Like many things, I’ve mellowed a bit on this over time.
I traditionally thought co-CEOs were a terrible idea. Everyone needs to know who’s the boss in the end. Who’s on the hook for raising capital, managing the board, firing and hiring the executives, etc. I thought a CEO and a President were OK, for example, but two CEOs was just a bunch of headaches in the making.
But … since then, I think I’ve learned all super successful startups follow similar growth paths, but at the same time, they are all exceptions. They all do it a little bit differently, even as they scale in similar ways.
If you and your co-founder are so close that both of you being co-CEOs is organic and makes sense … if there’s no friction there and it truly feels right … do it.
Atlassian did it. They have done OK:
In the end, you’ll still have to divide responsibilities up one way or another. And the employees and outsiders may be a bit confused.
But co-founders who are truly peers, aligned, and life business partners? That can be so powerful. If being co-CEOs is what it takes to make that partnership work, maybe so be it.