Whom do design, engg & product report in early stage startup?

General Question: for early stage startups, are design, product, and engineering usually separate “orgs” all reporting to the CEO? or are they combined under a head of product/CTO?


I’m not sure there’s a definitive “usually” here :grin:
In my case, we have engineering, growth, and product all rolling up separately to our CEO. We have different design functions, some of whom are a part of our growth team and some of whom are a part of our product team.


Yeah I think it very much depends, but the concept of an ‘org’ is kind of absurd until you have multiple middle level managers (EMs, Design Managers, Group PMs/Leads, etc.)

AFAIK most people choose to have the entire Product, Engg and Design org report to the CTO/COO or ‘head of’ something

I’ll say that typically Product, Design and engineering members report to the same person that’s below the CEO. At my first team that was the CTO, at my second it was a VP of product


It depends :slightly_smiling_face:. In my former company Eng and Product report to the CEO. Design reports to Product but worked collaboratively with Growth and Marketing too. Now I work at a startup with <10 people but the forecasted structure of org should be very similar to my former employer post-series A.


Interesting. Product/Eng/Design reported to CPO/CTO in my last two companies. Before that, Product & Eng were separate orgs reporting to the CEO, while Design reported to Product.


Just to pile on more weird and wonderful org design, early in the startup prior to the one I’m at now we had a CTO for engineering, CPO for product (no design), and Chief Creative Officer to whom design reported. Later, design shifted to a Chief Brand Officer.
The CPO would later adopt a Chief Growth Officer title with a different CPO taking her place. That shift happened after I left, though, so I don’t know whether Product Design landed with the new CPO or stayed under Brand :man_shrugging:


How do you define early stage? Is it pre-product market fit or based on team size?

1 Like

Thanks all for the comments!!! They were really helpful.

@Angela, just defining as a small team (<10). really there’s no “org” but just curious how others have thought about it.