The Founder Question at Start-ups

July 24th, 2006 by Hugh

I want to be open about a challenge I face in my role as an outside blogger for Exbiblio. I believe it reflects a common situation at start-up businesses. Let’s call it “The Founder Question.”

The founder of Exbiblio is a man of very strong character and vision called Martin King. He knows that the time will come for him to bow out of his leadership role. As it happens, in his case he is far more acutely aware of this eventuality than most – but that’s an important story for another time.

Martin has asked me to minimise mentions of him in this blog and to “depersonalise” where possible. This is understandable. He wants Exbiblio’s values and culture to become so deeply rooted that they last for long after he has stepped back from the company. To quote an influentual book, “Built to Last”, a “visionary company” is far more enduring and has more impact that a “visionary leader”.

But the story of a start-up without the founder is a bit like Hamlet without the ghost (or even without Hamlet). The plot would not make sense. Inevitably, this blog will have to cast him in a central role, although I will try to meet his concern where possible.

“The Founder Question” has many aspects, and is surely one that almost every start-up has to come to terms with and solve. It all boils down to knowing when to let go. It’s an interesting topic to which we shall be returning.

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