Tag Archives: startup

Is the CEO also the “Chief Product Officer”

Mark Pincus has just stepped down from the CEO position of Zynga.com partly because of investor pressure and also to give him the time to focus on the product.

There is a lot of differing opinions of what a CEO should do. In larger more established companies with large workforces it can be to define the strategy and manage the team to execute that strategy. In public companies it used to be the Chairman that managed investors – but the transparency that is now required in public companies means the CEO is usually pulled in front of investors and analysts to explain the companies strategy and progress.

This can make it hard when you transition from a private to a public company as Mark has recently done. Additional pressure to perform and support a valuation means increased scrutiny for the CEO on performance and change.

By letting the founder CEO focus on the product, and bring in a new hire to manage investors and long term strategy (including employee moral at Zynga) this gives the company a chance to remove the microscope on performance. Giving the company the time to execute and fix the fundamental shifts that the gaming industry is seeing (Facebook platform to Mobile).

Mark is very well qualified to focus on product, and I am sure we will see a renaissance from Zynga following some pretty poor filler acquisitions in the past.

So ask yourself, are you a people manager or a product manager – you can really only be one. If product is your passion then make sure you give this enough time and don’t let your flair for this be diminished by focusing on too many other things.

Using a blog to document your business

Both in the startup of Diet Chef and other businesses I have invested in there is a lot of formal and informal communication.

Email, calls, discussions and meetings can sometimes get lost in the day to day trading and business emails that fly back and forth in our businesses.

One of the things that I have used really effectively is blogs. This blog is a public sharing of lots of issues that I find useful to document, but within a business there is lots of discussions and decisions that it is useful to document. A private blog for the founders or senior managers can be a really useful tool for this.

I would suggest that the founder and CEO runs this. They use it to share thoughts on decisions they are going to make, sometimes in startups the “board” meetings are really informal and papers produced are not of the quality of a board when you have PE shareholders.

It is immensely useful to look back on some of the historic posts to understand why you made decisions and to look at formalising measurement. At Diet Chef our original TV campaign was planned this way. We documented the costs, production and media insights we had gathered from experienced companies that had used TV – and set KPI’s for measurement of success.

It is really useful to look back on this even now to understand the challenges that you faced when the business was starting – and how you overcame big strategic issues you faced.

It is easy with WordPress.com to create a site that has invited users, so why not start today and document your journey – even to document all the mistakes you make!!