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What are the roles & responsibilities of a startup CEO?

Most often than not a Chief Executive Officer or CEO is the one with the idea and the one launching the company.

In a lot of cases, CEOs are founders of the company. But there are instances where a CEO is hired. In either of the cases, putting a hat on a CEO of a specific role is the most difficult thing to do. And the lines are even more blurred when it comes to the roles and responsibilities of a CEO in a startup.

There are no fixed rules, sometimes contradictory advice, and a lot of confusion. So, what is the role and responsibility of a CEO in a startup? 

The answer isn’t that simple. But the main takeaway is that the scope of a CEO’s role and responsibilities is huge.

Below is a list of points that sum up the roles and responsibilities of the CEO in a startup.

Who Is A CEO?

A CEO or Chief Executive Officer is one of the topmost positions in a startup. The title CEO evokes a feeling of power and control. But, what most people miss out on can be best summarized by the phrase, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Yes, the responsibilities of a CEO are diverse and surely quite dizzying too.

Only 1 in 20 make it to the list of a good CEO. All decisions like hiring, firing, financing, operations, organizational culture, financing, marketing, PR, etc will be shot from your shoulder.

The roles of the CEO in a startup need occasional modifications to accommodate the requirements posed by teams and clients. Here are some productivity hacks for startup CEOs to function better.


Vision And Goals

CEO’s responsibility in a startup is to make sure that the firm’s vision and goals are crystal clear to its employees.

CEOs need to give their team an occasional reminder about the company’s vision. Your vision should be revised every now and then, in response to the customer’s feedback obtained.

Sometimes both short-term and long-term goals need to be revised, and the power to modify them remains with the CEO. A quick brief about these can be given in weekly meetings and reviews. This will ensure that personal and organizational goals and visions are aligned.

Business Strategy & Strategic Management

A company’s first strategist is its CEO.

Business strategies are decided in the early stages of startup building, as they provide a path that the venture will follow. As per Forbes, a startup CEO should invest 10% of themselves in business strategy making.

The strategy involves discussion on product positioning, its features, investment, and other important decisions. This discussion with the founding team and important stakeholders would ensure proper planning and prioritization of tasks.

Do you have the ideal startup team?

Managing Investors

A CEO is an entrusted person in a company to look for and after investors.

Investors are third parties, wanting to capitalize on your idea by providing financial support. Investors come with many powers and most often control the CEO’s decision-making. Hence, an important responsibility of a CEO in a startup is to take care of the investors.

This goes without saying that investors should be glued to your company’s ideas.

The investors can also act as powerful spokespersons for your venture if you keep them impressed. Not only will they keep investing, but would also preach about your company in their influential circle.


CEOs and specifically CEOs of a startup, don’t shy away from the recruitment process. But before hiring a team member, there is a bigger role of a CEO in a startup. That is to know when to hire their first employee and how many employees to hire.

Recruiters and HR would just follow up with the requirements of teams. Here your responsibility as a CEO in a startup is to prevent overhiring from taking place. Overhiring can also cost a good startup its success if a CEO is too enthusiastic about expanding the team.

Hence, as a startup CEO, being absolutely clear about what you need is the first step. Brainstorm all the possible way-outs for a problem or question before making a team-related decision. This is what will save you from spending all the finances on unnecessary hiring.


Your team members would likely see a coach, mentor, and leader in you. Hence, the main role of a CEO in a startup is as a leader. One who’s the jack of all trades is recruitment, marketing, sales, financial accounting, etc. Ones that can also advise specific teams.

Leadership skills are essential for a CEO. In most cases, the failure of a startup is credited to a bad leader. While it is important to lead and guide, it is also crucial to know where to draw the line. Essentially, when it comes to issues like micromanagement and over-delegation. Good leadership skills would also help you better manage the team overall.

Cash-Flow and Allocation of Budgets

Cash flow and allocation of budgets is another responsibility of the CEO. It is your sole responsibility as a CEO to get the cash flowing.

Managing revenue and preventing external financing from stopping is yet another crucial task. For doing that, a CEO needs to establish a sturdy metric-driven culture.

Metrics help the CEO and CFO make efficient decisions concerning expenses and revenue.

What are the skills required to be a CEO?

In order to be a successful CEO, one must have a wide range of skills. These skills include:

  • Strategic thinking: The ability to see the big picture and develop long-term plans that will help the company achieve its goals.
  • Leadership: The ability to inspire and motivate others to achieve results. This includes building cohesive teams, delegating responsibilities effectively, and setting clear goals.
  • Financial acumen: The ability to make good financial decisions that will support the company’s growth. This involves evaluating costs and revenues, managing budgets, and understanding the impact of decisions on the bottom line.
  • Tactical execution: The ability to implement the plans and strategies developed by the CEO, in a timely and effective manner. This includes working with cross-functional teams to ensure that all parts of the organization are aligned in their efforts.

In addition to these skills, CEOs must also be able to communicate effectively with stakeholders and employees, build strong relationships with partners and vendors, and stay up-to-date on industry trends.

Overall, being a CEO requires a combination of leadership, business acumen, and strong people skills. If you excel in these areas, you may be well suited for this challenging but rewarding role.


CEO Job Description

List the job description of a CEO

  • Develop strong company policies and plans that are in line with short-term and long-term goals.
  • Develop a highly functioning managerial team by assisting employees in achieving their potential. Create a high-performing managerial team by encouraging and leading staff to progress.
  • Oversee all operations and company activities to ensure they fulfill the necessary goals and are consistent with the overall plan and objective.
  • Make better investing judgments to help the organization grow and boost earnings.
  • Enforce adherence to legal guidelines and in-house policies to maintain the company’s legality and business ethics
  • Review financial and non-financial reports to devise solutions or improvements
  • Create trust connections with key partners and stakeholders and serve as a point of contact for major shareholders.
  • Analyze problematic situations and occurrences and provide solutions to ensure company survival and growth
  • Maintain a thorough understanding of the firm’s sector and market.
  • Develop the company’s culture and overall company vision.

CEO vs Founder

  • A CEO is the top executive in a company and is responsible for making decisions that will impact the entire organization. A founder, on the other hand, is the person who started the company and may or may not still be involved in its day-to-day operations.
  • CEOs are typically appointed by the board of directors, while founders are usually the ones who appoint the CEO. The CEO reports to the board of directors, while the founder may or may not have any direct reporting relationship to the CEO.
  • CEOs are typically responsible for all aspects of the company’s operations, while founders may only be involved in certain aspects of the business. For example, a CEO might be responsible for developing and implementing strategy, while a founder might be more involved in product development or marketing.
  • CEOs typically have extensive business experience, while founders may or may not have any prior business experience.
  • CEOs are typically paid a salary and may also receive bonuses and equity-based compensation, while founders often take lower salaries and may only receive equity in the company.
  • CEOs are often replaced if the company is not performing well, while founders may be more likely to stick with the company through thick and thin.


What are the future trends for CEOs?

There are a few future trends that CEOs should be aware of:

1. The role of the CEO is changing – with the rise of technology and the global economy, CEOs are no longer just responsible for their own companies, but for the entire ecosystem that they operate in.

2. The skillsets required of CEOs are also changing – as the world becomes more complex, CEOs will need to be able to deal with greater uncertainty and ambiguity.

3. There is a growing expectation for CEOs to be purpose-driven – with the rise of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, there is a growing expectation for CEOs to be purpose-driven and have a clear vision for their companies.

4. The spotlight on CEOs is only getting brighter – as the world becomes more connected, the spotlight on CEOs is only going to get brighter. This means that CEOs need to be prepared to deal with increased scrutiny from all angles.

5. There is a growing demand for CEO succession planning – as the average tenure of CEOs continues to decline, there is a growing demand for companies to have succession plans in place. This is so that companies can continue to operate smoothly even if their CEOs leave unexpectedly.


Concluding Thoughts

The above-mentioned points more or less summarize the roles and responsibilities of the CEO in a startup. However, certain qualities are more subtle in nature. Tasks CEOs do normatively include:

  • having good organizational culture and values,
  • maintaining good relations with employees,
  • cultivating a friendly vibe in the office, keeping eyes on measurement systems, building the senior management team,
  • making occasional interactions with lower management,

While all this might sound overwhelming for a startup founder, worry not! You can read the blog on how to avoid burnout as a startup founder, and learn how to tackle startup issues.


Q1. Who is a CEO?

A1. A CEO or Chief Executive Officer is the main public face of an organization. The CEO is the highest-ranking executive of an organization. The CEO is responsible for all the organization’s decisions and has diverse responsibilities.

Q2. Who does the CEO work with?

A2. The Chief Executive Officer works with the board, the CFO, the CMO, the COO, and all other top-level management in the organization.

Q3. What is the next most powerful position after CEO?

A3. The next most powerful position after CEO is that of the president and also other top level CXOs like the COO, CMO, CFO, CIO, etc.

Q4. How are CEOs selected?

A4. CEOs are selected by the board of directors and shareholders.

Q5: What are the future trends for CEOs?

A5: Some future trends for CEOs to be aware of include:

  1. Changing role of the CEO to encompass the broader ecosystem.
  2. Evolving skillsets to deal with complexity and uncertainty.
  3. Growing expectation for CEOs to be purpose-driven.
  4. Increased scrutiny and visibility on CEOs.
  5. Demand for CEO succession planning to ensure smooth transitions.

These trends highlight the evolving nature of the CEO role in response to technological advancements, societal expectations, and changing business environments.

If you enjoyed reading this post, check out our other posts on our blog and also take business assessments to ensure that your company is moving towards success.

We hope that this article has provided you with some valuable insights into what it takes to be a successful CEO. Here are some other related articles that cover topics related to building the right startup team.

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