The need for a COO in a startup is a long-standing debate. While most agree that it should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, some have stronger opinions.
Mark Suster considers a COO to be overkill for a startup. He believes that in this context the CEO should handle most of the tasks that are assigned to the COO in large organizations. In this quality post, he uses his own experience to support this opinion.
Startups don’t need — shouldn’t have — COOs. I have this conversation with every startup that comes to see me and has a CEO & a COO. I think usually a COO title at a startup is an ego thing. You have two founders and it was agreed that one would get the CEO role so the other needs to call themselves president or COO.
But ask yourself, what does a COO actually do? In a mature company it’s often like a presidential chief of staff. They will often run all of the daily reports into them covering off for finance, sales, marketing, biz dev & HR. Many times they also pick up product and tech, too.
In an early stage start I believe it’s the CEO’s job to manage these functions. It’s pretty tough to convince me in a company of less than 50 people that the CEO can’t handle 6–8 direct reports to manage the various areas of the business.