It’s your startup, so you can give early partners any title you want, but be aware of potential investor and peer implications. VCs and angel investors like to see a startup that is running lean and mean, with no more than three or four of the conventional C-level or VP titles. More executives, or other more creative titles are seen as a big red flag.
In reality, startup titles should be more about the division of labor than an executive position. The most common ones I see and salute are CEO, CFO, and CTO. A few other credible ones would include Chairman of the Board (COB), Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Some would say that if you have a title at all, you are not doing enough work.
Where the titles don’t seem to fit the situation or size of the startup, investors start looking hard for other anomalies. Here are some pre-conceived notions about what non-standard titles in a startup, like the following, might mean:
Image credit: CC by Rutger van Waveren