It wasn’t always clear to me.
In my first start-up, I was the one that put it together, and was the “business/sales guy”, and was the one that raised the venture capital. That combo in theory made me the natural CEO.
However, looking back on it, the majority of the company reported to my co-founder. I certainly “presented” more like a CEO (the vision, the chutzpah, etc), but I wonder if today, it would have made more sense for her to be CEO.
The second time, it wasn’t clear who should be CEO and who should be President. In the end, (1) I was the more committed one (the President left within a year), (2) I was the one that raised the venture capital using my connections and social capital, and (3) I was the one that recruited our CTO and the rest of the initial team.
So it made more sense for me to be CEO there. But again, my co-founder was more talented. If he’d wanted more of an external role (and was more committed), he probably would have been the better CEO.
In the end, it’s not always as clear as you might think. But you have to make it clear when you go to raise venture capital at a minimum. And the customers need to know.
A bit more here: Day 1: Who Should Be CEO? A Checklist. | SaaStr