The Startup Chat with Steli and Hiten on Smash Notes

The Startup Chat with Steli and Hiten podcast.

December 31, 2019

Unfiltered insights and actionable advice straight from the trenches of startup and business life. The show hosts, Steli Efti and Hiten Shah, are both serial entrepreneurs who have founded multi-million dollar SaaS startups. Being busy CEOs of fast-growing companies, they know the value of your time and make sure you get the most out of each 22 minute episode. Tune in for new episodes every Tuesday and Friday.



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In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about the value of giving titles in startups. Hiten believes titles are NOT important and people should be more focused on the work rather than the title. Steli says there is a cost to giving titles and oftentimes, people’s actual work does not match their description. Listen in as Steli and Hiten discuss when the use of titles is beneficial for your company and also when it should completely be disregarded.

Time Stamped Show Notes:


00:05 – Today’s episode is about titles in startups

00:22 – Steli and Hiten see many people with titles in startups

01:12 – In a startup, there really are no titles in the beginning


01:50 – Everybody has to do almost everything

02:02 – There is general work that needs to be done


02:33 – Steli does not care about titles

02:51 – There are two different schools of thought for startups

02:54 – First school of thought: titles do not matter until the company gets bigger and it would be practical to use the titles


03:21 – One strategy is to give a title that is lower than their previous position


04:12 – Second school of thought: titles are the cheapest thing you can give out in a startup


05:14 – Steli knows a company who gave the title of founder to all the members of their team

06:03 – Steli disagrees that it does not cost anything


06:45 – Hiten says the whole title thing is crap

06:58 – Startups start by having people do multiple things


07:06 – Overtime, a hierarchy forms and there is a need for managers

07:22 – And then, organizational charts start to become a necessity


07:58 – Hiten likes to focus more on what needs to be done rather than the titles


08:04 – Hiten has a staff who started as an analytics engineer

08:11 – The guy’s position is lower as compared to what he was in his corporate job

08:17 – By the end, his work was equivalent to the VP of Product

08:26 – The guy did not care about the title, but just really wanted to get the work done

09:05 – The guy grew with the company


09:21 – Hiten thinks his company had more problems when they gave titles to people


09:29 – They hired a VP of sales but calling him a director would have been better for the company

09:55 – Hiten thinks it would be easier for people to come into the company if there were no titles

10:03 – Hiten wants his company culture to be one where no one is better than the other


10:15 – Do whatever you can to preserve your company culture

10:28 – When people feel equal, they end up doing better at work

11:01 – There is no need for companies to have rules for people when it comes to titles

11:36 – Steli thinks there is a  lot of hidden costs to giving titles to people like internal friction or confusion

12:23 – Ask yourself what kind of people you are going to attract if you give out titles to everyone

12:46 – It is also a credibility issue


12:58 – Steli knows someone who had a CTO title in his resume and was applying for a sales position in his company

13:20 – The guy explained he was working at a non-tech company where he was helping with the Gmail account, calendar and blog

13:46 – This is damaging to your reputation if the only thing you did was to set up a blog

14:14 – You are not a vice president of something if there are only 2 people under you

14:20 – Do not give yourself a title that does not match reality because it will hurt your credibility


15:03 – When people ask Steli what he does for Close.io, he usually tells them about the work he does

15:23 – Giving out a title is irrelevant compared to stating the actual work you are doing

15:42 – The one scenario where titles can be practical and helpful is in sales

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