Startup Boards and Advisors


This post collects our favorite links about finding the right board members and advisors for a startup, and how to run productive board meetings.

Our technology law Link List series collects useful startup guidance from around the internet.1

Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures has written several useful blog posts on the topic, and Brad Feld of Foundry Group has written a book on Startup Boards.

Board Members

How Boards Need to Evolve Over Time. Mark Suster, 2014. For early-stage companies, the board should provide introductions, discuss strategic decisions, review financials, mentor, plan for extra-ordinary events. As the startup matures, try to add an independent board member with a useful background, perhaps another startup CEO.

Expectations for Outside Board Members. Brad Feld, 2014. An independent director needs to be an independent thinker. It doesn’t matter whether the relationship originates from the VC or the founders.

The Board of Directors: Role and Responsibilities. Fred Wilson, 2012. Discussing directors generally, and suggesting a three person Board for early-stage startups. “I generally recommend that a founder put himself/herself on the board along with two other people they trust and respect.”

The Board Of Directors – The Board Chair Fred Wilson, 2012. In addition to the normal responsibilities of a board member, the Board Chair is responsible for making sure the Board is doing its job.

The Board Of Directors: Board Chemistry Fred Wilson, 2012. Discussing how to build board chemistry, and how to replace a board member who doesn’t fit in.

The Board Of Directors: Board Committees
Fred Wilson, 2012. “A three person Board should not have committees. The Board will be the default committee for all of this stuff. A five person Board could have committees and should have them if there is a lot of work required for audit and compensation. A seven person Board and larger should most certainly have committees.”

The Board Of Directors – Selecting, Electing & Evolving
Fred Wilson, 2012.

Board Members. Sam Altman, 2014. Many founders prefer to avoid outside board members. “But great board members, with a lot of experience seeing companies get built, are the sort of people founders should want thinking about their companies every day.”

Board Meetings

The Board Of Directors: Board Meetings Fred Wilson, 2012.

Why You Shouldn’t Decide Anything Important at Your Board Meeting. Mark Suster, 2014. Pre-meet each board member with a 30 minute call, at least a week in advance of the official board meeting.

Why You’re Not Getting the Most out of Your Board. Mark Suster, 2014. Without planning, board meetings devolve into (a) outside board members trying to remember what the company is up to, (b) management trying to reassure investors that “we’re doing a good job”, (c) investor trying to sounds smart so they can say they’re “adding value.”

How to Control Your Board Discussion and Avoid Chaos. Mark Suster, 2013. Tips on avoiding topic creep, product design nitpicking and over-introducers.

8 Tips to Get the Most Out of your Investors and Board. Mark Suster, 2013. Frequent email updates. Use text messages and short conferences calls. Seek input, assign tasks, take feedback, manage expectations.

You Shouldn’t be Bored at a Board Meeting 1: Board Meeting Dos and Don’ts. Ted Wang, 2013. Management should create a board deck that tells a story about the company’s progress and its core issues. Send out the deck in advance, and give board members some time to digest it. Don’t hide bad news.

You Shouldn’t be Bored at a Board Meeting, Pt. 2: Structure for Success. Ted Wang, 2013. Discuss (a) Progress in performance metrics, status of marketing and engineering, and company finances; (b) hold strategic discussions on topics like fundraising and partnerships; and (c) vote on administrative items, like the approval of options and minutes.

Advisors

Everything you ever wanted to know about advisors, Venture Hacks, 2008. A short FAQ on finding good advisors. “Try before you buy. Most advice is awful. Including advice from successful entrepreneurs.”

Advisors - how to pay them, Venture Hacks, 2008. “What should I pay advisors?” “Nothing—get them to pay you. Ask advisors to invest. You get money, save stock, and amplify the advisor’s social proof in the process.”


  1. This is advice worth reading, but it may not be advice that’s right for your startup. 

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