Building an Executive Team from Scratch

by Prince Sewani

A CFO that won’t commit…

Our current CFO is an amazing human being, but he has still requested to operate from backstage. Someone I’ve known for over 3 years, currently employed at one of the large investment banks and is a certified financial analyst & fitness trainer. He also contributes to a set of family businesses and all of this keeps him pretty busy.

The CFO’s mental todo list

He seemed pretty enthused when I talked to him about the first project, however, a couple of weeks passed by and things didn’t progress (in regards to his confirmation of on-boarding). One fine day, after a gentle follow up, I received a call explaining the image above.

As is very evident, that list lists down a mental todo for the plans he had with his immediate and near term future. I humbly accepted but did strictly suggest that the part about not keeping clear communication with me wasn’t appreciated. I wouldn’t have expected such a behavior from him, at the very least after having been through something our friendship endured in the past year. I decided to give him a call and hang out while I got stuck at the Mumbai airport overnight.

I have a concept: “Be a river”, essentially suggests not to hold stuff in, never good for relationships (primarily the long-standing ones). Be polite, but feel free to convey how you feel, don’t hesitate to do so, if it’s not well received that wasn’t going to last or be fruitful for either person anyway.

Lastly, Product #2, Ghost Souls (, I shared the journey of inception and brought him in to help polish the commercials, now we have our CFO onboard.

Learning / Advice: People pursue a passion, readily commit to what excites them.

A hesitant CTO…

One that was open to being a sounding board, but wouldn’t sign an NDA or a contract. Our Current CTO, is someone with 20+ years of hardcore tech experience, is a bit of a geek if you ask me, could easily be a rocket scientist if he wanted, watches so many documentaries, not sure how he soaks & survives all that consistent stream of knowledge.

We’ve known each other for over six years, we’re more like brothers at this point, he’s kind to host and so I have a ritual of staying at his place anytime I visit Montreal, saves me money and also allows us time to catch up.

When I talked to him about Product#1, he did immediately and enthusiastically dove into the mode of exploring the idea, and readily shared his inputs and when offered the position of a CTO, verbally accepted.

Few weeks went by, while I was doing the groundwork, I reached out to him again to check-in and see when can I send in an NDA to discuss further and possibly sign a contract. We arranged a call, discussed the product roadmap at length, and established the baseline for competitor analysis, ending the call with an ask of sharing a contract and NDA template that has worked for him in the past (aka people used to sign him on).

And then began the era of follow-ups, one fine day I received a set of texts, you can see the texts received here:

And my responses here:

After a careful 90 minutes call, deep diving in all the issues he experienced with the three startups, and having subtly conveyed how my approach and thoughts are overtly different, we now finally have a rockstar CTO. The issues, he experienced, were lack of planning, misaligned expectations, and arrogant behavior from the last three founders he worked with, when we dove into my thinking and the history we carry, we were able to collectively clear the clouds that hindered this milestone.

Learning / Advice: When it comes to bringing amazing people on-board, be ready to have tough conversations dealing with past projection on current. If your intentions are in the right place, nothing can stop it from happening. The key is to always have a beginner’s mindset.

VP Business Development & Strategic Partnerships that denied to partner…

He was the first person I called when I made up my mind about registering my own company and starting work on Product#1, someone I’ve known for more than 3 years. Post the initial calls, he very enthusiastically followed up for further discussions and followed through with some proactive research, still love it, the best sign of the perfect person you want to absolutely have on your team.

Few days passed, we decided to talk about compensation, I offered directions to a few websites where startups typically list their jobs to look for some baseline and then come up with his expectations of what he feels would be the right figure. In the next two-three days, I received an email with a tailored cover letter and a business canvassing book (cost him a certain dollars on amazon). It detailed to the point different sets of responsibilities he had kindly offered to take on and to contribute to the verticals of Strategic & Financial Management. There was also an equity ask on the higher side and a little section that outlined his personal exit strategy. 

What’s to be loved here? The preparedness, organization, thoroughness, thoughtfulness, and effort. However, I said NO, there were some red flags. You’ll find below my response elaborating and setting expectations:

Which led him to say no, very naturally. But the best part, here again, he insisted on catching up because he didn’t want our friendship to suffer. This tells you miles about one’s character. I was convinced immediately to drive this to collaboration but only after openly discussing the issues and ensuring there is an up-skilling of perspective on the other end.

We talked through all the issues, closed the gaps and we were successful in building that perspective and bringing him on-board with the same level enthusiasm he had initially.

Learning / Advice: Relationships matter always, commercials can always be worked out. Building credibility leads to stronger bonds.

Discovering a Rockstar CMO

Took more than a few tries, cycled through six senior leaders in the industry, a few that said no because they weren’t comfortable growing revenue for a startup, including one that ghosted us, in the middle of a team meeting, which was supposed to be for discussing launch & growth strategy, even a few, with their own firms, only to meet our current CMO, during a networking call, with no intentions of going in there to find someone and recruit them. Currently, our CMO is helping us align our Brand Voice Unification, Brand, Launch, and Growth Strategy 

Learning/Advice: It’s absolutely fine to spend time to find the right fit, the right person in the right role, really makes it worthwhile.

With that, I’d like to thank SPLSG to extend this opportunity for sharing these details. Should you have any questions/suggestions/advise or need inputs, feel free to reach me at:

About Prince Sewani

Prince Sewani, Founder & CEO of Prince Multiverse Inc.

Prince brings over a decade of Tech, Business, Strategy, and Leadership experience. Thus far, he has worked in Finance, ERP, E-commerce, E-governance, and briefly in Healthcare & Telecom domains. He has worked with some of the major brands across the globe, including a few blue-chip companies in consulting, management & leadership capacities. He’s currently focused on learning Demand Generation, Growth Marketing, gaining more depth & breadth in Marketing and Design Strategy.