I've got a pretty well flushed out idea for a new platform I discovered a need for. I've gotten very positive interest dozens of potential users and investors, it seems everyone I talk to wants to see it built.
I've also found a good technical co-founder, who is ready to rock and roll on the MVP. However, I've never raised funds before, and my goal is to build this idea and sell it to a much bigger player once the value is proven.
Because of that, I'm wondering if I should partner someone with experience as a CEO in this kind of startup, and have my role stay as just cofounder. and head of product. Or, would the project have a higher likelihood of success if I took the lead, and found good advisors to learn the ropes.
Would love some thoughts,
My suggestion would to be to have no CEO title for a while. CEO means something VERY specific to outsiders. It does not mean "head of the company" and it does not mean "owner" and it does not mean "first person in the company." CEOs have a very specific role(s) to fill within a company and your talent in being able to command that title doesn't happen just because you put on a badge.
That doesn't mean you need a CEO or should hire a CEO. What it means, since you even had to ask the question, is that you're not ready for a CEO role in your company yet. Founder, owner, partner, and president are all adequate names to express that you're the decision-maker.
I'd wager that more than half of the people holding the title CEOs aren't actually ready to be CEOs. And even those that are mostly ready at least know they are better when they rely on others to support their development.
Even myself as a CEO coach would hesitate to say I'd make a good CEO. Even if I can observe and coach executives to improve their skills it doesn't mean my personality is also the right match for holding the CEO spot. Have I been the head of a company, yes, four times. But would I ever say I was the CEO? No.
Language matters. For now my recommendation is that you represent yourself with some other title from my list above. Wait until you understand what CEOs actually do before you decide who best fills that role. Most companies do not have a CEO.
Certainly represent yourself with enough authority that people recognize your decision-making power. Don't choose something confusing like head of product when you're one of the owners.
As usual, I agree with @Paul - well stated.
In the event you do reach a point where a CEO is critical, your investors will guide you to a person that they think fits. Beware of any who raise their hand because this is a role in a startup that must be taken reluctantly. Seek experience, not only in your space, but in your needs.
While it is always Team, Technology, and Traction, if you with a cofounder can get the tech into the market and get meaningful adoption, investors will not be concerned about the CEO role at that point. Conversely, if you have a CEO (you or another) and no tech or traction, it does not matter.
Finally, and some advice about how you view the future, if your only exit plan is to sell it to another company, you need to revisit the idea. Your assumption of an acquisition as the only exit will hamper you building a business that investors will like. I counsel you need to build a business to be profitable, with all the financial controls and operating metrics. If you do, you can be acquired (maybe without, but that is also a long road with many bodies on the side). Having lived through all of the market and politically driven tech market meltdowns in the last 25 years, watching partners go away, term sheets being canceled, and deals not closing for reasons beyond your control, having a "get profitable ASAP" plan will build a sustainable business that can be acquired but does not have to be to be a good business.
Highly recommend writing a business plan. That will guide you on what you need to make your idea a reality. Not to mention most serious investors want to see one.