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Thursday, Nov 30, 2023

Chief Yahoo?

Chief content provider? Co-founder? Grand poobah?

OK, that last one was a stretch, but these days all sorts of titles are being dreamed up by entrepreneurs at up-and-coming Internet businesses titles that seek to balance the importance of the visionaries who created a company and the professional managers running it.

Entrepreneurs who start online companies often don’t last as president or CEO for more than several months before ceding day-to-day operations to someone with more experience, but they take titles that reflect their continued involvement, even if those titles are unusual.

Jerry Yang and David Filo, who co-founded Yahoo! Inc., are officially each “Chief Yahoo” of their $94 billion company. EarthLink Network Inc.’s Sky Dayton is “founder” at the company that merged with Atlanta’s MindSpring in February. Like Yang and Filo, Dayton has little to do with the daily operations of his creation.

“Other titles I’ve seen are ‘head of content’ and ‘chief evangelist,'” said Jim Armstrong, partner at Idealab Capital Partners. “Finding a new CEO can be disruptive for the company culture, but sometimes that is what’s needed to get the rocket ship launched. Having a 26-year-old as CEO may not inspire as much confidence. But you have to realize (the entrepreneur’s) contribution as well.”

The entrepreneurs recognize that, although it might be hard to give up the prestigious “CEO” title, it might be beneficial in the long term both for the company and for themselves.

“Since I graduated from college, I always imagined that I’d be doing everything,” said Chip Meyers, founder (and still president) of Fandom Inc. “Now, I don’t have control of the company anymore. It’s in the hands of the board of directors. But that will mean I get to concentrate more on developing the site, being more creative.”

Any thought of what title might best be suitable long-term?

“No, not really,” Meyers said. “Visionary?”

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