Point of view

Why do we run a company with three CEOs?

Konstantinos Mouzakis /
Feature image

A couple of years ago, Balena reached a pivotal point. Together with my colleagues Chris and Phil, we ended up refounding Balena and refactoring our mission. Our previous CEO, Alexandros, was running out of steam after a decade in command, with his curiosity shifting towards new challenges. Meanwhile, our runway was shrinking, further strained by the broader challenges in the post-COVID economic environment. Key executives started leaving, the team was misaligned, and the company was nearing a breaking point. Yet, our calling was clear. We had a unique culture, a dedicated team, and a long list of customers who had built their businesses on our product and whom we couldn’t let down.

For those unfamiliar, Balena is a platform offering a complete set of tools for developing and scaling a large number of IoT devices remotely. Unique from the start, we’ve been remote-first, never followed traditional organizational models, and achieved substantial organic growth through experimental tactics and first-principles thinking.

Our approach to leadership

At a crucial board meeting—which we attended uninvited—we proposed a way forward. Alexandros supported our intention and stepped down. Despite advice against a multi-CEO model and prevailing skepticism, we intentionally bet on our unconventional leadership strategy, which had shown promising results. Firm in our principles, we convinced the board.

The following months tested our grit intensely. We faced numerous challenges—from a sudden reduction to only four months of operational runway, to halving our workforce, addressing the aftermath of the SVB crisis, and overcoming legal hurdles. Nonetheless, we fought for the upside and achieved great success. We managed to stabilize and secure the company and even made it profitable, steering us towards a solid mission.

Here’s our recipe:

How do we stay aligned and in sync?

It’s simple but time-consuming: we talk to each other relentlessly. We don’t have argument winners and losers; instead, we strive to keep ego out of our conversations. We are interested in finding decent solutions to hard problems, motivated to enable our team and our customers. Our alignment stems from shared goals and motivations—elements that are challenging to synchronize as they often vary with external influences. In our case, alignment occurred naturally over time. Regular communication, whether through Signal chats or video calls, help us maintain this alignment. We also try to meet in-person every few months to spend time together smoking briskets and/or swimming in the ocean.

What happens when we disagree?

We do disagree, as it’s vital to our thought process. We value and depend on each other’s opinions. Communicating transparently and directly is key, keeping politics out. This attitude helps us to put quality data on the table and start shaping solutions. Building a foundation of trust is essential, but it takes time. We never vote, ever. In rare cases, someone may disagree and commit due to urgency; still, our usual logic is that if we don’t agree, something is missing and the matter needs more time. We take a break and then resume. Remember, our goal is to find a solution, not merely to win an argument.

How do we divide up the work?

At Balena, we encourage everyone to take initiative and focus on areas they care about that align with our strategies. Similarly, the three of us tackle various challenges as they arise, without rigidly defined roles. We operate as a C-level suite, addressing all sorts of problems without dividing the company into specific departments for each of us. This fluid structure allows any of us to address any issue, providing great redundancy, while als- enabling us to engage with projects that genuinely interest us.

What happens if we fall out and can’t work together anymore?

As humans, it’s certainly possible for personal motivations to change, leading to misalignment. Like in any other leadership structure, we must stick to our principles, and anyone who is out of sync should make a move. Even in the darkest scenarios, there are legal provisions in place to ensure the company’s stability and continuity.

How does it work with the company board and voting?

There is an existing company framework that allows only one CEO seat on the board. One of us officially occupies that seat, and the single vote represents all three of us. Despite this, we all participate in board meetings and are treated equally, as this structure is officially recognized by the board.

How do external people react to three when they are normally used to a single CEO?

It’s always a surprising moment with consistent reactions. People are initially skeptical, but after hearing our logic, they respond favorably, recognizing it as both a virtue of the company and a reflection of our cultural innovation.

Are we the only shared role in the company?

Officially, yes, but we are learning from our experiences and exploring scenarios where shared roles can increase capacity while reducing silos. The latest example is that we are shaping a shared CTO role. It is important to note that we strictly adhere to the principle of having clear decision-makers; a shared role is only feasible when this is not compromised.

Does it have to be three?

Three works well. You get enough variety and bandwidth without too much trouble staying synchronized. Two also works well (there are many examples out there), but with more than three, I imagine the friction would outweigh the benefits. The aim is to create a strong collective brain, so the secret lies not in the absolute number but in the dynamics that evolve within the group.


Writing this article while enjoying an unusual C-level paternity leave, I can assure you this is one of the best decisions we’ve made. I don’t know if this is the best way to lead, but I feel we are onto something. Over the past few months, it empowered me to step up, learn fast, and grow to face hard challenges. At the same time, I’ve been able to be absent to support my family when needed and take breaks to recharge, all while ensuring the company remains stable and in the great hands of my co-CEOs. This arrangement enables us to embrace the opportunities that arise and continue building a resilient company, chasing our dream to enable people to leverage technology to address the real world challenges of our time.