Starting a company is tough. Scaling it is even harder. The people you surround yourself with throughout that process — investors, advisors, mentors and board members — can make the difference between success and failure.
In my experience, it’s a smart move to constitute a board early. I’m lucky enough to be an independent board member at Lingvist, Paranoid Fan and Motivii, and I know from my own portfolio that it can be a huge driver of success. Having a board forces you to meet and update a group of people on a regular basis. It forces you to pull together disparate threads from your product, company, finances and more to produce reports to inform conversations that have a material impact on your business. With the right people involved, board meetings can be an opportunity to step back and look at your business from a strategic level and get outside input from qualified people who have relevant experience and a different perspective on your company.
Sam Altman from Y Combinator wrote a great piece about the value of board members a few years ago. In his opinion, “Board members are also a good forcing function to keep the company focused on execution. In my experience, companies without any outsiders on their boards often have less discipline around operational cadence.”
My colleague Alex at Techstars NYC wrote an amazing primer on boards, saying, “What boards do really well is focus on growth and milestones that are needed to get to the next level — most frequently the next financing. Good boards are metrics and growth oriented. They bring diversity and an outside perspective, they bring experience, and collective wisdom. In a lot of ways, like a group of Techstars mentors, great boards help keep the business healthy and help accelerate it.”
Finding independent board members with the relevant skills, qualifications and interests has always been a somewhat ad hoc process of referrals, requests and crossed fingers. Outside of mentoring programs, it didn’t feel like there was a central place where great people could find opportunities to become board members.
The other huge issue in this whole conversation is diversity. Companies and their boards should reflect the disparate backgrounds, experiences and desires of their users and customers. Perspective, and the ability to understand a wide range of experiences and viewpoints is a massive success factor in every aspect of your business — from your UI and UX, through your marketing channels and beyond. Bringing a more diverse range of voices into your company *will* help with that and so much more besides, and hopefully Hired Goons can help — by creating a place where people can refer friends, mentors, colleagues and others for board roles.
I want startups around the world to get access to the right people to help them scale. I want a more diverse pool of great advisors, mentors and board members to get access to companies where they can use their expertise to truly move the needle.
You can go and register your company here, or you can nominate a friend who you think would make a great independent board member here. Right now, we’re going to do some manual matching of people and opportunities, but this is very much an MVP, so more automated search and connection tools will follow. I’d love to hear your thoughts, feedback and more — feel free to message me on the platform of your choice! I look forward to making this more and more useful for you all over time.
This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Ben Tossell. I tweeted about the project a few weeks back and Ben came in and gave me the shove I needed to get this from napkin to hosting and launch. Check out his new gig at the Upstarts — your co-founders as a service.