Startup Boards is an Awesome Resource for Young Startup CEOs ( and those in Training )

Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors: Brad Feld, Mahendra Ramsinghani is a very useful book for young entrepreneurs and their advisors. I really like that Feld & Ramsighani spend a lot of time defining the roles and boundaries of the people involved in a board. Most importantly they describe the roles & boundaries as a Startup evolves from two guys in a garage, to early stage Startup, to the Revenue Phase, and the Growth Phase.

Early Companies Need “Customer Development” Advisors

I find that most early entrepreneurs want to meet VCs and finance people and I really like that the authors recommend that finance is more important later on. Yes you need money, but find something to sell first. Focus your advisory time on past CEO’s, Customer Discovery, and Product Development people. Overall the key is that the board is for your companies development, so be organized about what you need from your board and advisors as you evolve.

Board composition Brad Feld

Action For Young Entrepreneurs

One take away is that a Young-CEO-in-Training can begin preparing her personal board of directors right now. Her early mentors will help her make personal career decisions and later when her responsibility grows she will already have had experience reaching out to more formal helpers when she needs it. Asking for feedback and help is “hard”. Learning to develop that skill is important and you should start “right now”. Organize your own personal board now. Be disciplined. Learn how to develop meaningful relationships to improve ones performance and not search for “cheerleaders”.

Lots of Support Available Online

I like that they authors leverage blog posts from prolific bloggers so that readers can dig in after reading the book. There is lots from Fred Wilson, Ben Horowitz, Steve Blank, Mark Suster, Noam Wasserman, and more.


I like how the authors cover, and justify, the role of a lawyer in an early stage startup. In the beginning she’s likely to do little more than keep the minutes, but that involvement will pay dividends later.

Quibbles / Reminders

I really like this book and yet I often have to remind myself that the authors are VCs and that most bloggers on this topic are VCs. This reminder comes about because the authors make a strong recommendation for non-financial experts on ones board and thus I’m looking for more coverage of this “non-VC-voice” that they are recommending. It’s great that they’ve included Steve Blank. A list of other non-financial experts would be great, going beyond that would definitely be beyond the scope of the book. I’m thinking of examples along the lines of problems brought up by Eric Ries’ “lesson’s learned blog” back in 2008 when he was a CTO. The Product Managers Lament, Engineering Managers Lament, and What Does a CTO actually do? are items that early CEOs need to have sorted out.


“The Lean Approach Videos” by Steve Blank and Kauffman FoundersSchool

Kauffman FoundersSchool and Steve Blank’s Lean Approach video series on YouTube

  • The Lean Approach: Introduction, 1:06
  • The Lean Approach: The Lean Method, 5:22
    • 0:50: There are No Facts Inside Your Building — Get Outside
    • 1:28: Using the Business Model Canvas
    • 1:49: Use Customer Development to Test Your Hypotheses
    • 2:44: What is a Pivot?
    • 4:24: No Business Plan Survives First Contact with Customers
  • The Lean Approach: Getting Out of the Building: Customer Development, 5:45
    • 0:24: What is Customer Development?
    • 1:09: How Do You Start the Customer Development Process?
    • 1:36: Customer Discovery is a Series of Conversations
    • 2:05: The Founder and Customer Development
    • 3:16: Real World Example of Customer Development
  • The Lean Approach: Customer Development Data, 2:13
    • 0:31: Designing Experiments to Test Hypotheses
    • 0:48: Doing Customer Discovery Without Collecting Data is a Sin
    • 1:06: Insight is Key
    • 1:49: Why Accountants Don’t Run Startups
  • The Lean Approach: Minimum Viable Products, 5:53
    • 0:18: What is a Minimum Viable Product?
    • 0:38: What to Test, Why to Test and How to Test
    • 2:05: You’re Not Building a Product … You’re Getting Customer Feedback
    • 2:53: Use MVPs to Run Experiments
    • 4:15: Real World Example of an MVP
  • The Lean Approach: Customer Acquisition and Archetypes, 9:07
    • 0:47: Get, Keep and Grow Customers
    • 1:00: Create Customer Demand
    • 1:46: Customer Archetypes: Getting to Know Your Customers
    • 3:35: Matching Archetypes to Acquisition
    • 5:28: Growing Customers: The Lifetime Value
    • 7:35: The Biggest Mistake in Customer Acquisition

Blog posts by Steve Blank describing the videos.

Branding Immersion for Engineers (It’s About People )

What the !@#$ is modern Branding?

Brand Thinking by @debbiemillman is very useful for Engineers. thx @brainpicker

I keep meaning to write up a deeper post on this book. I really like this book because it is a collection of interviews from Brand experts over a wide range of experiences and applications. It has modern guys; like Dan Pink, Seth Godin, and Malcolm Gladwell and business examples from guys at Starbucks, Nike, and Coca Cola.

The key insight for me is that Branding is about “People and Problems they have” —

Page 210. Bill Moggridge. It’s interesting that as so many things change around us, the evolution of technologies, social relationships, and so on simarly change very fast. But that basic principle of human centered design — “start with people” — you can rely on it.