Role of the chairman in tech startups

My friend Ed French has posted today on the role of chairmen in pre-revenue tech companies.  There is a lot of good stuff there, although for me the way the highlights in his post works implies an emphasis on the CEO succession that over-states the case.

In addition to true startups I think his thoughts are applicable to many post revenue companies, with a turnover of up to say $10m.

I like the post for the following reasons:

  • It conveys the scope of the work that needs to be done – chairman of a small business is a time consuming job
  • It makes it clear that the traditional distinction between Non-executive Chairman and Executive Chairman are getting blurred (have started using the term Semi-executive)
  • It stresses that the Chairman needs to be involved in strategy – which in turn implies that sector expertise is important

Absent from Ed’s post is any mention of “introducing the company to potential partners and customers”.  I think that is important as well, but it is often held out as the be-all and end-all, which it isn’t.  In fact one of the reasons I like Ed’s post is the way it de-emphasises that side of the role. 

Over time I have found that having the right chairman really propels a business forward, but it is help with strategy, fundraising and teambuilding rather than introductions that really make the difference.