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Startup Boards: Getting the Most out of Your Board of Directors (Startup Now) Hardcover – 7 Feb 2014
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From the Inside Flap
Let′s face it, as founders and entrepreneurs you have a lot on your plate, from building your product, landing customers, and building a team to managing your finances and raising money. As you develop your business, especially after you raise capital, you should have a board of directors usually three to seven individuals who′ll seek your attention and, at times, tell you what to do. You′ll also discover that with the formation of a board come the inevitable board meetings.
So how does an entrepreneur manage this beast called the board, which has many heads, and even more opinions? Indeed, dealing with this aspect of a startup can be tricky for anyone. That′s why Brad Feld a Boulder, Colorado based entrepreneur turned venture capitalist and seed investor Mahendra Ramsinghani have written Startup Boards. In it, they skillfully demystify board dynamics and the inner workings of a boardroom for today′s entrepreneur.
Establishing an objective outside group is essential for startups, especially to keep you on track, provide you with support and advice, call you out when you flail, and, in some cases, save you from yourself. Here, you′ll not only gain a better understanding of the softer dynamics involved with startup boards, but you′ll also become familiar with the various legal and governance aspects associated with them.
Along the way, Feld and Ramsinghani detail the best practices that can make startup boards more effective. They, along with twenty other entrepreneurs, board members, and lawyers, share their real–world experience in this area, and provide examples of what works, and, equally as important, what doesn′t. From proactively building a high–performing board and running more productive meetings to learning by sitting on the boards of other organizations, this book offers valuable insights into a necessary part of any successful startup.
Engaging and informative, Startup Boards is a practical guide to one of the most important pieces of the startup puzzle.
From the Back Cover
Praise for Startup Boards
"In addition to walking you through, in great detail, how a board functions, Brad has adopted many of the Lean Startup approaches to building, operating, and managing your board in a way that resembles continuous deployments. Any practitioner of Lean Startup would do well to use this approach to building their board."
Eric Ries, author of the New York Times bestseller The Lean Startup
"I′ve had the opportunity to serve on a range of boards for companies at various stages in their lifecycle so I know firsthand that building an effective board, and leveraging it wisely, is both a challenge and an opportunity. This new Brad Feld book will help you get it right."
Steve Case, Chairman and CEO, Revolution; cofounder, AOL
"I′ve been fortunate enough to sit on a few startup boards with Brad. His ′less is more′ approach to board meetings keeps the process efficient and focused on strategy. If you have any role on a board of directors, stop messing with PowerPoint and read this book right now. I guarantee that you′ll get far more satisfaction from your future interactions."
David Cohen, CEO, Techstars
"Having sat on multiple boards with Brad and his partners at Foundry Group as well as currently being the CEO of GetSatisfaction, I greatly appreciate the power of an effective board for a fast–growing startup. This book shows you the way."
Wendy Lea, CEO, GetSatisfaction
"An excellent board can dramatically help an entrepreneur while a lousy board can sink a company. This book can help you learn how to be on the right side of that equation."
Craig Dauchy, Partner and Head of Venture Capital Group, Cooley LLP
"Having been involved early on the Zynga board with Brad, we both experienced a radically new board approach while scaling up a company at an unprecedented pace. While there is a time and place for traditional board governance, an active, involved, and engaged board is required for any startup. Learn how to do it right in this book."
J. Sanford (Sandy) Miller, General Partner, Institutional Venture Partners
"Brad is a powerful force in the universe and his board–level membership was a booster rocket that helped us grow so fast. This book will help make CEOs more effective at dealing with the personalities that can be on a board, and I would consider it required reading for any board member so they can amplify their impact."
Bre Pettis, CEO, MakerBot
"While board meetings should be helpful to entrepreneurs, many find them to be worthless and tedious. This book creates a framework for developing a high–functioning board that is a real asset to a company′s success."
Jason Mendelson, Managing Director, Foundry Group
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Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
On the positive side, it is well written, and an easier read than many books on Boards (not exactly a scintillating topic). It is quite thorough, and covers some topics that I have not seen covered elsewhere (e.g., Going Out of Business). It is very strong on communications with your Board, better than any other book I have read.
My one significant concern speaks to the authors’ backgrounds. The book is very much oriented toward startups that are involved with venture capital, that go through a seed round of financing, then Round A, Round B, etc., and that are internet or software related. This is not surprising, given the authors’ backgrounds, but it makes the book less useful to the vast majority of startups that are not as described.
If you are a startup in the high-tech, high-growth, venture-funded arena, by all means buy this book, read, reread it, and pay attention to its sage advice.
If, however, you are like most startups, funded by friends and families, expecting to grow as fast as internal cash allows, and are in a non-high-tech business, you will still learn a lot from this book, but I would recommend you first read “5 Steps to Board Success” (Mark Daly) and/or “Creating Effective Boards for Private Enterprises” (John Ward).
A couple of specific comments:
(a) In several places the authors recommend that you have your attorney attend board meetings and take the minutes. Perhaps this is important for the types of companies they invest in, but I believe it is overkill for most companies – no board I have sat on has done this. That said, make sure the person taking minutes (perhaps the corporate secretary) knows what s/he is doing so the minutes are concise, accurate, and only include appropriate material.
(b) Many startups formed today (perhaps a majority) are LLCs (limited liability companies) rather than corporations. LLCs do not have Boards of Directors. They can have Boards of Advisors, or (if manager managed) can have a “board” of members who act like Directors, appointing executives, etc. While this book has a (good) chapter on Boards of Advisors, I wish they had integrated more discussion of LLCs into this chapter in particular, and into the book as a whole. I do not believe they mention LLCs anywhere in the entire book.
Any startup CEO will learn a lot from this book; CEOs of high-tech, high-growth, venture funded startups will particularly benefit.
The only reason why I give it 4 stars is because the book revolves/uses term "VCs" all the time, but doesn't mention "angel/seed investors." Nevertheless, the book is very useful in both scenarios.
My co-founders, investors and fellow board members will be reading this.
P.S. The book has a nice group of checklists in the appendix to help you out in utilizing the material.