Startups usually begin with one or two founders who play many roles. The lead founder is likely to wear the hats of Founder, Chairman, CEO, President, CFO, CRO and CMO, while a co-founder may well be CTO, Chief Product Officer, and Programming Team Lead.
As the company grows and brings on more people, even in cases where everyone wants to keep the organization ‘flat’, it simply becomes too unwieldy for the CEO to have more than six or so direct reports, or for the CTO to both code everything personally AND design/plan the product line AND be involved at the larger, strategic level. So as more skills are needed, the founder(s) tend to spread out the responsibilities, pushing responsibility down the chain to newly hired CFOs, CMOs, etc.
The “President” role would typically not appear as an independent title until sometime post-Series A, when the CEO may be supervising a team of four to six CXOs while at the same time being the primary ‘outside’ person speaking for the company, dealing with investors and handling long-term strategy. At that point, it would not be at all unusual for the CEO and the board to agree that it makes sense to bring on a President (often with the added title of “Chief Operating Officer”) to handle most or all of the direct reports internally, while the CEO focuses on the Big Vision, the outward-facing relationships, and the company culture.
In virtually all cases of which I am aware, the President reports to the CEO, who in turn reports to the board. It would not be at all unusual, however, for the President to have his/her own seat on the Board as well.
*original post can be found on Quora @ : http://www.quora.com/David-S-Rose/answers *