Tips for First-Time CEOs – From a First-Time CEO

Seung Shin is a co-founder of Ephemeral and recent graduate from the NYU School of Engineering with a B.S. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Ephemeral is an award winning startup that will revolutionize the tattoo experience by finally making tattoos easily removable. We are developing a unique tattoo ink and a complementary removal solution so tattoos applied with our ink can be permanent but provides our users the option of safe and effective removal at any time.

My life as a CEO started about a year ago as an undergraduate with an engineering background; I’ll leave it up to you to imagine how that felt. It was extremely difficult and scary, simply because I had no idea what I was doing – I didn’t understand a single business term and what my duties were as a CEO.

Although my life learning process has just begun, I’d like to share my thoughts of what I think some of the duties of an early-stage startup CEO are:

1) Jack of all trades, try-not-to-be master of none

As the chief evangelist, chief psychologist, chief product visionary, chief everything, you must grind to the death in attempt to be the master of all trades. You are constantly learning – both about the things you already know and definitely the things you don’t know.

2) Build the A-Team

In the startup world, there exists a phenomenon of betting on the horse or the jockey. Many people have different views – some would rather bet on the brute strength of the horse while some would rather bet on the skills of the jockey. Regardless of the situation, you must be able to build a strong team and be confident in your co-founders that they will help you take your venture to the next level. I am a strong believer in hiring people that can fill in my gaps and that you can learn from.

3) Keep the company alive & move forward

Less is more. With limited resources and a short runway, you must be extremely strategic only buying things that are absolutely necessary for progress and taking advantage of what is “free.” Let’s be real, free food always tastes better.

4) First to be blamed, last to be credited

This is the very reason why the CEO can arguably be both the best and worst position to have in a startup company. The CEO is absolutely accountable for all of the imperative and strategic decisions made by the company – thus the first to be blamed when things don’t go as planned. Vice-versa, when the company is doing great meeting all of its deadlines and milestones, it was the team that made it all happen.

Although there are many more, I hope these points can serve as a stepping-stone for first-time CEOs and aspiring entrepreneurs.