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.
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.