There is plenty of writing out there on winning over investors and raising capital for your company. However, investments come with investors – whether they be arms length angels or active board members. And after all the hard work of getting these people’s money, I’ve seen many entrepreneurs struggle to actually use them effectively.
Like employees, investors also need to be managed and led to be a useful resource. Below are some of the ways I’ve seen our best entrepreneurs exploit us to make sure we bring them more than just capital.
1. Communication is key
This is the most important rule. Like every employee, investors need to be managed. This doesn’t necessarily mean a daily sit down, but it does mean more than a quarterly, three-hour board meeting where nothing really gets done.
The best practice I’ve seen is sending fortnightly emails explaining what you’ve done, what you’re doing next, and what they can do to help . You work in sprints, so should your investors, too.
Once you’ve nailed this, here are a few more things you should look to your investors for:
2. Use their network
Investors, especially those that work in venture capital, build networks for a living. Every one of your board members should have a bigger or more high-powered LinkedIn network than you.
So next time you want to partner with that big corporate or get an introduction to that expert, try sending them a message first – or better yet – check who they have in their network already and ask for a specific person or company you want to meet. The more specific the request the better.
3. Make them your PR
Investors are always selling something. Whether it’s to win over entrepreneurs, woo new limited partners or to impress other VCs, they love a narrative that reflects well on them and their portfolio – and if you give them one, they will spread the word to potential employees, partners or investors free of charge.
So make sure you keep them updated on the recent wins and when you want to push a story. Ask them to help craft the release, use their (probably quite expensive ) PR company and ask them to push the message too. You’d be surprised by the clout some VCs seem to have among journalists and bloggers.
4. Your very own market research team
Venture investors do market research for a living. Most even have decent training from a consultancy, bank or MBA school. And if they are any good, they've already done the research on you and your company.
Next time you want to understand what your competition is doing, how other investors will look at your business or how the big players in your space are likely to react to that latest product release – ask them.
At Balderton, we have tools from good ol' fashioned desk work to automated tracking of public/private signals to do this for our portfolio. Additionally, we have a wide network of people that help us complete more detailed work.
So don’t waste your time compiling market landscapes and scraping AngelList when your board member already has the answers.
5. Outsource your HR
Sure its a cliché, but from what I’ve seen, 90% of investing is based on people. If someone has invested in you, you should trust their people judgement. Ask them to interview top hires for you. Even better, ask them to find top hires for you.
VCs are bombarded with CVs, and will likely have a CRM full of potential hires. In fact, many probably have internal HR specialists who can help you hire without spending a penny on recruitment agencies. We’ve conducted dozens of studies recently to identify prime candidates for our portfolio companies for positions from CEO to sales interns (see my colleague Rob Moffat's excellent post on 'Hiring a CMO').
6. Get more money
Despite certain tech blogs making it seem like everyone is a VC these days, it's actually a very small world.
If you want to raise a new round, your board should know about it anyway. And if you want to super charge the round, give them a list of your dream team for angels, independent experts or VCs in new geographies. Chances are, they will know them. With skin in the game and clear direction from you, they will probably be pretty useful at convincing more capital to follow them in.
VCs are not there to be your BFF. However they can provide a vital lifeline to help you deal with the real psychological and physical strains of founding and running a business. While some serial entrepreneurs have had experiences with two or three businesses, most VCs have had front row seats from beginning to end of tens, if not hundreds, of companies.
So when things get tough, both professionally and when your profession impacts your personal life, they can help explain how those who have gone before you dealt with the struggle.
While you shouldn’t use your investors as replacement for therapy, they can certainly give you some perspective and some suggestions that at times may be all the support you need.
There are plenty of other ways to use your board, but the list above is a good start. And if you have more ideas of things we could be doing to support our portfolio, let me know at @jp_wise.