CEOing at a Startup

…being a founder doesn’t automatically make you a CEO

4 min readSep 26, 2022

Heyyy Tribe
Cheers to a new week and the last week in September. Hope you are looking forward to and planning for the next quarter already.

Today, our founder, Victor Onyekere shares some important areas to focus on for aspiring founders/CEOs.

Its great to be back again on the blog writing to the tribers at Talemia. Today I will be addressing the first citizens of startups, in literal terms, those who are prepping to become CEOs at their startups. I used the word ‘’prepping’’ strategically because being a founder doesn’t automatically make you a CEO. Being a CEO is a lot of deep work. You must build the internal structure that qualifies you to earn that title. I understand that the startup space has disrupted how that title works. A CEO at a big corporation isn’t same as a CEO at an early stage startup. Again, VCs want to know upfront who’s going to be the CEO or at least who’s going to work in that capacity.

Early on, its very vital that startups define who’s going to act in the capacity of the CEO. Startups are designed to move very fast and build with agility. I have studied the dynamics of startups at early stages and I identified 3 key focus areas. This means that founders who are already CEOs or prepping to take up that role should pay close attention to these 3 areas

  1. Culture
    This is about the first and foremost thing a CEO of a startup must set from the get go. This determines every other thing at the company. It sets the tone on how work is executed. This is usually a tricky area as many startup founders just start out chasing users or building the product. Its important to set the culture from the beginning. This is what makes every other aspect of the company move smoothly with less friction. If you think about it for a moment, global CEOs of FAANG companies never joked about culture, so why should you?
  2. Hiring
    This is the second most important thing you’d do all your lifetime at the company. If you don’t get this area right, excellent failure with the product is guaranteed. A great product with a bad team will constantly deliver bad results. Someone once said that a CEO is measured by how much stupidity he’s able to intelligently avoid when attracting talents. A startup at early stage needs all the money it can get. You can’t afford to incur hiring expenses due to wrong hiring. While you may not be able to totally avoid making a wrong hire, you can limit the extent to which that happens. Having the right people is key. The right people can transform a bad product into a great one. Just attract the right people and 50% of your startup problems are solved
  3. Growth
    I know you weren’t probably expecting this one. From an investor’s POV [Point of View], the biggest KPI of a startup CEO is growth. If growth ain’t happening, then all you’ve got is a hobby. Having a Head of Growth doesn’t relieve you of this role. You are responsible for the Growth of The Product, Growth of The People and Growth of the Company. Everyone and everything must be growing. You must develop that super ability to spot what’s not growing and address it immediately. You must constantly be asking yourself this key question — ‘’How does this translate to Growth?’’. So, every decision must be growth based. Every role within the startup must tie back into growth. This helps you knock off ‘’Nice to Haves’’ and focus on “Need to Get’’. I’d love to sum it up this way — Anything that’s not growing is most probably dying.

There are many other in between activities you have to engage in but these 3 areas above is what you must focus on else you may be lost in the ‘’Busy-Block’’ but no real significant advancement is happening. Putting a larger chunk of your energy on these areas ensures that you constantly generate ‘’TRACTION’’ which is the most important KPI of every startup

I hope this helps an early stage Startup CEO out there
You can ask me any questions about getting faster traction for your startup via my Twitter DM

Don’t forget to check back every week for new content specially curated to help, educate and teach you on your journey as a founder.

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