How to Be a Great Start-Up CEO

August 20, 2006 at 11:29 pm 1 comment

So you want to start a business? Congratulations, there is nothing more exciting, rewarding and draining in this world. But do you have what it takes?

Anyone working in a start-up knows you need to wear multiple hats. One day you work in the marketing department, while the next you are designing the next feature set of the application you are building. This is even more so if you are the head honcho, the big chief, the start-up CEO.

Over the past few months, in an effort to improve my leadership of our company, I have put in a lot of thought into what makes a great start-up CEO. The following 15 characteristics define the superman of CEOs, the model of perfection. Bear in mind that I highly doubt any one person can be great at all 15 of these elements.

Highly intelligent

There is no substitute for intelligence. A CEO will need to be forward thinking, analytical, and strategic.

Terrific negotiator

The CEO will find himself in many conference rooms negotiating. Securing the best deals for his company will be critical at every stage of the game. Negotiations are essential when he looks for funding, when he signs customers, when he recruits, when he makes purchases and most importantly when he develops partnerships.

Charismatic leader

For a start-up to be successful, a lot of people need to get behind a company and put a lot at stake (employees, customers, partners, investors). This is much easier if the person at the top is charismatic and a people person.

Great communicator

A CEO must be able to express his views both in the board room, conference room, and cubicle. Everyone needs to buy into what he is selling.

Technical expertise

Technology start-up or not, every CEO today needs to have a strong command of technology. Without technology a start-up has too much of a disadvantage.

Management guru

The CEO needs to be well versed in the management theories of the day, but more importantly he needs to have a natural feel for managing people and projects.

Marketing maven

Good marketing is a start-ups best friend and bad marketing is an early death wish. The person at the top must approve the marketing initiatives, so it helps to have a knack for it.

Tough as nails

Rocky situations come up, and a CEO must be able to hold his ground.

Soft as tissue

Situations will arise that will need to be handled with a very soft touch.


Nothing ever works out perfectly, and so the CEO will need to switch gears and refocus often.

Zero Ego

A CEO with an ego can be catastrophic. They tend to hold on to strategies and products longer then they should. A CEO must be able to objectively asses every situation.


A CEO will need to instill processes and culture into the company, and he will need to raise people to a high level, the only way to do this is to be a great teacher.


Start-ups need to out hustle and out do more established players, and the best way to do this is to be create in every sense of the word.

Disciplined and hardworking

A CEO must be focused and have an outstanding work ethic. Building a company will require many, many late nights, most weekends, and a lot of personal sacrifice.

And most importantly, CRAZY

There really is no sane reason for starting a company, so anyone who would subject himself to the constant and brutal nature of the role needs to be crazy and love being crazy.


Entry filed under: Start-up.

The Magic Formula for Internet Success Laser Focus – Success is Only a Light Bulb Away

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Amin Toufani  |  September 11, 2006 at 4:10 pm


    Congratulations! I think you nailed them all πŸ˜‰
    Inspiring piece… I will refer to it in the future.



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Exactly one year ago I set off on the most exciting journey of my life; I started Emerging Demographics Inc (the parent company of

Along the way I was selected as one of the top 20 young entrepreneurs by and the 21st coolest young entrepreneur by Inc. magazine. I have also appeared in ABC7, Telemundo, NPR, and been quoted in,, Entrepreneur Magazine, and various other publications.

Over the next few months I will recount some of the stories and lessons learned from building, developing and creating a business from scratch.

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