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Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors Hardcover – December 31, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Let's face it, as founders and entrepreneurs you have a lot on your plate, from building your product, landing customers, and building a team to managing your finances and raising money. As you develop your business, especially after you raise capital, you should have a board of directors—usually three to seven individuals who'll seek your attention and, at times, tell you what to do. You'll also discover that with the formation of a board come the inevitable board meetings.

So how does an entrepreneur manage this beast called the board, which has many heads, and even more opinions? Indeed, dealing with this aspect of a startup can be tricky for anyone. That's why Brad Feld—a Boulder, Colorado–based entrepreneur turned venture capitalist—and seed investor Mahendra Ramsinghani have written Startup Boards. In it, they skillfully demystify board dynamics and the inner workings of a boardroom for today's entrepreneur.

Establishing an objective outside group is essential for startups, especially to keep you on track, provide you with support and advice, call you out when you flail, and, in some cases, save you from yourself. Here, you'll not only gain a better understanding of the softer dynamics involved with startup boards, but you'll also become familiar with the various legal and governance aspects associated with them.

Along the way, Feld and Ramsinghani detail the best practices that can make startup boards more effective. They, along with twenty other entrepreneurs, board members, and lawyers, share their real-world experience in this area, and provide examples of what works, and, equally as important, what doesn't. From proactively building a high-performing board and running more productive meetings to learning by sitting on the boards of other organizations, this book offers valuable insights into a necessary part of any successful startup.

Engaging and informative, Startup Boards is a practical guide to one of the most important pieces of the startup puzzle.

From the Back Cover

Praise for Startup Boards

"In addition to walking you through, in great detail, how a board functions, Brad has adopted many of the Lean Startup approaches to building, operating, and managing your board in a way that resembles continuous deployments. Any practitioner of Lean Startup would do well to use this approach to building their board."
—Eric Ries, author of the New York Times bestseller The Lean Startup

"I've had the opportunity to serve on a range of boards for companies at various stages in their lifecycle—so I know firsthand that building an effective board, and leveraging it wisely, is both a challenge and an opportunity. This new Brad Feld book will help you get it right."
—Steve Case, Chairman and CEO, Revolution; cofounder, AOL

"I've been fortunate enough to sit on a few startup boards with Brad. His 'less is more' approach to board meetings keeps the process efficient and focused on strategy. If you have any role on a board of directors, stop messing with PowerPoint and read this book right now. I guarantee that you'll get far more satisfaction from your future interactions."
—David Cohen, CEO, Techstars

"Having sat on multiple boards with Brad and his partners at Foundry Group as well as currently being the CEO of GetSatisfaction, I greatly appreciate the power of an effective board for a fast-growing startup. This book shows you the way."
—Wendy Lea, CEO, GetSatisfaction

"An excellent board can dramatically help an entrepreneur while a lousy board can sink a company. This book can help you learn how to be on the right side of that equation."
—Craig Dauchy, Partner and Head of Venture Capital Group, Cooley LLP

"Having been involved early on the Zynga board with Brad, we both experienced a radically new board approach while scaling up a company at an unprecedented pace. While there is a time and place for traditional board governance, an active, involved, and engaged board is required for any startup. Learn how to do it right in this book."
—J. Sanford (Sandy) Miller, General Partner, Institutional Venture Partners

"Brad is a powerful force in the universe and his board-level membership was a booster rocket that helped us grow so fast. This book will help make CEOs more effective at dealing with the personalities that can be on a board, and I would consider it required reading for any board member so they can amplify their impact."
—Bre Pettis, CEO, MakerBot

"While board meetings should be helpful to entrepreneurs, many find them to be worthless and tedious. This book creates a framework for developing a high-functioning board that is a real asset to a company's success."
—Jason Mendelson, Managing Director, Foundry Group

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (December 31, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118443667
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118443668
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Elwell on June 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read numerous books on Boards of Directors, and have sat on both Boards of Directors and Boards of Advisors. I read Brad Feld’s blog (Feld Thoughts), and have learned a lot from it, so I was looking forward to reading this book.

On the positive side, it is well written, and an easier read than many books on Boards (not exactly a scintillating topic). It is quite thorough, and covers some topics that I have not seen covered elsewhere (e.g., Going Out of Business). It is very strong on communications with your Board, better than any other book I have read.

My one significant concern speaks to the authors’ backgrounds. The book is very much oriented toward startups that are involved with venture capital, that go through a seed round of financing, then Round A, Round B, etc., and that are internet or software related. This is not surprising, given the authors’ backgrounds, but it makes the book less useful to the vast majority of startups that are not as described.

If you are a startup in the high-tech, high-growth, venture-funded arena, by all means buy this book, read, reread it, and pay attention to its sage advice.

If, however, you are like most startups, funded by friends and families, expecting to grow as fast as internal cash allows, and are in a non-high-tech business, you will still learn a lot from this book, but I would recommend you first read “5 Steps to Board Success” (Mark Daly) and/or “Creating Effective Boards for Private Enterprises” (John Ward).

A couple of specific comments:

(a) In several places the authors recommend that you have your attorney attend board meetings and take the minutes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Noam Wasserman on September 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just posted a long review of this book to my blog. The short version of that review: Whether you are hesitating to build your board or already actively managing it, read this book. Underline its diagnoses, and put asterisks next to its prescriptions. Its content is most relevant to those who have (or may soon have) investors on their boards, but much is also relevant to other types of boards. As you face the issues Feld and Ramsinghani raise, you will hopefully save yourself much time and unnecessary pain down the road by knowing common board-management pitfalls and how to prevent or resolve them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Brian Grega on March 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
As stated early in the book, "most startups fail due to self-inflicted wounds", including ignoring the importance of recruiting the right Board. Whatever stage your business is in, invest your time to read and act on the advice from this terrific book, it will make you a better CEO. Brad Feld's experience, augmented by contributions from other successful business builders will give you the best perspective on how to recruit a Board that will challenge you, guide you, support you and most importantly, call you out, when required.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Keith on March 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As expected, this book has been a truly valuable resource. As a first time CEO - this book has helped me to understand how to assemble and get the most out of a board of directors - which is what I was looking for. If you've read Brad's blog or any of his previous books - you should have a good idea of what to expect. It's plain-spoken, with plenty of examples from real-life situations.
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Format: Hardcover
As a company grows a board becomes necessary. Good boards can launch a great company but bad boards can sink a venture faster than you can say ‘Titanic’. This book attempts to show how founders can recruit a good board, how staff can relate to the board effectively and how directors can add value to the enterprise. It is a valiant attempt; serving the needs of different user groups in one book is as difficult as serving two masters, which we all know is something no man can do!

Against all odds this book succeeds in meeting its aims.

The book is written and presented in a colloquial, up-beat modern manner. It will appeal to younger entrepreneurs although it would add value to even the greyest haired founder. Whilst it lacks scholarly depth, it is a highly practical book with some great tables and process recommendations that will help a novice CEO, founder or board member to approach and mange board challenges with confidence and a good chance of success. Some of the processes are described in a step by step manner. This makes it an easy to follow guide for designing board composition, recruiting members, developing a board agenda and even handling the tricky issues of CEO and board succession.

The governance theory is enlivened by transcripts of candid conversations with entrepreneurs, founders, angel investors, VCs and board members. My favourite quote (somewhat extreme) was “If I don’t get fired I know I had a good board meeting” which was hopefully said with tongue in cheek and twinkle in eye. Most of these offer valuable insights and cover a range of start-ups from Google and LinkedIn down to unsuccessful ventures that nobody (except for the people involved) will remember.
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