The startup CEO sometimes plays as the “False 9” in Soccer

By Marta Cruz and Francisco Coronel, co-founders of NXTP Labs.


FIFA World Cup 2018 has made us think about teamwork and how certain positions become adapted to game situations. As in soccer the “False 9” is the most complex and revolutionary position of the last times, in the environment of startups something similar happens with what we may call the “False CEO”.


Generally, in times of the World Cup we put ourselves in the role of the Coach and analyze the different moves and the game result. Particularly in this World Cup, as in that of 2014, much has been spoken about Messi and his position as “False 9”. This has called our interest for the analysis of this specific position, and a reference to what we can see, on a daily basis, about the figure of the CEO in the startups of our portfolio.


In general, entrepreneurs define themselves as “Founders & CEOs”, although there is a lot of literature criticizing whether this self-denomination is really appropriate. In this context of analysis, we can say that a good entrepreneur is much like the position of the “False 9” and may be self-recognized as a “False CEO”.


Before the arrival of the “False 9”, central defenders used to shadow only one man: the main striker with the classical position as 9 as Gabriel Batistuta. The “Classical 9” moves close to the furthest defender, making the field look vertically longer to give place to the team. Generally, he is known for his strength, height and air game. His role is to resist balls, to pivot and mainly to score goals, with movements inside the area.


On the contrary, the “False 9” moves back to the midfield, generating more opportunities and space so that the other forwards and midfield players may also impress with their game. This same happens in the environment of a startup. The False CEO goes down to the middle management to play as if he/she was a middle manager, interacting with the rest of the team, and also feeling part of it.


This is not a simple job; the role of the “False CEO” or “False 9” is extremely complex and must be integrated into a team with an outstanding game quality in order to obtain positive results. This is the reason why it is so difficult to play in this position, as Messi has been doing in Barcelona. Therefore, when the team is not good nor sufficiently trained, skilled or does not have an excellent performance and game quality, results keep being poor.


To play as a “False CEO” or “False 9” is one of the most challenging roles; it requires a great dynamism, associability, dribbling, passes, speed, ability, definition at short and long distances, and to be aware at all times. For these reasons it is not easy to find somebody who can execute this plan to perfection. The same happens in the Venture Capital world. It is not easy to find a “Messi” or a “False 9” in startups. However, once they are found, results can be seen as well as the impact they create.


In NXTP Labs we count with many examples of “False 9”, successful “False CEOs” which today are being makers with a triple impact: economic, social and environmental. To find out who they are, you can click here.