Case | HBS Case Collection | May 2005 (Revised October 2007)

Founder-CEO Succession at Wily Technology

by Noam T. Wasserman and Henry McCance


Before he accepts the new CEO position, Dick Williams wants founder Lew Cirne to step down as chairman. While considering Williams' incredible demand, Cirne reflects on everything he has already given up to get Wily Technology to this point. He agreed to step down as CEO and take what could be a largely symbolic CTO title. He also agreed to give Williams roughly as much equity as he himself owned and far more in salary. As the founder, CEO, and chairman of Wily Technology, Cirne had worked hard to build the skills necessary to lead his start-up. He had developed Wily's early technology single-handedly, had hired 50 employees to help him build his company, and had successfully spearheaded a strategic transformation of his company. He had led Wily to the point where several important customers bought its flagship product and had successfully raised two rounds of financing from top investors. Cirne wonders what he could have done to be pushed to the side like this. What should he do now?

Keywords: Business Startups; Entrepreneurship; Growth and Development Strategy; Management Succession;


Wasserman, Noam T., and Henry McCance. "Founder-CEO Succession at Wily Technology." Harvard Business School Case 805-150, May 2005. (Revised October 2007.)