YC Startup School Radio: Thumbtack's Marco Zappacosta On The Always-Changing Job Of A CEO

by Alexis Ohanian8/27/2015

In the sixth episode of YC’s Startup School Radio, YC partner Aaron Harris sat down
with Marco Zappacosta, the co-founder and CEO of services marketplace Thumbtack, and Sanjay Dastoor, the co-founder and CEO of electric skateboard company and YC W12 alum Boosted Boards.

You can listen to the full hour-long episode on SoundCloud here or on iTunes here, and read the full transcript on Genius here.

In one salient bit of Zappacosta’s interview, he talked about how his job as CEO has continually changed as Thumbtack has grown since it was founded in 2009 to have hundreds of staff around the world:

Aaron: Has your job shifted from being focused on the supply and demand
to being CEO of how many people you have working for you now?

Marco: So in the U.S., we have 300 people and…

Aaron: That’s wild.

Marco: And so, I think my job has always been to focus on whatever is
existential, whatever risk or problem is existential to us. And in the
early days, it was absolutely building the network. If we couldn’t do
that, nothing else mattered. Then, there came a day where we had to
really refine the product experience to make sure that we were the best
way to hire, and that took us a while to us to figure out and that was
my focus. And then, we had to think about and figure out how to make
money. And so I was very focused, and worked with the team to sort of put
the business model in place that we now have.

And today, the biggest
challenge is scaling the organization. We have a ton of tactical and
strategic sort of issues to solve, but the way that we’re going to solve
those is hiring more great people and organizing and empowering them,
and so that takes the bulk of my time today.

Aaron: I don’t think I’ve ever heard it framed quite that way: The CEO’s
job is to focus on the existential threat right to the business. I
think the way most people have sort of framed the CEO’s job is, to hire,
set vision, and make sure there’s money in the bank, or something like
that. And that’s kind of true, but it’s an approximation. And really,
what that’s saying is, it’s [to focus on] the thing that could kill your
company at each stage.

Marco: I think that’s what deserves your attention. That’s what scares
me in the morning when I wake up. So it’s naturally what I’m sort of
thinking about, and trying to help with and work on.


  • Alexis Ohanian