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What Does a CEO of a Startup Do?

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May 24, 2016

CEOs of start-ups (and all other companies) only need to do three things:

1. Set and communication a unified vision and culture.

2. Ensure the business has capital and is on good financial footing.

3. Recruit talent and make sure the right people are in the right seats.

Of course, CEOs often do so much more than this and that's great ... as long as it does not come at a cost of the three core things a CEO does.

Set and communication a unified vision and culture.

when everyone is rowing in the same direction, the magic happens. Having a unified vision and unified culture allows everyone to be rowing in the same direction.

This is also a cautionary tale for companies that want to grow headcount too quickly. Smart start-ups do everything possible to keep headcount down so that it remains easier to keep a unified vision and culture.

While others in the company can help set the vision and the culture, it is ultimately the CEOs responsibility. The vision needs to be clear, understandable, and differentiated. The culture often mirrors the personality of the company's CEO.

This is why it is often so hard to do a CEO transition at a company ... it usually necessitates a cultural transition (especially when an outside CEO is brought it).

Ensure the business has capital and is on good financial footing.

It is really hard to think and plan long-term if one is worried about starving every day.

The CEO needs to ensure the company is either generating sufficient capital or has raised sufficient capital to allow her team to think long-term.

Otherwise, the company will be making terrible trade-offs and sacrificing long-term advantage for short-term gains.

Recruit talent and make sure the right people are in the right seats.

Recruiting, especially in the Bay Area, is an absolute blood sport. It is a knock-down, hand-to-hand, fight-club brawl. And anyone who says recruiting is not a challenge is not going after the top talent.

As important as recruiting the right people is thinking strategically on how to use the assets you have. Identify high-potential talent and grow them by giving them more responsibility.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What does a CEO of a start-up do? Answer by Auren Hoffman, fmr CEO of LiveRamp. started and sold 5 companies.


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