Towards Technical CEOs

Jul 9, 2023

A developer added a simple but composable web interface to the popular llama.cpp library recently. The developer also happens to be Tobi Lütke, the CEO and founder of Shopify (see the pull request).

Technical CEOs have a huge advantage; I suspect we’ll only see more of them in the future.

Companies like Meta have been able to sift through the smoke and mirrors of modern technology. Releasing impactful open source, distilling products to their technical MVPs, and scaling with insane demand. Do this once or twice, and you can chalk it up to a few star employees. Do it over a decade, and it’s a structural decision passed down from the CEO (Zuck).

The OpenAI executive team is also highly technical, Sam Altman (CEO) studied CS at Stanford, and Greg Brockman (President) still contributes significant amounts of code.

In software companies, almost every decision has technical implications. Those choices get compounded over time, accumulating technical debt or future-proofing infrastructure. Understanding the technology more can lead to creative strategic options: commoditizing your complement, api warfare, programming to the interface, and embrace/extend/extinguish.

Especially now, with advancements in AI, it’s more important than ever to understand how things work, what’s possible, what’s realistic, and what the work entails.