CEOs Should Dress Down – I Do


Marcin Kleczynski, CEO, Malwarebytes, discusses the virtues of casually dressed tech founders heading up established tech firms

Since the tech start-up boom began, it became a right of passage for technical founders to relinquish control and hand over the reigns to a ‘career CEO’. Many tech pioneers followed this path, from MySpace to eBay where big names were drafted in to take the businesses to the next level. Not so much anymore, as the hoodie-wearing CEO is becoming increasingly popular.

Why? After all, how can a person who quite often is running just their first (or at a stretch, second) business possibly do a better job than an industry veteran with a Linkedin profile longer than a short novel?

Product standards

Let me explain. Firstly, like anyone that has a project close to their heart, us co-founders are immensely fussy when it comes to product standards. Of the hundreds of engineers I know there are very few who are willing to take shortcuts on their code.

Years spent obsessing over the tiniest thing within a product, from buttons to drop down menus – means we are perfectionists personified. We can easily blame this on today’s fiercely competitive marketplace where customers can be lost in a second if a product doesn’t match up. Not even the most behemoth of marketing budgets can flog a pretender product.

Secondly, we can’t and won’t rest on our laurels. When you have spent hours building up your personal Mona Lisa, you sure as heck aren’t taking your eye off the easel. Business cycles are shorter now than ever before and if the boss isn’t prepared to consistently innovate and change a product constantly, the pack moves on without you.

This is born out of our reluctance to follow the black-and-white processes set out by the generation before us. By constantly chasing and believing in the business model that best suits the product at hand, we are succeeding.

airbnbTake for example, Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk and Joe Gebbia, the bunch of young and hungry innovators, that when handed lemons by the biggest recession in a generation turned it into the sweet lemonade that we now know as Airbnb. This bold ability to experiment simply doesn’t exist in hard-wired, big company men and woman that have spent their lives protected within NASDAQ giants.

My third and final reason for keeping a techie at the top is based on decision-making – something not always associated with us co-founders. For years we’ve been basing decisions on the data we have at our fingerprints, rummaging through them until the small hours. It’s taught us to remove the natural, emotional response to many tricky decisions. There’s more information available to businesses today than ever before, which means this ingrained problem-solving instinct can make the difference between a successful venture and one that will cost millions.

As I finish, let me admit to something. In my business, I could not function without some of the fabulous non-technical brains that are part of my team. They’ll remain where they are until I can write good enough code to automate the sales and marketing teams!

Humour aside, the point is important. As you have probably gathered by now, having a technical person in the top spot is absolute gospel for me. But, in order to realise this person’s importance, it is still absolutely necessary to collaborate with people who have shaved in the last month and who can take their eyes off the coding screen for a few hours once in a while. Every geek needs a suit to help them along the way.

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