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Career Advice

5 Founder CEOs You Wish You Worked For

Posted by Amy Elisa Jackson

Last Updated August 24, 2016

When many of us look for a job, we initially focus on the role, the pay, and the company. However, one aspect you need not overlook is the CEO. Sure, your role may not report directly to the CEO, but satisfaction and company culture are directly influenced by the person at the top.

A new study from Glassdoor explores the question, "What makes a great CEO?" The findings? CEOs who are also their company’s founder predicts significantly higher CEO approval ratings on Glassdoor than being an externally hired or internally promoted CEO. This “founder effect” suggests company founders are indeed viewed significantly more favorably by employees, compared to external and internally promoted CEOs. Furthermore, the age, gender, education, and tenure on the job of CEOs does not matter to employees as much a performance.

So which founder CEOs have a top-notch track record of performance and a thriving company culture? We've identified five founder CEOs (besides Glassdoor's own Robert Hohman) you'd be crazy to not want to work for.

Marc Benioff, Salesforce
He’s been voted one of the highest rated CEOs on Glassdoor for four consecutive years, and he’s earned a 97-percent approval rating from employees. So what’s behind the leadership magic of Marc Benioff? One marketing specialist working in the Atlanta office raved, “Salesforce's culture is amazing. Literally, this is the best job I've ever had. Every day I come to work excited and happy, challenged and ready, and learning so much.”  The Salesforce CEO is known for being inclusive (constantly using the term “you” to emphasize community achievements), being revolutionary (he used his power to fight against a controversial religious freedom bill that many felt allowed discrimination against same-sex couples) and energetic (last Halloween he dressed like a pirate and handed out candy to SF kids). Sounds like a winning leadership combo to us.


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Alexa Von Tobel, LearnVest
If you are looking for a true visionary and risk-taker to lead the company your work for, Alexa von Tobel is your ideal founder CEO. The 31-year old brazenly dropped out of Harvard Business School to start her financial planning service, LearnVest. Now with approximately 200 employees, von Tobel says she often sees that people don’t dream big enough. But for those employees who do dream big, the sky’s the limit. Just ask one New York City employee who said, “I have had a career-propelling experience, due in large part to the sheer tenacity of our CEO/founder.” Even despite of the acquisition by Northwestern Mutual in 2015, von Tobel still leads operations of LearnVest which is now an independent subsidiary of the insurer. The result? A redesigned online portal and mobile app that Northwestern Mutual’s 4.3 million clients can use to manage their finances. Now in addition to sitting at the helm of LearnVest, von Tobel is also vice president of client experience. "Our clear understanding of our financial advisors' and clients' needs is driving scalable innovation and this means that growing numbers of American households will have the advice, tools, and resources they need to achieve financial security,” said von Tobel. Talk about a visionary.

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Tristan Walker, Walker & Company Brands
He’s been an entrepreneur-in-residence at Andreessen Horowitz, counts Foursquare and Twitter as resume bullet points and has a Rolodex of Stanford University MBA classmates. No wonder Tristan Walker has fast become the most-buzzed about upstart of Silicon Valley. Walker & Company is a health and beauty company that creates modern products for people of color, and it has raised more than $33 million to date from firms like Andreessen and IVP. Walker said he laid down six specific corporate values before he raised any money: "Courage, inspiration, respect, judgment, wellness and loyalty." And those values touch every part of the company. “We are loyal to a great workplace and team. We are committed to building a great, lasting company for the long term. We're playing to win and will give it the effort and focus it deserves,” said Walker. ”We eat well, we sleep well, we keep fit and we care to help and support each other and our families.” We're feeling inspired already.

Adi Tatarko, Houzz
Houzz has one of the most beautiful and fresh office spaces we’ve ever seen. Guess, that’s an obvious perk of working at the top home remodeling and design platform. Another perk of working at Houzz is co-founder and CEO Adi Tatarko. “Everyone at Houzz is a family, we all care about one another,” said one account coordinator. Perhaps that’s because it was founded by a family. Tatarko and her husband Alon Cohen started Houzz at their kitchen table, and in just seven years the two Israeli immigrants have produced a design powerhouse. Another employee in sales said, “Management is very busy, but you can tell they care very much about their employees. Despite Houzz growing quickly, I think they've done a good job at being able to maintain the amazing culture that everyone hears about.” In Silicon Valley’s male-centric culture, it’s rare to find a female executive at the top, let alone a husband-and-wife team who still shares lunch at the company’s Palo Alto headquarters. So if you’re looking for the perfect intersection of family values, creative design, and technology, check out the open roles at Houzz.

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Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
The world knows him as the hoodie-wearing founder and philanthropist, but employees at Facebook simply see him walking around the Menlo Park campus and are inspired by their leader. “I'm a 55-year-old working in a company where the average age is 28, and I've never been happier. I have always wanted to work in a company where I wasn't the proverbial square peg, and after nearly 30 years in the workforce, I believe that I have found the company that complements my ideology for how a company should operate,” said a current program manager. “Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the leadership team [is] inspiring, smart, and totally real.” With more than 1000 open jobs at Facebook, you can apply to work for Zuckerberg and see what all the hype is about.


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