In the Cambridge cluster, investors and founders alike argue that CEO leadership matters hugely indetermining the ultimate outcomes for early-stage tech businesses. And the cost of a CEO failing and needing to be replaced can be high – in terms of shares, salaries and time – if not terminal, for the business.
But founder CEOs often struggle during the scale-up phase. Highly technical founders are often finding that they can no longer rely on their technical excellence, extreme productivity and vision. Noam Wasserman (HBR 2008) found that 50% of start-up founder CEOs are out within three years.
Why does this big leadership gap persist? How is it holding back the growth of scale-ups? Is the only option to get rid of the CEOs who don’t “have it”? Or can we challenge the dogma that great scale-up CEOs are “born with it” and can’t be “made”? Can tailored coaching support, mentoring and accrued experience precipitate the required breakthroughs in performance?
Through this research, we aim to address the demoralising statistics about the drop-out rate of founder CEOs as businesses grow. We will equip investors, the CEOs themselves, and other mentors and coaches, with insight to guide and priortise their efforts in developing CEO leadership.
Some working definitions:"Leadership" is causing results through others"A Scale-up Business" is a 3-7 year old company that meets any/all of the following criteria: - have had VC or Angel backing at least £1m in total- or are £500k p.a. revenue generating (have product market fit)- or have grown 20% revenue YoY from base £100k for four years- or have 20% in staff from base 50 for four years"Success for a Scale-up Business" is a Merger or Acquisition, an Initial Public Offering, being bought by an individual, or being sustainably profitable such that equity shareholders are bought out - within ten years from founding
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Please email Katy Tuncer at email@example.com if you'd like to know more about our methodology and the existing research we are building on.