Startup founder vocabulary and titles

Language expresses values and knowledge, like the old false story about 100 eskimo words for snow.

Here are the titles at your startup and what they mean about you:

CEO. Necessary for a startup and this is the leader. If none, big problem.

CTO. If there is a 50-50 cofounder type deal and one is technical OK. For a guy you hired in early, this is grade inflation but maybe necessary for a great guy. It is a problem because the technologies and products you focus on will change, and when you grow the scale issues are new. Who will solve those? I can’t name the great founder CTOs who invented something at 22, and still occupy CTO slot years later, if there are any.

CFO. Insane. Startups do not need these until at least a Series A or maybe Series B. If you have one it is an expensive, self-important person who isn’t driving the core business in a tech company.

CMO. Silly. There is presently no marketing magic in early stage companies so nobody merits this title.

CRO or revenue/sales titles. This is kind of okay and expresses the self-important puffery of sales guys. They also want lots of cash. So if you have one it is worrying but if there is revenue moving, ok!

Chairman. This is often the other founder who wont/cant be CEO. There is a moral hazard risk (“why doesnt he quit his day job?”) so interrogate why — not qualified to be CEO or “too rich and lazy” are OK reasons I think.

In short there should be no Chief anything except CEO ideally and anything else needs a good explanation.