Everyone knows that startup founders are the visionaries that find a big problem, locate a large enough group of people who would pay for it, and then get it to them as fast as possible. Whilst doing that; they attract many talented people to help them do it at scale. The problem is that during the early days, the mid level hires will have more relevant experience to do their work than the founders themselves.
The issue with growing at a super fast pace is that they end up in a situation where they need to manage a-lot of stakeholders. Those stakeholders vary between employees, investors, board members and customers. The number of which keeps growing larger with each stage.
In any other career progression path employees are not expected to leap-frog over many roles and reach the CEO or similar C-level position without putting in many years of learning. In high growth startups, founders might become the CEO of a company that is generating millions in revenues in their early 20's.
An intermediate engineer will most probably be more qualified to do her job than the founder
When a startup starts to grow beyond 25-35 employees things start getting out of hand quickly. Now they will need to start worrying about employee retention, employee progression and deal with employee politics. These issues would be part of a veteran CEO's job within a bigger company but most of the time startup founders do not come from that background.
Although we might jump into the conclusion that we need to hire ex-managers to run startups, I on the other hand am against that. That would be a short sighted solution for the problem as those CEOs and experienced individuals will have less risk tolerance, bigger demands and sometimes even bigger egos to even consider joining the startup.
A better solution for the founder(s) who do not have the experience to run teams or manage operations is to become fast learners. Some might call them infinite learners; individuals who are self driven and have an insatiable appetite for learning. Wether it's how to manage people, how to sell effectively, how to understand their customers needs and finally how their company makes sense financially.
Some might suggest that we are asking too much from a founder. We have to be empathetic and acknowledge that sometimes that is the case. This is why many accelerators and investors favor startups with a complete team than one with a sole founder. A team that is comprised of multiple founders who share the burden of running the company and can each benefit an area within the business.
Even if a founder ends up embarking on the journey alone, it would make their life much easier if they keep looking for potential co-founders during the first year or so. Trust me, those precious few basis points the founder will be giving up, he will be getting back tenfold in the form of a great partner.
By no means am I advocating that the founder needs to be the most qualified person in the company in every role. On the contrary they should always be hiring upwards. By that I mean hiring people who are more knowledgeable than them. You do not want to be the smartest person in your organization. Nor should you aspire for that In any group which you are a part of.
If the founder is always the most qualified person to do most work they will become a bottleneck and thus not have the chance to learn and grow, at least not in the pace required by a high growth startup. Founders will need to be multipliers and not superheroes. Superheroes rarely get to sleep (Although oddly enough crime only happens when the superhero is awake).
In my opinion, knowing that the founders are not the most qualified people to run the company, while intimidating is not necessarily a bad thing. It means that they still have lots to learn and grow. Also that they have less to unlearn and thus can think in innovative and creative ways. A two edged sword it might be, but that is the chaotic nature of startups, startups don't make sense.