My Role As The CEO Of A Startup

Date:   Sunday , March 04, 2012

Paresh K. Patel is the Founder & CEO of VendScreen, which produces Android-based touchscreen for vending machines. Founded in 2011, by Patel and Glenn Butler, VendScreen personalizes the vending experience by delivering the nutrition data and advertising to displays mounted on vending machines. The company had recently secured $12 million in funding.

Imagine trying to put together a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle without having seen the picture first. How difficult would that be? For most people, putting together the puzzle with the picture to compare to would be very challenging in itself and it would be virtually impossible without anything to compare against.

Building a company from the ground-up is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The CEO must have a vision for the company and must clearly be able to visualize what the “puzzle” looks like. The CEO must also be able to articulate that vision because he or she will rely on other people to move the pieces into place. The CEO must be able to live in a reality where the puzzle is complete, even though pieces will not be in place yet. However, he or she has the confidence that all the pieces are there, and it is only a matter of time in finding the right piece for each part of the picture.

At the highest level, I view my role as the CEO is to inspire the vision and connect the people with resources to execute that vision. The fundamental role is about having a vision and then getting resources – the time, tools, money and so on – to the right people who can execute the vision. A day does not pass where I do not work or think about this central part of my role as CEO. I need to be able to not only anticipate where the industry is headed and what the customers will seek, but also how the company will exist in that marketplace.

Often times, I must challenge the assumptions that are widely held by others – in the industry as well as others working for the company. In a start-up that is chartering new territory, it is imperative to understand that the vision or the reality we seek does not exist yet. This is almost a paradox for the CEO – he or she must be able to see the vision (the completed jigsaw puzzle) and understand it without having the benefit of ever having seen it. The people moving the pieces haven’t seen the puzzle either, but the CEO must lead as if he has seen it.

Hence, this is the challenge of being a CEO of a start-up.

The successful CEO can envision the future reality and create it at the same time. This takes a remarkable skill that only a small percentage of the CEOs actually possess. And the ones that do will create highly successful enterprises. This is what I, as well as CEOs of most startups, aspire to do.