Q: Does the CEO need to know code? If yes, how much, or to what extent?
I think the founder-CEO needs to be great at at least one core line function:
- Able to code and ship a sellable 1.0 (engineering); or
- Able to close first $1m in revenues (sales); or
- Able to architect and lay out The Next Big Thing (product); or
- Able to magically bring customers and users to almost any product (marketing).
If the CEO isn’t a bit of a magician in one of the key functional areas, even best case, great people won’t want to work for her/him. Would you?
And without a great team, even just in the founding team, you’ll probably fail. Why would anyone great join you? Only because you are great, at least in some way.
If the founder/CEO is a magician in one area, and is tenacious and driven, she or he can recruit the rest.
Obviously, for very lean start-ups, there are huge advantages to having the founders all being able to write sick code. Then you can just build it, and prove it out, without, maybe, needing the other functional areas or material capital first.
But really just the CEO needs to be great at one important thing that creates amazing start-ups.
Somehow, you’ll hire and hack the rest.