A new chapter
In October 2014, I took the decision to step down as CEO of the company I founded. It’s an aspect that most founders don’t talk about. It therefore quickly becomes a situation of innuendo, backtalk, shame or gossip. While in fact, this decision, came as emotionally detached as any other sound business decision.I have always found it disturbing to hear founders witness how huge fights erupt over titles, positions and egos. These discussions are a waste of time, and can kill a company faster than anything else.
The only agenda a founder should have, is to move the company ahead, and ideally align your new position with what you like doing (and therefore, do best).
It’s kind of a reset moment.
For me, it meant I have brought the company to the point where the technology became stable, the core team was in place, we got initial traction, and things started to click together. And in order to accelerate my business, I had to expand my management and close a new round of funding.
This was a perfect moment to take a moment to reflect and establish a new situation that could carry the company further into our ambitious future…
Strengths and relief
One of the first question any founder should ask oneself is, how important your position is. Believing that being the CEO is the only way to exert influence in the direction of the company, is simply naive.
You should follow your strengths. In my case this meant, accelerating my ability to assess opportunities in various industries, and figure out how our technology can be applied, and distributed to support our business development efforts according to our strategy. This isn’t only my forté, it is actually something I love doing.
For me this meant, that my future would consist out of assessing an opportunity, defining a product around this and then figure out with my CTO and engineering team how we can turn this into a reality and business. And being part of this, this also means flying and talking at great conferences worldwide.
And so, I figured out I’m more into building products, rather than building companies. What a relief, this coming out was!
Hire to fire yourself
It has always been my firm belief, that a founder should hire people that are consistently better than yourself. Each new hire should bring you closer to the point where you could fire yourself.
And so I could fire myself from being CEO.
Where to hire your CEO?
Well. There is no easy answer, but start with having a heart to heart talk with your Chairman of the Board, as this will kickstart the entire process. One of the next steps is to ask the board for candidates, and screen the candidates rigorously together with your Chairman.
In my case, I was fortunate enough to being able to recruit from our own ranks. Our new CEO is not only one of the earliest angel investors, he has stood by my side during personal and professional challenges, and has always backed up the company. He doesn’t only bring years of experience to the table, he is unequivocally one of the most no-nonsense guys I’ve ever met, and pushes the envelop further every day.
With the closing of the new round, and looking back to a very interesting history of the company I founded, we all reached a new level of maturity. Reaching this level came with growing pains, as it wasn’t always easy to let the reigns of the company go into the hands of another individual. Often I found myself interfering, or giving my CEO a hard time.
But looking back, I am humbled and proud to be working with my team and being able to learn from the best in the field, on a daily basis. The bandwidth at which we are operating inside the company has tripled, it has become structured, the products have matured and the team has been professionalized.
And all of this in merely a few months. What will we be able to do in the next years ?