When A Startup Founder Hires A Professional CEO, Does He Need To Have An Industry Background?

A good question, and one most professionals get wrong. Even professional recruiters. Although this can depend on many factors, generally speaking the CEO does not need to come from the industry. 


The existing employees and team should bring the industry and domain expertise. If it is a raw startup with no staff, that is really a co-founder, not a “CEO hire”. And no good CEO is going to work for a founder that has little experience. Most experienced CEOs do not want to take raw startup risk, they come in later when the risk is fleshed out and scaling up is the challenge. The founder better bring large industry experience and/or management experience and a killer business plan, having completed deep market research, competitive intelligence, and other development work. A company is worth zero dollars until this is done.  


It is often better if the CEO is not buried in the industry standard belief systems, as then they can go beyond it. Any company...

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How Big A Market Should A Startup Company Target?

The best way to destroy your credibility with investors is to say we are going to attack, and own, a multi-billion dollar market. Although this may intuitively seem to attract investors, in actuality it is a fatal mistake raising capital. Your credibility using $100B or $1 trillion markets is shot to hell. Here is why.  

No startup should be going after a market larger than $1B five years out. An ideal market niche size is between $100M and $250M. Niching down is not optional. It is basically suicide to tackle huge markets. Even better is a series of niches in a portfolio of markets shown below.

I have often done with 100% success a “Portfolio of niches” strategy for market entry. This means laying out and ranking many niches and then prioritizing them by various factors.  And it sets you up to be very agile, too. The product roadmap and target niches expand each year, as shown below. The first chart shows the long-term market potential for a horizontal product...

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How Do You Determine The Distribution of Equity Among Co-founders When Starting A New Company?

There are many factors, and it is too complex to offer a standard answer. You need to hire a consultant that is a CEO/Founder with lots of experience to discuss things for 1–2 hours.

One way around this is to set hourly rates for the founders and track time to allocate it according to contribution. Shares are earned with seat equity. A simple spreadsheet with monthly invoices submitted by everyone is easy to do. There are plenty of software solutions for this too, but likely best only when it gets complicated with many founders.

People and Founders are never “equal” in what they bring to the table. So, splitting 2 or 3 ways is not usually an unfair solution.

Factors to consider:

  1. Relative time and contribution to sweat equity - some may do little and others may work full-time or more. That is why tracking hours and market rates works well.
  2. How much capital will be needed and will Founders contribute? S
    • Always separate purchased shares from “Founders...
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