Last night I attended the Techstars in NYC Workshop: Killer Startup CEO. I attended it in part because of my curiosity to see the incubators space, and because I wanted to see what type of information Matt Blumberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Return Path, had to impart on us.
To be honest a lot of the conversation was the same type of stuff that you hear at any of these fireside chats: Make sure you have a good team, it’s hard to find good technical talent, do reviews, and blah blah blah. There were a few points that he did make though that I thought were interesting and wanted to share with you.
When building your board of investors make sure they are strategically engaged but operationally distant.
You want your board to help you as you navigate the startup landscape, but you don’t want them so involved that it hinders your effectiveness as a CEO. By being strategically engaged they can help guide you with where your business should be going and improving, but by being operationally distant it allows you to focus on building your product without feeling as though you’re being micro-managed.
A good board will consume what you put in front of it.
When presenting information to your board they’ll take in what you put in front of them. So if you give a ridiculously long in-depth analysis on your day-to-day operations they may want to be more involved with the small details, which isn’t an efficient use of their time. Now, if you present a few pages of strategic goals that you need help with they can focus on those bigger picture items.
Limit the amount of investors and management on your board.
When creating a board you want to make sure that you get a diversity of views and ideas represented through your board. If too many of your management and investors are already on your board then you’re just surrounding yourself with the same mindset. By bringing in outsiders, who are still knowledgeable and creative, you’ll be able to get opinions that your team never would have thought of. They can also provide business insight onto what’s important to outsiders such as your consumers.
Key is to know what you want to get out of your board every time you meet.
If you’re going to meet you need to make sure that you have an idea of why you’re meeting and what you want to get out of it. To meet just to mark it off in your calendar isn’t beneficial nor efficient for anyone involved.
Values and culture are less changeable than product.
Everyone likes to talk about the lean startup model and being able to pivot or adapt your business when necessary. That’s great, but it’s also important to understand that there are some things that should not change like the values and culture you want your company to be built on. By creating these long-lasting ideas from the beginning product, management, and features can change, but your company could survive though those changes.
Good VC’s and Angel investors will give you their references.
Whenever you’re looking for investors it’s important not just to find them, but to make sure they’re beneficial. A way to separate the good from the bad is often the good ones will give you their references and want you to speak with other CEO’s that they’ve worked with. This will give you an idea if the investor is truly a good fit or if they just want some of your equity without being helpful.
Those were the takeaways from last night’s event that I thought I should share. Has anyone received other interesting advice from other fireside chats that you can share?