Co-CEO arrangements are more common than you think. Here are my few cents on the leadership arrangement at our German FemTech portfolio company, Clue, and how to make co-CEO arrangements work.
They are thoughtful. Intelligent. They talk in a clear, measured way, unhurried, but with weight behind their words. A weight that reflects more than 10 years of work experience from various blue-chip organisations. A weight that comes from the responsibility of taking FDA-approved products to market. A weight that reflects the seriousness of recently having taken the reins of an organisation with 80+ passionate souls in Berlin. Audrey Tsang and Carrie Walter are the newly minted co-CEOs of Clue, a portfolio company of ours, which is on a mission to “help people around the world with menstrual cycles live full lives, not in spite of their biology, but in tune with it.”
The incoming co-CEO arrangement is unusual. And Clue is an unusual company. From the outset, founders Ida Tin and Hans Raffauf instilled a very mission-driven culture and a more “intentional leadership” style, something that is typically added later in a company’s life as growth necessitates. Most founders start off sharing the company’s mission and values by “osmosis” rather than by intention. For good reason — when you are 5, 10, maybe 15 people sitting together, speed and experimentation are generally core to the operating mode, and formalities are not usually required.
Clue has, from the outset, been driven by a clear mission — to help release around 50% of the world’s population from the inconvenience, stigma, discrimination, and trappings of their biology. And to do so without intervention, without hormones, in a trusted, private, and secure way.
That is why we invested.
Looking behind the scenes of our European portfolio companies, “co-CEO” may not be so unusual after all. Founders often agree on roles, and one is usually named CEO. That is what the outside world and stakeholders expect. Sometimes one founder is gifted with the natural ability to assume the role. Sometimes an age or experience difference instils a natural separation. Sometimes one is clearly a better promoter of the business, while other co-founder(s) are more interested in technology, product, operations, or sales…