How it all began?
I’ve been a venture investor for nearly a decade and have been on twelve startup boards, as a director or observer, split evenly between the US and UK. No matter where you are in the world, making a startup successful is hard. Startups are a special breed of company – young and fragile but also intensely ambitious and determined. The entrepreneurial world is known for exceptional personalities – visionary, head-strong founders and entrepreneurs coupled with driven highly analytical investors. The result is the startup boardroom (though the majority of the real value happens outside the boardroom itself), and those conversations can make or break a startup.
Existing board best practice material and training is almost all about large companies and good governance. Startups don’t need a meeting filled with governance – though finding the right balance of structure is crucial. More importantly, if 80% of startups fail in the first five years, how can boards steer their startups to be in the minority, to be alive and thriving after five years? How to strike the right balance of focus and opportunism, thinking big and maximizing the future while still ensuring near-term execution – and remaining funded throughout. How to handle the decision, conversation and execution of the need to transition from a founding management team to a scaling, execution-oriented team - without tearing the fabric of a young fragile company? How to enable the CEO to focus on running the company while also executing effectively on a much-needed fundraising, often round after round?
These are startup specific problems and I have never found helpful material from research or general board best practice materials. The most useful advice has been the stories, experiences and lessons learned of experienced startup directors. It’s taken me a decade to amass enough insight to create my own working book of startup board best practice, and to begin to know who to call for different perspectives when I need a new solution. It’s just the tip of the iceberg – I know that if we amass this knowledge and learning on a larger-scale, we will all benefit significantly as board directors.
That is the point of Leaderboard – to bring together the perspectives, insights and lessons learned from experienced startup board directors in tangible, bite-sized examples. Perhaps you have something to contribute or would like to recommend a burning topic / question or want to recommend someone with a great perspective? Please do so! These insights will benefit all of us as board directors, but most importantly, our startups will benefit from productive, beneficial board sessions and dynamics leading to more successful startups overall – which would be a resounding victory for all of us.
Blog Name- LeaderBoard
The word Leaderboard traditionally has two connotations – the ranking of the top players in a golf tournament, or the ranking of the top athletes in a Crossfit competition. In one sport, the very best in the world in skill, refined and perfect, thoughtful and with determined, consistent practice. In the other, pure raw athleticism, characterised by gruelling challenges and requiring stamina and mental fortitude.
A startup needs both. The gruelling determination of a world-class Crossfit champion coupled with the nuanced skill and precision of world-class golf champion. These qualities must be captured in the board, balancing the determination and precision.
Startup board directors need to be Leaders individually, bringing independent thought and perspective, and then come together as a Board, working under a shared set of goals and values. We hope this blog provides guidance, direction and lessons learned. Welcome to Leaderboard.