从统计学上来说，这种观点确实很有道理。哈佛商学院（Harvard Business School）的诺姆•沃瑟曼花了十年时间，研究创始人对一家公司的影响。他先后研究了460家美国初创企业，结果发现，创始人兼CEO继续担任决策者的公司，市值通常都低于外聘CEO进行管理的公司。简单来说，发明一款新产品或新服务所需要的能力与管理一家公司所需要的能力截然不同，而两者兼备的人可谓凤毛麟角。
不过，这只是普遍的规律。如果投资者要寻找那些可能大获成功的人，明智的做法就是将赌注押在创始人身上。纵观历史，最成功公司的领导者都是激情饱满的创始人。《财富》杂志（Fortune）每年评选出的“年度商业人物”（Businessperson of the Year）——比如亚马逊公司（Amazon）的杰夫•贝佐斯和网飞公司（Netflix）的里德•黑斯廷斯等——都是公司创始人，大多数提名者也同样如此。许多公司创始人在业内都已成为标志性人物，比如沃尔玛公司（Wal-Mart）的山姆•沃尔顿、哈普传播公司（Harpo Productions）的奥普拉•温弗瑞、耐克公司（Nike）的菲里•奈特，当然最著名的还要数苹果公司（Apple）脾气乖戾的超级天才史蒂夫•乔布斯。虽然并非所有创始人都能像乔布斯一样成功，但凡是成功水平能与苹果公司媲美的公司，几乎都由创始人负责经营。
部分初创公司投资人也注意到了这一点。从数码天空科技公司（Digital Sky Technologies）的尤里•米尔纳到安德森•霍洛维茨，许多投资者的投资策略，按照米尔纳的说法便是“力挺创始人”。创业者基金（Founders Fund）在100多家公司投资约10亿美元，却从未解聘过一名创始人。彼得•泰尔任该基金联合创始人。类似保罗•格雷厄姆Y Combinator等创业孵化器在接受新初创企业时，不仅会考量初创企业经营理念的质量，还会评判公司团队的能力与激情。当然，对于其中有些具备良好经营状况的公司来说，如果投资者承诺支持公司创始人，交易达成的可能性会更高。不过，正如雷德•霍夫曼近期在关于这个话题的一篇文章中所写：“（科技投资者）最近流行的一种观点是，最优秀的创业者在公司整个增长周期内均可胜任CEO。”深谙初创企业的雷德•霍夫曼自己也是公司的创始人。
而且，创业者对自己的产品也有道德上的权威。耶鲁大学管理学院（Yale School of Management）教授杰弗里•索南菲尔德说：“创始人拥有足够的信誉对公司进行彻底改造，而不会失去旧文化拥护者的支持与信任。”一家富有创新精神的公司必须经常做出重大决策。有时候，公司必须行动迅速，及时测试新业务，即便这样做会使公司的主营业务受损。而创始人往往是执行这些大胆举措的最佳人选，因为对于更远大的公司愿景，他们比其他人更清楚。以网飞公司为例。里德•黑斯廷斯创建网飞之后，公司推出用红色信封向用户邮寄DVD的业务，挤垮了百视达公司（Blockbuster）。之后在2007年，黑斯廷斯又推出了流媒体服务，最终颠覆了公司的核心业务。虽然目前网飞前途未卜，但正是在匆忙之中做出的决定性的、富有前瞻性的举措，才使网飞在一次巨大的技术变革中生存下来。
The paradox faced by the CEO of any startup is that if he makes the business succeed, he will probably be fired. Conventional wisdom holds that once a business begins to grow, a founder ought to be replaced by a professional manager -- someone who has had experience building a company.
Statistically speaking, this makes sense. Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman has spent the past decade studying the impact a founder has on a company. In a study of 460 American startups, he found that on average those in which founding CEOs remained the top decision-makers were less valuable than those managed by outside CEOs. Simply put, the skills needed to invent a new product or service are different from those needed to manage a business, and few people possess both.
But that's the rule on average. If you're looking for people to hit it big, you'd be smart to bet on founders. Throughout history, the most successful companies have been led by their passionate creators. Nearly every person Fortune has ever named Businessperson of the Year -- people like Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Netflix's Reed Hastings -- has been a founder, and so have most of the nominees. Industry's most iconic business figures include founders like Wal-Mart's (WMT) Sam Walton, Harpo Productions' Oprah Winfrey, Nike's (NKE) Phil Knight, and perhaps most famously, Apple's cantankerous genius, Steve Jobs. While not every founder will be as efficacious as Jobs, nearly every company that has come close to Apple-like levels of success is run by a founder.
Some startup investors have taken note of this. Investors from Digital Sky Technologies' Yuri Milner to Andreessen Horowitz have built their investment strategies on "sticking with the founders," as Milner has said. The Founders Fund, which includes Peter Thiel as co-founder, has invested $1 billion in more than 100 companies without ever firing a founder. Incubators like Paul Graham's Y Combinator accept new startups based not just on the quality of their ideas, but also on the skills and enthusiasm of the teams that pitch them. Sure, some of it is good marketing: An investor is more likely to get in on a deal if he promises to support the company's founder. But, as startup whisperer Reid Hoffman -- a founder himself -- wrote in a recent essay on the topic, "The new received wisdom [among tech investors] is that the best entrepreneurs can stay CEO through the entire growth cycle of the company."
Why bet on founders? They dream up new things. Trailblazer Tony Fadell rethought the method for controlling home temperatures with Nest, a thermostat that looks more like an iPod. Anya Fernald rethought the supply chain for cultivating and delivering healthy food, bringing us grass-fed meat at scale at Belcampo. Those who back founders will argue that while you can sometimes teach a dreamer to be a strong business operator, you can rarely teach a businessman to dream.
These entrepreneurs also have a moral authority over their products. "Founders have the credibility to reinvent their business without losing the support and trust of the old-culture loyalists," says Yale School of Management professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld. An innovative company must make decisive bets. At times, it must act quickly to pilot a new business, even if it cuts into the main business. Founders are often best positioned to make these bold moves because they understand the larger vision for the company better than anyone else. For example, when Reed Hastings founded Netflix (NFLX), the company put Blockbuster out of business by delivering its red-enveloped DVDs by mail. Then, in 2007, Hastings began a streaming service that eventually disrupted his core business. Though the fate of Netflix in today's market remains unclear, this hasty and decisive forward-thinking move positioned Netflix to weather a massive technology shift.
Perhaps most important, founding CEOs take the long view. While CEOs hold their job on average for just eight years, founding CEOs often aim to run their companies for life and to build a legacy for themselves while changing the world with a new product or service. As Ben Horowitz, another trailblazer, writes in his seminal essay on founders, "Their emotional commitment exceeds their equity stake." Consider the online bookstore that Jeff Bezos started in 1994, Amazon (AMZN). Though the company went public in 1997, Bezos followed an unusual business model that unfolded slowly over the course of four or five years. Analysts and investors complained. But even as the dotcom bubble burst, Amazon became profitable, and Bezos has continued to pilot the company into ever-expanding opportunities.
Although Fortune's Trailblazers are early in their careers -- their companies are all less than five years old -- they possess a commitment to long-term leadership that cause many, like Kickstarter CEO Perry Chen or Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, to vow never to sell the company.
Most founding CEOs will fail, simply because most startup ventures fail. Those who do find success may discover that it is fleeting: Many brilliant founders will, like BlackBerry's (BBRY) Michael Lazaridis or Yahoo's (YHOO) Jerry Yang, miss a turn in the market and see their business decline. But there will be a few Henry Fords and Estée Lauders, men and women who see the world not for what it is but for what it can become, and build a company to move us all in that direction. When the future historians of the 21st century call these folks out, it's a good bet they will be founders.