What is a better title for a startup head....Founder or CEO? Are there any pros/cons to certain titles?


The previous answers given here are great, but I've copied a trick from legendary investor Monish Pabrai that I've used in previous startups that seems to work wonders -- especially if your company does direct B2B sales.

Many Founders/ CEOs are hung up on having the Founder/ CEO/ President title. As others have mentioned, those titles have become somewhat devalued in today's world -- especially if you are in a sales meeting with a large organization. Many purchasing agents at large organizations are bombarded by Founders/ CEOs/ Presidents visiting them all day.

This conveys the image that a) your company is relatively small (the CEO of GM never personally sells you a car) and b) you are probably the most knowledgeable person in the organization about your product, but once you land the account the client company will mostly be dealing with newly hired second level staff.

Monish recommends that Founder/ CEOs hand out a business card that has the title "Head of Sales" or "VP of Sales". By working in the Head of Sales role, and by your ability to speak knowledgeably about the product, you will convey the message that a) every person in the organization is very knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the product (even the sales guys) and b) you will personally be available to answer the client's questions over the long run.

I've used this effectively many times myself.

Answered 8 years ago

The term "founder" describes your relationship to the history of the business. Page and Brin will always be Google's founders. The term "CEO" is about your position in the current organization's hierarchy. Some founders will be CEOs, at least for a while.

Titles are the easy way for outsiders to understand how to connect with your organization. So if you're the head, just use the title CEO unless you have some strong reason not to. That way people will know to come to you with CEO-ish things. There's no harm in putting "founder" on your business cards as well. E.g., "Founder / CEO" or "CEO & Founder". But things like "CTO & Founder" are also legitimate, so don't go with "Founder" alone, or people will be left wondering which things they should contact you directly about.

Answered 8 years ago

I work with many CEOs and C suite executives as well as "startup CEO" I gotta tell you that the CEO term in our world is becoming less impressive and more egotistical. Most founders want that CEO but aren't really worthy of a CEO title. Just because you launch doesn't mean you should lead much less that you are capable of long term thinking.

Consider Steve jobs who went through this and then had to prove himself to be worthy of such role. If you go with a lesser egotistical title, like cofounder & (___) fill in blank with something you are really useful at.. You can come across as more of a team player, focused in your and your company's efforts... Etc.

I own a web design firm, I call myself owner.
I own and run a hosting and technology it company, I call myself cofounder and chief strategist (not CEO)
I co-own a multistate cleaning company and call myself co-founder and lead marketer.

I had other startups and did also call myself a CEO until I knew better. I read a lot on management, I give presentations for successful leading, team evangelism, gaining competitive advantages, host a series of coaching sessions every year, personally helped several now successful individuals in growing their companies. And even though i have an MBA and all this experience I know that if I applied for a CEO job somewhere I probably wouldn't still get that top role. You must earn it. CEOs has huge responsibilities.
Be a leader and know when you are and when you are not a true CEO or manager for that matter.

Read the Harvard MBA oath and read up on Henry Mintzberg on managing.

Answered 8 years ago

On top of what was discussed here, the most important message to convey via a practical title is:
a) did you started the company - e.g. Founder, Co-Founder
b) what's your key role (whom you make most of the decisions as) - e.g. CEO, COO, Business Development, Product, Marketing

There will be drawbacks when your audience are not sure what you do by reading your title, e.g. Chief Rainmaker, Chief Problem Solver... <- bad examples

Answered 8 years ago

You will always be a Founder or Co-Founder and your title will change. Be sure to be careful however how you dole out the Founder/Co-Founder titles. That should be a lifetime title so be sure it goes to the right people who played a major role in the starting of the company and who will continue to play a role in the years to come. Another option is to give yourself the title President if you have plans to find someone to run your business (say if you are a technical founder)

Answered 8 years ago

All the previous answers are good. I'm just adding my 2 cents here, you can write yourself as Founder, CEO and retain both the titles with you.

Answered 5 years ago

It depends.
If you are opening a pizza restaurant, then go with Owner.

If you are starting a tech company that you want to grow into the millions in revenue, CEO/ Founder is fine (both).

There are people that think that a "CEO" title for a company with 2 people (for example) is egotistical and looks bad. So, they stick with Founder and other titles early on.

Although well placed (I thought that, too), I don't agree.

When I'm trying to talk to who represents a company (for investment or doing a business deal) I want to know who the CEO is so I can talk to them. I don't want to wade through a bunch of Founder titles, I want to know the designated point person for this business.

Answered 5 years ago


I mentor at University level for the Entrepreneurship program. I see this all the time!

Chances are as a new business you are "Jack (or Jill) of all trades", and are an expert at whatever your business does, and that is why you started the business.

BUT as a new business, you will NOT be doing the tasks of a "CEO". [Google: CEO job description]
Wait till you've moved to a place where you are just doing CEO work, or leave room for the business to grow and let some other C level experts come in.

NOTE: Read Micheal Gerber's "E Myth Revisited". This is the very best business book for Founders. You'll learn what is really required to intentionally create a business model that you can franchise/ sell/ or walk away from and let operate on it's own.

Answered 5 years ago

Founder would be the term if you started the company from the start Apple would have been started by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Microsoft founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen,

Walt Disney would have founded his company in his own name

As a start up head the title of Founder can help with you find investors and funding the main drawback is that if you list yourself as a Founder,it will show that you are in the early stages of your business and therefore can be perceived as being a risky or potential high risk prospect

Tim Cook of Apple or Steve Ballmer of Microsoft,Robert Iger and Michael Eisner of Disney are examples of the role of the CEO and they have a much greater responsibility to the whole business operation

You would have to demonstrate that you have the necessary knowledge and experience to be holding the position of a CEO within the company and with all the necessary capability of what that means

Also does your company have a CFO Chief Financial Officer, CMO Chief Marketing Officer and other senior Executive roles that need to be listed as well

There is a large difference in being a Founder and a CEO
and the different responsibilities involved in being a start up and the actual CEO role of dealing with the hands on operation of the company being answerable to financial institutions,regulatory bodies,employees,the wider community and also with the greater social responsibility concerns which comes with the CEO role

Answered 4 years ago

Every position or title comes with it is Pros and Cons in a start-up, even CEO or Founder whatever you call it. Let us first look at the CEO’s Pros and Cons:
Pros of being a CEO:
1. Salary: CEO are at the top position in company and thus, earns the highest salary in company. Along with the basic salary, CEOs also earns various other compensation packages in the industry such as bonuses, incentives, and other various pay packages. Also, CEO in companies gets various perks and benefits such as private planes, club memberships, luxury cars, personal travel etc.
2. Freedom: CEO of the company have the freedom to set their own schedules and define the strategies of organization. The CEO of the company holds the ultimate power to take all the important decisions in the company. CEO also holds the ability to delegate the tasks among other managers of company.
3. Reputation: Holding the position of CEO in company provides reputation to the individual in the company as well as society. This provides valuable opportunity to individual to carry out various projects with higher reputation and acceptance from the members of society. Also, CEO in the company holds higher authority than other staff members in organization. CEO knows about the whole operations of company and is also more informed about the market conditions of business environment. Also, CEO holds complete information about the financial and operational position of business which increases the experience of individual.
4. Teamwork: CEO holds large number of people under him and every task is completed in team collaboration which creates higher harmony among the staff members of the company.

Cons of being a CEO:
1. Pressure and criticism: The main limitation of becoming a CEO is higher work pressure and criticism from various lower level staff members. This also results in loneliness being faced by CEO of the company. Lot of work pressure results in higher stress level being faced by CEO. Also, there is no one with whom CEO can discuss the problems in company operations.
2. Lawsuits: CEO may face various lawsuits in case of unethical behaviour taking place in the organization and in the case of manipulation in financial records of the company. Further, there is not always the win situation in the company. customers or ex-employees of the organization may post various negative comments about the working or behaviour of CEO of company.
3. Face of the company: CEO of the company holds reputation due to the name of the company. however, the advantages hold by the CEO in company may turn out to be negative when the company faces financial set back.
4. Lot of paperwork: There is lot of paperwork and hiring and firing duties involved in holding this position in company.
5. Tight and busy schedules: The CEO faces huge problems due to its tight and busy schedules. CEO is responsible for various operations in company which causes huge burden upon the company. Also, CEO must ensure that all operations of the company are completed and managed in the limited time frame.
6. Higher stress: Huge work burden upon the CEO of company results in higher stress and anxiety. Also, lot of work pressures results in various sleepless nights. Work pressure also distracts the CEO from their personal, family, and societal life.
Pros of being a founder:
1. You can move faster: When you can decide without consulting others, you can do it quickly and move on with make that decision a reality.
2. There is less drama: There are countless stories of co-founders butting heads and fighting over all the decisions. Egos can get out of control quickly. Co-founders can disagree strongly on where to take the company long term. Many times, that ends with a less-than-amicable split that puts the company at risk.
3. Clearer direction: When you have only got one person steering the ship, it is clearer where it’s heading and who’s in charge. When a company lacks clear direction, it is much harder for everyone on the team to know what to focus on.
Cons of being a founder:
1. You will get tired of making so many decisions: Decision fatigue is a real thing and when you are the sole person making every single major decision, it is draining. It is easy to make bad decisions because you are only tired of making any decision.
2. Every move comes back to you: There is a lot of weight resting on your shoulders and that can get heavy. Day after day of wondering if you did/did not make the right decision will wear on your psyche.
3. Hard to brainstorm big ideas: When you are thinking big picture, having a couple of other co-founders to hash out an idea or talk through why something may or may not work, is beneficial. You do not have that as a founder. Sure, you can have others on your team to do that with, but it is less effective.
4. Seeing different perspectives is difficult: Most people have an area of expertise or at least a certain area they gravitate towards. For me, I am a product guy. I default to focusing on the product before anything else. On some days, that is great. On others? Not so much. Some problems would be better solved if I were stronger around sales. Other problems would be easier to tackle if I were great on the technical side of things. When you have got co-founders across different areas of expertise, you are able to pull all those perspectives together and have a much more holistic view.
5. It is just lonely: You will spend so much time in your own head, overthinking, overanalysing, and internalizing every little thing, with no great way for getting that out.
6. It is extremely easy to make bad decisions: When you are going at it solo, you can quickly get caught up in a bad idea and just run with it. You don’t have anyone to tell you that it’s a really stupid idea, leaving you vulnerable to getting distracted by things that won’t help your company (or worse, actually hurt it).

Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 4 years ago

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