The Program

TechStars Blog

27th February 2012

What If You’re Not CEO Material?

I write a monthly column for Inc Magazine called Dispatches from TechStars. Here’s an excerpt from a February 15, 2012 Inc Magazine article.


What If You’re Not CEO Material?
It’s your company–the product of your own passion and vision. But are you sure you’re the right person to lead it?

Deciding whether or not to bring in an outside CEO is one of the most gut-wrenching decisions that a founder will ever need to make. I’ve seen it many times before.

In 2009, Isaac Saldana and two cofounders started a company called SendGrid that helps companies reliably deliver transactional email—things like purchase receipts, confirmation messages, etc. They went through TechStars in 2009 with much success. Then I invested in the seed round along with Mark Solon of Highway 12 Ventures and we both joined the board of directors. Now Mark and I both have a bias toward founders holding the CEO title. Even so, early on we openly and directly discussed with Isaac the idea that it might make sense to bring in a more experienced CEO in the future. Isaac has amazing technical talent but not much executive-level operating experience.

Isaac was open to that possibility but wanted to stay CEO until it was clear that doing so would negatively impact the business. So we all agreed to monitor the situation. Eventually the time came: Isaac realized on his own that he was learning on the job and it was slowing the company down.

It’s not a moment that’s easy for any founder to confront. What if an outside CEO destroys all that you’ve built? On the other hand, what if you’re getting in the way of your own company?

Read the rest of the article in its entirety at Inc.com.