Category

Boards

Startup Boards eBook: How to Succeed in Your First Board Role

In addition to our work on helping CEOs understand board-building best practices, which I posted about last week, I’ve spent the past several months publishing a second series of blog posts to help current and aspiring directors (really, any senior executive!) understand the behind-the-scenes details of private company board service. This second series is also now an eBook and its content will also feature in the upcoming second edition of Startup Boards that I’m collaborating on with Brad Feld and Mahendra Ramsinghani. When Bolster published the findings of our Board Benchmarking study, we revealed that 4 out of 5 seats on private company boards today are held by individuals who are white, and 86% of director seats are held by…

Startup Boards eBook: How to Build Your Board

Over the past several months, I’ve published two series of posts on the Bolster blog about Boards. The first series is designed to help CEOs better understand how to build, diversify, and scale their boards of directors. I’ll write about the second one next week. Both series of posts will feature in the second edition of Startup Boards, a book originally published in 2014 by Brad Feld and Mahendra Ramsinghani. The second edition, which is also co-authored by me, will be out late this year or early next year. As I’ve gone about building our business at Bolster, including leading several dozen board searches for companies of all sizes and stages from pre-revenue to public, I’ve noticed that there are…

My new Startup Board Mantra: 1-1-1

Last week, I blogged about Bolster’s Board Benchmark survey results, which really laid bare the lack of diversity on startup boards.  There are signs that this is starting to change slowly — one big one is that of all the board searches we are running at Bolster, about ⅔ of them are open to taking on first-time directors; and almost all are committed to increasing diversity on their boards.   This is also something that I would expect to take some time to change.  Boards are small.  Independent seats aren’t necessarily easy to open up.  Seats don’t turn over often.  And they take a while to fill, as CEOs are thorough in their recruitment and selection process. My new mantra for…

The Startup Ecosystem Needs More Independent Board Members – That’s the Clearest Path to Having Better and More Diverse Boards

I love having independent directors on my Board.  They are a great third leg of the stool alongside a CEO/Founder and VCs.  They provide the same kind of pattern matching and outside point of view as VCs — but from a completely different perspective, that of an operator or industry expert.  The good ones are CEOs or CXOs who aren’t afraid to challenge you.  Equally important, they’re not afraid to challenge your VCs.  At Return Path, I always had 2 or 3 independent directors at any given time to balance out VCs, and some have become great long term friends like Scott Petry, Jeff Epstein, and Scott Weiss.  At Bolster, we’re already having a great experience with our first independent,…

OnBoards Podcast

My podcast with OnBoards is live, talking with Raza and Joe about the importance of adding independence, first-time directors, and diversity to startup boards, and how Bolster helps companies achieve that quickly and inexpensively. I’m writing a lot about Boards at the moment on the Bolster blog. We’re compiling all of those posts into a couple of eBooks. Once all of that is done, I’ll put some digests up here on StartupCEO.com as well as make the eBooks available for download. But the gist of it is that we are working hard to break the logjam of diversity on startup boards, and we’re starting to meet with some great success with our clients.

Introducing the Bolster Board Benchmarking Survey

Over the years,  I’ve had a list of nagging questions every time I’ve contemplated my board, but didn’t have anyone I could turn to who had deep, broad advice on this topic. Those questions were: How big should my board be at this stage?   How many independent directors should I have?  What is the right profile of an independent director?  How many options should I give a board member?  How do I find the best, diverse, talent for my board openings? That’s why Bolster is excited to announce the launch of our first CEO tool: Board Benchmarking. This application (which is free!) is the first of a series of tools that we’re designing to help CEOs understand the performance, design,…

The New Way to Scale a Board of Directors

As we wrote in Bolster’s Founding Manifesto, one of the reasons we started Bolster was to create a new way; a faster, easier, and more cost-effective way, for startup and scaleup CEOs to grow their boards of directors and make them more diverse. There’s a lot of research out there that the more independent a board is, the better it performs for companies — and that there’s a high degree of correlation between more independent boards and higher performing companies as well. There’s also a lot of research out there that shows that teams which have diversity of gender and race/ethnicity perform better. And everyone who has ever been on a high-functioning board of directors knows that a board is…

You Don’t Know How to Drive a Car Because You Know How to Read a Map

I was having breakfast with the CEO of another SaaS company the other day, as I often do to network.  He was telling me about his experience working with his company’s new Private Equity owner. There are always a mix of pros and cons that come with any particular shareholder, Board member, or owners, of course.  In his case, my fellow CEO was bemoaning the 29-year old associate who acted like a know-it-all in every Board meeting.  Lots of CEOs have been there.  There’s a lot of value you can get from an associate or VP-level person at an investor who is the Master of the Spreadsheet and who has access to a lot of data about your company.  And there is…

No One Will Ever Thank You for Keeping Prices Low

I was in a Board meeting last week (not Return Path’s), when one of my fellow directors came out with this gem:  “No one will ever thank us for keeping our prices low.” When I first heard this, as is the case with most great quotes, I was drawn to its wit and simplicity. But then I started thinking – is it true?  My mind first went to retail.  Having a reputation as being a low-cost provider can be in and of itself effective marketing – if that reputation is strong enough and your selection is wide enough, at least in retail-oriented industries, customers may consistently buy from you even if you’re not ALWAYS the low-cost provider.  Wal-Mart and Amazon…

Give the Gift of a 360 to Your Board of Directors

Give the Gift of a 360 to Your Board of Directors I recently ran our biennial Board 360, and I thought it would be interesting to share the details.  Attached are a few pages from, my book, Startup CEO:  A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business  which describe the process as well as share the survey I developed, which I adapted from one that the legendary Bill Campbell uses at larger public companies like Intuit. If you’ve read this blog a lot over the years, you know that we are big on 360s for staff at all levels at Return Path , and at some point a few years ago, I thought, “hmmm, shouldn’t we do this for the Board as well?”…

Breaking New Ground on Transparency

Breaking New Ground on Transparency I’ve written a lot over time about our Live 360 process for senior leaders in the business.  (This post is a good one, and it links to a couple earlier ones that are good, as well.)  We take a lot of pride in feedback and in transparency at Return Path, and after 15 years, even for an innovative business, it’s unusual that we do something big for the first time around people.  But we did today. This image is of something never seen before at our company.  It’s my own handwritten notes about my own Live 360. It’s never been seen before, because no one has ever been physically present for his or her own…