I founded a mobile application company with 3 other people, three of us took 10% while one took 70% and the title of CEO. We were ok with this because it was his idea and he had the connections to get us funding initially.

Now a year later I am running the company in almost every regard except marketing and fundraising. Our CEO who is generally unfit for his job is now a detriment to the company (everyone who works with us or has worked with us agrees). If he left "peacefully" I could easily continue running the company and I would have the burden lifted of having to go through him day-to-day. If I left the company it would likely implode within a week if not sooner (this is a vital point and not an exaggeration, we are a small team and I run most technical parts of the company that no one understands).

What are my options in order to get the CEO out of day-to-day operations? He can keep his % or something close, but he is destroying our company by acting as its leader when he is clearly unfit. He doesn't realize he is hindering progress overall (doubt he ever could, he believes we have gotten this far because of his leadership and organization) but he does realize I am essential to the company moving forward.

It has gotten to this point because I have enabled him, I want the best for the company so I have given him the tools and knowledge to lead us this far. If I stop helping things fall apart, I am to blame and my work goes down the drain.

I have contemplated leaving many times to focus my efforts elsewhere, but friends and family are invested in our product and if we succeed I believe it will be a very worthwhile venture even if I need to put up with the CEO in some way.

Edit: I should have specified that our marketing consists of poor/ineffective social media marketing and our fundraising was brought in equally from friends and family. If our CEO was doing a fantastic job in those two areas, I probably would not be here.

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    Have you talked to the other owners of the company? There's a big difference between one person going to the CEO and saying "I think you should step back" and three people going and saying "We all think you step back". May 10, 2017 at 8:40
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    The first sentence of your question is problematic. No, you alone did not found the company. The CEO and three others founded the company. You actually said "it was his idea".
    – Nobody
    May 10, 2017 at 8:46
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    @scaaahu Yeah, this jumped out to me in a huge way too. 10% is a tiny amount (relatively) - in every way this sounds like the CEO's company and this is essentially a mutiny.
    – Dan
    May 10, 2017 at 8:56
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    "Questions asking for advice on what to do are not practical answerable questions.". This might also be a better fit for [startups.se].
    – Lilienthal
    May 10, 2017 at 9:37
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    I'm sorry to say but you were screwed from the moment you took 10%. The title of the question shows whats wrong; it's not your startup anymore.
    – Summer
    May 10, 2017 at 11:27

2 Answers 2


I am running the company in almost every regard except marketing and fundraising.

What are my options in order to get the CEO out of day-to-day operations?

If you are a C-Level executive at a startup, you talk to members of the Board and the other founders, explain why the CEO must go, and talk about who should replace the CEO.

I worked at a small startup, and this was how the CFO ousted the CEO/founder and got himself moved into the CEO role.

Be careful here. Unless you can make a great case and unless you already sense that at least some members of the Board share your feelings, you might be betting your job on this move.

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    The only thing I would change in this answer is "you might be betting your job on this move" to "you are betting your job on this move. Excellent answer.
    – Neo
    May 10, 2017 at 11:21
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    If he owns 70% of the company, wouldn't any such decision to replace him need to be approved by him? May 10, 2017 at 11:46
  • @JoeStrazzere I don't see how, in this case. The shareholders appoint the board. Even if the board fired CEO-Bob, Shareholder-Bob can just fire the board and elect himself to the Board. Then Charman-Bob rehires CEO-Bob who then fires Founder-Jerry. Further, Chairman-Bob can initiate a stock buyback from Founder-Jerry who must then negotiate its value, possibly in court or arbitration. Chairman-Bob then replaces Founder-Jerry and hires someone else, possibly giving him the newly repurchased stock as incentive.
    – Chris E
    May 10, 2017 at 14:32
  • @JoeStrazzere I'm just speaking about the 70/30 split he talked about in the beginning. If the equity situation has changed then I agree but that's a pretty big detail to leave out.
    – Chris E
    May 10, 2017 at 15:35
  • @JoeStrazzere My point is that he'd still have to ultimately go technically willingly.
    – Chris E
    May 10, 2017 at 15:51

I hate to say it but it is his company. Your emotional attachment is remarkable, but does not change this. The owner of a car is the owner of the car even if he has no driving license and you have become a full-time chauffeur. As the one controlling the car you might feel that you are doing the major and most important work, but this is a fairly comfortable position to argue from if you sit in a car that you didn't have to pay for.

Your claim that he "only does marketing and fundraising" indicates that you might have no idea how difficult it is to get money for a mere promise of it being a good investment. People with great technical skills are a dime a dozen.

  • 48
    "People with great technical skills are a dime a dozen." No, they aren't. But otherwise: spot on. May 10, 2017 at 11:06
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    Having worked in tech for over 20 years, no, people with great technical skills are not a dime a dozen. The field is rife with idiots who pose as having great technical skills. I've made a career out of cleaning up after these alleged geniuses. People with ACTUAL great technical skills are a rare commodity. May 10, 2017 at 11:16
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    "People with great technical skills are a dime a dozen." Simply not true.
    – Neo
    May 10, 2017 at 11:23
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    People with adequate technical skills are a dime a dozen.
    – brhans
    May 10, 2017 at 11:37
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    @RichardU I've met a lot more people with great technical skills than people with great management skills. It's all relative - what John is saying is that it's a lot easier to find technical skill than to find a person who can sell whatever these guys produce (which may or may not be true, depending on what they're actually making etc.).
    – Luaan
    May 10, 2017 at 11:53