Let's consider a genius new graduated software engineer who knows several technologies like Angular/React/ReactNative/NodeJS/MongoDB/PostgreSQL/etc and starts and leads a new startup/company and they will lunch a nice product at the market and get success.

As the company becomes larger and they will hire more developers/other staffs, our founder will have more CEO responsibilities and have no time to lead the developer, so hires a CTO instead. After years the founders tech knowledges expires and new technologies will come that he won't have any knowledge about them. So, what will happen?

I like to know should a founder/CEO keep studying new technologies in detail like a senior developer or it's possible to have a CEO that he doesn't know anything about new technologies?

What is the best solution for this?

EDIT: My consideration was about now biggest tech companies like Microsoft/Apple/Facebook/etc those started with a genius man in a garage! I want to know when they stopped coding and studying new technologies if it even happend?

  • That question is a bit broad. The answer depends on several factors (how big has the company become, how many different technologies are used, how much CEO-work is actually needed, how fast is the CEO at learning new tech stuff, how involved is he with the ongoing development process ...). – d_hippo Feb 13 '20 at 17:15
  • @d_hippo: I considered big companies like apple/microsoft/facebook/etc that started from zero to beome a hero :) – Hasani Feb 13 '20 at 17:18
  • This is going to depend on a lot of things from the companies size, growth speed, industry, culture and many other things. Having a highly skilled ceo may be critical for some but unneeded or potentially harmful for others – Joe W Feb 13 '20 at 17:23
  • Why do I get down votes? – Hasani Feb 13 '20 at 18:59
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    CEO (full time) is not a techie role, it's a business role. – Smock Feb 14 '20 at 16:49

First: Not all tech companies are website/apps/webservice developers. Those are the companies that you've mentioned that might be founded by "a genius guy" in a garage.

In some fields, like mechanical or chemical engineering, or maybe medic equipment, experience still counts a lot and is not outdated so easily. In these fields, a retired university professor is more likely to be a founder than a wiz kid.

Then there is the problem with scale. If there are 5 people in the company, I expect the CEO to be a hand-on person. If the technical team is comprised of 5 people but there are 20+ factory floor/sales employees, I'd expect the CTO to manage the bulk of people and bureaucracy while the CEO-founder ir still hands-on with the core activity of the business.

The thing happens when there is a stratification of teams, where at some point, the tech team needs to be managed by a tech lead, and tech leads need to be managed by a software architect. In other fields, a subsystem team has its own product owner, which respond to a systems architect which also leads an integration team, and the company's technical assets are managed by an engineering director under a VP. This is what creates a big distance from the founder and the hands-on activity.

But notice that if we pick 1:5 as the healthy manager-to-managed people ratio, then 3 layers of management would imply 125 employees, all of which are working with technical stuff. This is when I believe a CEO/founder should either assume a fully executive role or place someone else as CEO while maintaining a mixed role such as when Bill Gates became "Chief Software Architect".

In extreme examples, if a company has 5 people, I'd like the CEO to be very knowledgeable both technically and in the product inner details. If a company has a thousand employees and is publicly traded, maybe it's best if the CEO was a former CEO in a different company, even if he knows nothing about the technology (John Snow style).

Investors coming along are a whole different matter. They'll normally push back the wiz-kid for the top-spot and get some white-headed war hero to manage their precious equity.

Also note



CEO stands for "cash-extraction-officer". You're effectively a glorified sales person, who has to pull cash from VCs, customers, bankers, pets, anyone and everyone.

None of that overlaps with being a software engineer. As a CEO you'll come to hate engineers, with their determination that "the code needs refactoring" - you cannot sell refactored code for more.

Coding also takes time and distracts you from extracting cash. The cash you extract can be used to hire some programmer though, with a bit left over, so your time is better spent extracting cash than even worrying about technical details.

The only time you'll be involved, as a CEO, in technical details would be "should we use AWS or Azure", and only then because it's the sheer cost of the thing.

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    Extracting that cash is what pays for engineers, marketing, and everything else. You gotta extract that cash!! – acpilot Feb 14 '20 at 2:27

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