The One Who Can Raise Money is the Ceo
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One of the main questions I always get from proto-startups is who should get what title, which is really startup code for, “Which one of us should be CEO?”
Firstly, if a natural leader doesn’t appear within the group, that is a big red flag. You need someone who can make the tough calls, who can get screamed at by board members without wavering in his or her belief in the company’s trajectory, who can fire a poisonous employee even if it is that employee’s birthday and their dog just died.
Many founders want to be CEO in the early stage. They think it’s glamorous. It’s not.
The fact is, the only one who can raise money is the CEO. Full stop.
Seed money comes from wealthy individuals, and wealthy individuals write checks to CEOs, not CTOs or COOs.
Similarly, if a founder dubs themselves CEO but then fails to raise money, change their role or cut them loose. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard some joker tell me he’s CEO because it was his “idea.”
Besides the fact that ideas are worthless, the primary role of the early stage CEO is to raise money. There is no reason to have new ideas until you’ve executed a prototype of the first idea, generated revenue/users/some other key metric off of that prototype, and then raised seed money.
If your CEO is the “idea guy” (a.k.a. “big picture guy”, a.k.a. “the guy who brings in an expensive CFO advisor to help him raise funds”), that is a major red flag to investors. In an early-stage startup, everyone has to wear many hats.
The CTO will be doing front-end development, back-end development and QA. The CEO should be working on sales, marketing and the product, but most of all, they should be doing the fundraising. If your CEO cannot raise money, then that person isn’t a real startup CEO.
Bottom line: The one who can raise money should be the CEO.