The Politically Inspired Job Title Spreading Through Startups

The Politically Inspired Job Title Spreading Through Startups
From Recruiter - November 9, 2016

Article by Scott Amenta

In an article published this past summer,The Washington Postdescribed a secretive members-only group on the West Coast meeting to discuss the latest updates and gossip in the tech industry.The article wasreferring to a very specific and self-selecting set of individuals: the chiefs of staff (CoS) ofwell-known startups. The Posts account may be a bit dramatized; I imagine a bunch of 20-something men and women clad in American Apparel t-shirts huddled in a dark lounge and keying into the latest industry activity while quietly judging who has real influence in their business.

What a CoS isvaries widely between organizations. As if defining business development at a startup werentalready difficult enough, the chief of staff has brought that challenge to a whole new level.

Chiefs of staff have existed in the political sector since the 1950s. The White House CoS, for example, is the highest ranking employee of the White House. Their role is to help the president manage communication channels, scheduling, advisory teams, and simple issues of access.

Chiefs of staff have gained momentum among tech companies large and small as the pace of growth quickens and efficiency and structure become necessities. So, what exactly is a CoS in the context of the tech world?What are their responsibilities? What should you look for when hiring a CoS? Is it a necessary function given the other, more specific problems and needs of startups?

As the chief of staff at Spring, I thought it would be helpful to answer these questions by offering a glimpse into my journey, my always-in-flux responsibilities at Spring, and my perspective on how the position is evolving.

A Brief History of Me

Its easiest to describe my career as that of a generalistor maybe a Renaissance man? Ive worked with companies in capacities managing business development, sales, marketing, operations, recruiting, product, design, legal, fundraising, and more. Foursquare gave me the opportunity to witness firsthand how to create a well-oiled machine poised to solve problems and grow quickly. At Techstars, I worked cross-functionally with the class doing all of the above. Joining ChatID (now known as Welcom) as the first employee, I helped raise money from tier-one investors, build and launch our first product, pivot the business, sell to Fortune 500 brands, and grow theteam. I joined Spring when the company had fewer than five employees to focus on building the supply side of our marketplace with the worlds top fashion brands while working cross-functionally with our marketing, product, and operation teams.

My transition to Springs chief of staff was a rather natural occurrence. Id been providing coverage for gaps in the business and operations from very early in the companys life. Its the do it all, do it fast mindset that I believe is critical to a startups success. Startups, especially at the earliest stages, can do very well if they havean extra hand that is able to pick up the slack where no other full-time hire is focused.

The balancing act for a CoS in a quickly growing business is to fulfill the current needs of the CEO and company while keeping an eye towardbuilding a team that can own and manage the focus area or project specifically over time.

Chief of Staff: A Critical Role

Here are a few reasons why the CoS is becoming a more recognized role among tech companies:

How the Functions Vary by Company

As much as the culture of a company matters in the creation of a CoS role, the CoS is more a byproduct of the companys ever-changing needs. That is to say that while every high-growth startup has inherent differences in mission, product, team, culture, business, etc., they are all similar in the fact that the sheer pace of their growth justifies having someone who can maintain visibilityof the CEOs high-level vision while operating at the ground level.


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