Ooka Island’s Joelle MacPhee says it’s okay for founders to not want to be CEOs

High-profile stories of CEOs finding success — whether that’s through exits or significant profit — after years of hustling makes it seem like taking a leadership role is the only way to showcase success. But as Ooka Island‘s Joelle MacPhee told TechToronto, this isn’t always the best way to find success — or happiness — in your startup.

MacPhee described the process of co-founding Ooka Island in PEI — which gamifies reading to help kids learn — with her grandmother, Dr. Kay MacPhee. Eventually, the success of Ooka Island brought MacPhee to an accelerator in New York.

“Everything seemed to go great until it wasn’t. After two years I was starting to feel really burnt out, and there were fires popping up everywhere,” said MacPhee. “I thought that two years is nothing, and Kay has been putting out fires for 50 and she was still moving forward. I realized that it was about myself, and I thought about what was standing in my way and what I could change.”

As she was in the midst of fundraising, she asked every investor what she could have done differently to make them want to invest. “‘You’re too green, you don’t have any leadership experience, and do you want to be CEO?’ MacPhee was told. “The truth was, I didn’t. I loved the concept of being the CEO, but I didn’t feel ready to take on that responsibility half-heartedly.”

She turned to her network of advisors for help — and ended up finding an amazing CEO in Kelly Shaw, who has been taking the helm of the company for the past two years. “It’s been an amazing ride. Since she came on board, we could raise the investment we needed, went mobile with Ooka Island, we’ve been building the teams in PEI and Toronto, and we’ve been scaling just like Kay wanted.” MacPhee is currently the director of marketing at Ooka Island.

Watch the whole talk below:

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Freelance tech writer. Former BetaKit News Editor.

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