Our investor update guide includes a template and best practices, including why you should send updates before you even have investors.
Regular investor updates are a great tool. Beyond their obvious purpose of keeping your existing investors informed about your startup’s progress, they can also serve as a way to reflect on your progress each month. And beyond your current investors, they are a way of keeping prospective investors engaged for future rounds. To make life easier for founders, we've put together a guide for managing investor updates. We cover who should be on your investor update list when you should start sending them, a template for what to include in the update, and even how to manage your list and send it out.
Sending out regular updates is critical for keeping investors and other stakeholders up to date on what's going on with your startup. By sharing progress, wins, losses, challenges, and key metrics, you provide a snapshot of your progress. It also provides an avenue for stakeholders to help you solve challenges.
Investor updates force you to reflect monthly on your accomplishments and progress. Sometimes the day-to-day of running a startup is a grind, and it's hard to see the forest for the trees. Monthly updates help you see the slightly bigger picture. Hopefully, it shows you just how much progress you’ve made.
When things aren’t going well, the monthly update gives your stakeholders a heads-up. They’ll probably have some advice or ideas to help you right the ship. And in a worst-case scenario, honest updates ensure if things do go south, it’s not a big surprise.
The obvious answer is all the investors in your startup. Beyond your investors, there are other stakeholders you should consider including as well. This list would consist of advisors and mentors, and most importantly, prospective investors.
Often you’ll connect with VCs and angels before you are raising, between rounds, or when you’re too early for them to get involved. Adding these leads to your regular monthly update list is a great way to stay in touch and keep them informed. Hopefully, it builds a bit of FOMO, and your updates are impressive enough to make raising the next round easier.
A couple of investors reached out and joined our last round because they were sufficiently impressed with our updates.
We sent our first investor update at the beginning of March 2020. A simpler time!
We began sending our investor updates three months into starting Taskable and a full six months before we even started thinking about fundraising. It was a great way of focusing and measuring our progress. I’m glad we started so early, even if only a few people were reading it. It helped us both build a habit and a small but growing community of stakeholders and supporters.
Our investor updates generally follow the same structure month after month. It makes them super easy to write and ensures we cover the key areas.
We start with a few sentences or paragraphs with a greeting and a summary of the key highlights we share in the update. I find this the most challenging part to write—the rest sort of writes itself.
This section is usually the fun part - sharing some of the previous month’s key highlights and the things we’re most proud of. It could be a cool new feature that’s getting a lot of traction, an exciting new customer, or getting accepted to an accelerator program.
This section is equally critical to the highlights, and it’s where we are struggling the most—every startup struggles. Honesty is essential here. Share what you’re having trouble with because someone in your update list could be helpful.
Sometimes related to your challenge, the ask is something specific you could use help with. For example, it could be helping promote a new position you are hiring for, or getting intros to prospective investors, or helping figure out how to do your taxes. The ask is a great way to see who is engaged with your update and which investors or prospective investors will be most helpful.
We don’t usually include this section unless we have team news or updates, like new hires.
We finish with our key performance indicators (KPIs). The ones we currently include are MRR, active users, sign-ups, and website visitors.
We use a couple of tools for our investor updates. We draft them in a Google Doc and store them in a shared Google Drive folder. We link to the Google Drive folder with all our other updates, so investors get a snapshot of previous months if they are new to the list or if they need to catch up. If I could do things over again, I would have done this in Notion to make it more user-friendly. I’ll probably go back and put everything there at some point.
I keep track of our contact list in HubSpot CRM, where we also track our investor pipeline. I like HubSpot because it’s free, and I can keep track of all our previous touchpoints with investors. It’s also easy to open the CRM and add new investors to the update list.
When I am ready to send out the update list, I open our list in HubSpot and run through the current recipients. This helps me remember if someone is missing and sometimes prompts me to remove people who aren’t engaged. Once the list is up to date, I export it to a CSV and send it from my email with everyone on bcc. It gets a bit messy when we have lots of replies, but it’s not a big enough headache yet to find a better solution. At my previous startup, we’d do a mailmerge and send each email with a personalized greeting using Mixmax. That was great because you could see who was opening the email. However, it’s also a bit intrusive and kind of a pain, so I just do the bcc.
If there is sensitive information that you don’t necessarily want to share with anyone beyond existing investors, consider sending out two versions. For example, existing investors might expect financial details you might not feel comfortable sharing with other stakeholders.
Investor updates serve a purpose well beyond keeping your existing investors up to date. Most importantly, keeping prospective investors up to date. We suggest including highlights, challenges, asks, team updates, and KPIs in each. We use HubSpot to manage our update list because it’s free, but a simple spreadsheet with names and emails will do. Just make sure it’s quick and easy to add people to so you don’t forget. Finally, consider having two updates - one for existing investors, one for everyone else - if you don’t want everyone to have all the info.