Many entrepreneurs struggle with the questions related to board work: Why is the board needed? What should the board do? How should the board work? On a cold February afternoon, a group of entrepreneurs, investors and board members came together to share knowledge on startup board practices at the Startup and Boards event at NewCo Helsinki.
Teemu Polo, head of Startup Services at NewCo, and Rasmus Nybergh, CEO of Kuveno & Boardman2020 board member, had noticed recurring issues within startups, especially regarding ownership and conflicts between shareholders. So they decided to write a booklet answering the basic questions of why and what. At this event we had the possibility to use a few hours to delve deeper into the subject.
Why a board?
All the speakers agreed that having an advisor board or a board brings added value to the company in the forms of networks, expertise and support. Pontus Stråhlman, CEO of Spinnaker Ventures, summarized the best-case scenario: the board strengthens the weaknesses of the entrepreneur. For a first-time founder, support from a serial entrepreneur can offer valuable insights. Rasmus highlighted the challenges of not having support from engaged advisors: ”You have to know the stuff you don’t know yet, and this is difficult without a good board”.
The founder of Kasvun Roihu and Kasvu Open, Matti Härkönen, urged Finnish companies to be more ambitious. The key question you should ask yourself is: On what level do you want to play the game? How you answer this question, will tell you about the board and board members you should recruit. He reminded that advisory boards have proven to be one of the most efficient ways to build a strong competitive advantage.
Startup board work
In the end of the discussion the panelists Jean-Michaël Paqvalén, an international business builder, investor and speaker, Tommi Rasila, Boardman partner and Jetico Oy Founder and Chairman and Kaj Hagros, managing partner at Redstone, were asked to give one piece of advice regarding startup board work. Here’s what they said:
1. ”Get an external board from the start. Then you’ll have someone looking at you from an external point of view all the time. From an investor’s point of view that is only positive”, Paqválen highlights.
2. Rasila emphasized broad expertise: ”Do not let go of the possibility of having a board that can really give you added value. All kinds of expertise in the board are useful, there’s no use of having five people who agree on everything.”
3. ”Whatsapp and Slack”, Hagros says. ”Having a meeting once or twice a month is not enough and the time will be used to catch up. The board should communicate on a weekly basis to keep everyone updated and have some fun while at it. The board should be diverse, but they should form a team. Communications is important in forming this group.”
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Written by: Annika Sipilä, Boardman Oy