The term “CEO” conjures up these images of brave, passionate, charismatic leaders setting grand visions and winning the hearts and minds of customers, investors and employees alike. I hate that 3 person startups routinely have someone called “CEO” (kinda seems ridiculous at that stage). But whatever… every organization of any size must have a leader.
It is a truism among VCs that we invest in teams. Certainly for us at Real Ventures – since we invest at the seed level the bulk of our decision is based on the team – and the bulk of the team assessment is based on the CEO.
What do we look for in CEOs? I’ll post something more detailed on that shortly, but at a high level we look for:
Passion – You lead a company solving something you are so passionate about you have to make it happen
Domain experience – You know the industry dynamics, players, etc.
Prior startup experience – startups are tough. Better learn them on someone else’s dime before doing your own.
Customer focus – it’s not about flashy marketing, it’s about killer product and service. That orientation starts at the top.
Command of the details – There is no place in a startup for high level strategists. Yes, you need that. But every person must be execution and detail oriented. Again – that starts at the top. If the CEO is sweating the details, everyone else will.
What got me thinking about this was a great story about Steve Jobs’ attention to detail. It’s short and I recommend you read it. If he can have this level of focus, we all can. After all, the devil’s in the details.