I think I’ve found, as a gross generalization:

  • Founder-CEOs use their products all the time in the beginning, more than anyone else in the company, at least in an “end user” scenario.  Later, they use their product strategically to test it, push it, find holes, and push the team to go further.
  • Hired CEOs that join later rarely use the product.  And often don’t really understand it, not really.  Not at a fundamental level.  Same with VPs you hire later.  And that’s OK. You can’t hire a product genius to be your Outside CEO.  You hire someone that can scale, hire strong (but often generic) VPs, raise capital, etc.

Don’t expect an outside CEO you hire in Year 3 of 5 to also be your Chief Product Officer.  It just doesn’t happen that way.  The die is already cast and set on product when you make this hire.  Instead — the outside CEO instead needs to be an expert in how to present the strategic value of your product.  Which may have nothing at all to do with operationally why and how it works, or is a success.

But a founder-CEO is usually also the CPO forever.  Often to a fault.

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