Navigating Your (First) Startup Board of Directors: The People (Part 2 of 4)

This is part 2 of a 4-part series I’m writing on navigating your board of directors, and this section is focused on the people; who should be on your board and how you should interact with them. If you missed Part 1, the Framework, read it here as it will provide some groundwork for this section. 

Special shoutout to my friend Ari Newman, Managing Partner at Massive who served as an editor, contributor, and sounding board for this series.


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Navigating your (first) board of directors*: The Framework (Part 1 of 4)

I recently did a talk on creating and navigating your first board of directors with friend and colleague Tim Miller, the CEO and Founder of Rally Software which was acquired by CA in 2015. We spoke to a group of Techstars founders that were thinking about creating their first board, or optimizing the board they already had. I sit on several boards, some highly functional and some dysfunctional, while Tim Miller has both had to manage his own board AND sits on others’ boards. We both pulled best practices together and I thought I would share them with you here. Before I dig in, for anyone interested in the topic, there’s a great book published by Brad Feld & Matt Blumberg called Startup Boards. This book was incredibly helpful to me as I navigated my own role as a board member, and it’s a great resource for founders too.

Special shoutout to my friend Ari Newman, Managing Partner at Massive who served as an editor, contributor, and sounding board for this series.

I’ve divided this into a series of 4 blog posts:

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This is Water

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about the impact of attention, awareness, and responsibility in our lives, specifically how it impacts entrepreneurs and the performance of early-stage startups. I’ve always believed that what you focus on expands, and some of this has been shown in both quantum physics and in sport psychology. In this context, attention is your ability to direct your focus on outcomes you WANT (rather than those you don’t).

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Grateful Dead on repeat and marriage

I am married to a Dead Head. My husband Mark didn’t discover the band until he was in college, so he missed much of the touring that makes the community vibrant, but he’s made up for it ever since. Like most Dead Heads, he has listened to the 200+ versions of Fire on the Mountain and could tell you what date and venue the best version of the song was played. He loves the Dead so much that he plays keys in a Dead cover band called Peak 2 Peak (they gig locally so check them out if you live around here!).

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Managing your chaos

Most of my days are full of meetings, in 30 minute increments, sometimes in 15 minute increments, and occasionally a rare 60 min meeting.  At one point in my career, I could have 30 meetings in a day (not lying, 15 min back to back meetings with maybe 2 breaks all day) for days, and on a few occasions, a couple of weeks at a time.  Even now, my days are stretched between staff meetings, weekly 1:1s, weekly all-hands and team meetings, board meetings, founder pitches, investor connections, community ‘asks’, portfolio company support, network maintenance… the list goes on, and that’s just the work stuff.  Tomorrow I have a slow day – 9 meetings; one of them is a 2 hour portfolio review, and that doesn’t include a friend’s launch party and an event at my kid’s school.  I remember when my calendar first started filling up this way, back in 2010 – it felt exhilarating…  I’m IMPORTANT!  Look at all the people that need me!  Now I just see it as a failure on my part to impart the right people with the right wisdom and freedom to be successful, independent of my input.

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My secret rock

I have a secret rock. It’s 3/4 through my weekly hike, and I always stop there to relax for a few before returning to my car.  It’s obfuscated by the tall golden grass of the hillside meadow in which it sits, with views south and east in Boulder. It’s a glorious spot because it overlooks […]

Crown complications and musings on details

The vegetable plate was the only item at the Starbucks near my gate I can eat. First of all, it was literally the only food item I could eat since I’m trying to avoid gluten. I’m from Boulder after all. And we, in Boulder, avoid gluten, alongside other curiosities, like sugar, high heel shoes, GMO foods, nail polish on our fingers (toes are okay though), and carbon emissions. But today I can’t eat the gluten-laden muffins and croissants of Starbucks even if I wanted to because I can’t open my jaw wide enough to get my toothbrush all the way in. See I had dental surgery last week, a cracked wisdom tooth resulting from a large filling, and a few years of grinding in my sleep. The temporary crown back there is rougher than my other teeth, and is supposed to get replaced with the permanent crown 3 days from now. It’s doubtful I’ll be keeping that appointment since I can’t even yawn, as this complication with my crown surgery has put me in considerable pain. And for some stupid reason, I feel like toughing out the pain rather than taking ibuprofen. So… I’ve bitten the tip off the pointy cherry tomato foot and am sucking the juice out because I can’t open my mouth any wider.

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Congrats to Simple Energy

I’ve known the founders of Simple Energy, Yoav Lurie & Justin Segall since 2011, when they accepted my offer to go through the Techstars program in Boulder.  Back then, they were driven, focused, intelligent, and passionate about changing the face of the energy industry.  I was hooked.  Over the years, I stayed in touch with the founders, watching them evolve from a startup to a well-run company whose customer base features some of the country’s largest energy utility companies.  They had raised a bunch of capital from investors like us (Techstars), Vision Ridge, and Westley Group.

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