startup Builder
Tip of the Day

Startup Encounters:

Unavoidable – Get Prepared

One of a Series

For prior segments go to my blog.


Startup mangers are different.


Managers are people who get work accomplished through other people.


Startup managers have added complexities: they must get especially difficult things done very fast by (mostly) strangers while riding an unpredictable roller coaster.  


All managers in a new enterprise have a very challenging job, often seemingly impossible. I greatly admire them.




(Part of my series on STARTUP MANAGERS ARE DIFFERENT – for prior parts go to my Blog


I’ve found a few things that make managing a startup so different and challenging. Understanding each can help you get more done by the people you are going to manage.

  1. Turmoil

  2. Guts

  3. Recruiting

  4. Marketable

  5. Focus

  6. Mentor-advisors

Startup Managers Are



The term “marketable CEO” is frequently applied to describe an ideal founder for a startup – or his/her successor. The implications of this term are very important.

What is a Founder?

The startup’s leader is typically its founder. That is both a social acknowledgement as well as a legal title. Sometimes there may be two or three founders, but that’s not as common.


The founder is the first employee of the company. That’s the person who is the sole owner of all the shares of the company. Soon fresh shares will be created and sold, diluting the percent owned by the founder, when cash is raised from investors and new talented employees are attracted by being given the right to purchase shares at low prices via options contracts.


The founder is the first legal officer – the President – of the corporation that becomes the startup. Some immediately take the title of CEO, chief executive officer.


The founder is typically expecting to be in that role for many years to come. However, my experience has shown that’s not likely to happen. Even Steve Jobs got fired. My database shows the average duration of the startup founder CEO is 3.3 years. Rare are the Mark Zuckerbergs who stay on and on and on.

What Does Marketable CEO Mean?

Experienced venture investors look for “the marketable CEO.” That is the amazing person who can do the following year after year after year{


  • Raise Capital

  • Recruit Employees

  • Sell to Customers


Raising capital is constant, I’ve found finding capital to occupy around twenty percent of the time of the startup CEO. Find qualified angels and venture partners. Get introductions. Present and present until the cash is in the bank. Then go to the meetings of the company’s board of directors. Join the investors’ representatives, who are expecting you the CEO to report on how things are going, and what they can do to boost results for the startup. As cash is burned monthly, time approaches for replenishment and a new round of financing is planned and executed. The CEO does the heavy lifting, leading and presenting the company constantly.


Recruiting is constant. The number one reason startups fail to meet their growth plans is they fail to attract enough of the talented people required. The recruiting skill of the CEO is high on the list of what experienced venture investors look for. Other managers and employees of the startup are going to help the recruiting, but especially during the early years, prospective employees will insist on talking to the CEO. Screening resumes, interviewing and discussing candidates with managers takes a lot of hours each day. Startup CEOs expect another twenty percent of their time taken to recruit people. The CEO should also expect to be required to privately talk to troubled employees, calming their emotions, getting people to return to productive work. People management is a mandatory skill for a startup CEO. It is very time consuming.


Selling is constant. The entire company is focused on more sales every day. Urgency drives everyone. The CEO is central to making that happen. It occupies most of the rest of his available hours every week. Yes, a lot of this work – creating the products, delivering them, marketing them – are done by others, yet the CEO is expected to be up to the neck in customer intensive work, doing what it takes to deliver growth in sales.


That is what a marketable CEO is.




Next time I’ll talk about “(4)  STARTUP MANAGERS FOCUS ”

For prior parts go to my Blog

I wish you The Best on your Adventure!



Sales Profits Cash Flow Balance Sheet

How much cash is required?

How many people are needed?

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John Nesheim
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