Brad Feld

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VC Behavior in Board Meetings

Aug 13, 2009
Category Management

There was plenty of chatter about my post The Best Board MeetingsOne idea popped up a few times and was well articulated by John Boyd in his post What Makes a Good Board Meeting?  In it he talks about what is expected from a VC in a board meeting, rather than just from the CEO / entrepreneur.

“So one thing I would add is nothing is worse than a board member that just gives "good body temperature". i.e. I think it’s important for investors to have well articulated views and data to support their advice on strategic choices the company faces. I think it’s also important that when a CEO asks for investor help on an issue, it’s incumbent on the investor to tap his/her own extended network to get the best help possible.  My point is, while a lot is expected of the CEO, the VC board members need to step up too and a lot of times they don’t.”

I love the phrase “gives good body temperature” – that captures the behavior of so many VC attendees at board meetings (including partners, not just associates.)

Worse, though, is the endless addiction to a blackberry / iPhone or laptop during a board meeting.  I long ago stopped taking my laptop to board meetings because I knew I had no ability to ignore it.  I still find myself regularly taking out my iPhone during board meetings.  I don’t do anything on paper so I’m often taking my iPhone out just to write notes to myself for tasks to do, but I always end up scanning my email due to “poor impulse control.”  While it’s rude to everyone in the room, it’s even worse because no matter how good I think I am at listening while reading my email, I’m not.  And I’m certainly not participating.

Yesterday, during a board meeting, I tried something different. I put a piece of paper and a pen in front of me and whenever I had a thought I wrote it down.  When I reflect on the meeting from yesterday, my level of engagement (which I like to think is usually high) was as complete as it gets – I was “in the board meeting” for the entire board meeting, except for the two minutes when I took a call from Amy (which will always supersede whatever I’m doing, except sex, but since I only have sex with Amy, this won’t be an issue.)

So – starting now, I’m going to banish my iPhone from board meetings.  I encourage my VC colleagues to give this a try.