The Difference Between a Founder and a CEO

Last week we had a discussion at community about a CEO’s role in a startup. The reason for the discussion was my article about CEOs’ roles in early-stage startups.

I had a great discussion with Pavel Hegai and Victor Savyuk. We agreed on the fact that CEO is a ROLE. A role that implies different types of leadership. All types of leadership perform important integrative functions for a company. According to Adizes Institute. We also agreed that a CEO is probably the only person who is fully involved in a company’s success, apart from the founders.

A CEO implies full-time involvement in a startup and does not compete by working on other projects. It works in different stages only, I am convinced. But fundraising will be extremely difficult in this situation.

A CEO can be a founder, but it is not necessarily. If a CEO is not a founder, they just need an equity share. Founders need to put up with an idea that there is a person in charge of the company’s success. It is a CEO. Therefore, the CEO simply needs to be given the authority to steer that ship.

A CEO’s job is necessary to be paid. The involvement of founders may not be paid if there is no specific role in the project. Founders live for profits and/or to grow the value of the company.


  1. Founders are the inventors and creators of the ship;
  2. CEO is the captain of the ship.

What do you think?



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Evgenii Nelepko

Evgenii Nelepko

CEO/ BD at Startups | Advisor for Founders. Connect on LinkedIn: