What is the role of a CEO in a startup?

What is the role of a CEO in a startup?

I am interested in how people see the role of a CEO in a startup – specifically to understand if there is any difference between how employees and CEOs think about the role of a startup CEO. People have implicit expectations based on what they have read, heard or experienced in other business settings – which often leads to miscommunication and wasted time and effort when applied to an early stage startup

Problems stem from either strategy or execution. This survey is to try help me understand: are founders doing the wrong things or are founders doing things wrong?


I asked 3 simple questions in a Google Form

  1. What are the top 3 things a startup CEO needs to do?
  2. Are you an employee or a CEO
  3. How big is your company

I left the “top three things” field as a free text box as I wanted to see the range of answers people would give and the language they would use to describe them

There were 64 responses. You can see the data in the spreedsheet here


The spreadsheet contains

  • the raw data
  • broken down by CEO
  • broken down by employee
  • a cleaned up version of the data where I try understand the consistent themes within the data



There were 64 responses. I ignored a few that were malformed or weirdly answered.


what CEOs think is important


what employees think is important


Everyone seems to think that Vision, Funding and Hiring are the 3 main tasks of the CEO


My thoughts

I was very surprised how similar all the answers were, from employees and CEOS. It turns out everyone expects the CEO to do the same handful of things

I could draw a rough conclusion that when things go wrong in startups, its because the CEOs don’t know how to do things right, rather than things going wrong because they don’t know what the right things are to do

This was a fun and rough exercise, but could point the way to doing more interesting (and hopefully statistically sound) surveys like this in the future

If you have thoughts chat to me on @firstconversion on twitter or email me