CEOs: The devil’s in the details

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.