At least up until $10m-$20m ARR or so,
If you haven't gotten your investor updates out by the 10th of the month, VCs assume it's not good
If you haven't gotten your investor updates out by the 15th of the month, VCs assume there's trouble
— Jason ✨2022 SaaStr Annual Sep 13-15 ✨ Lemkin (@jasonlk) April 12, 2022
We’ve crossed over 10,000 posts, podcasts, sessions, braindates, and answers on SaaStr, and we held off for a long time on writing on most other VC tropes. But I thought it might, in these times when valuations have taken a hit, and VC is under stress, to update our “Top 10” list of things that are relatively easy to do, now, that will make your investors and board happier.
if your investors never help … or even if they are driving you nuts … your life will still be better and easier if they are happier.
So here’s my list of Top 10 Easy-to-Implement Suggestions:
- Send out Monthly Investor Updates — 48 Hours After the Month Ends. This is your best hack. The key here is not to spend a ton of time on it. You should already know your MRR, cash burn, NPS, all your key metrics almost immediately after the month ends. So send it out! List your top few key metrics (MRR, growth, cash burn, NPS, etc). Do simple, clear bullets on What Went Well, What Didn’t, and Where We Could Use Your Help. And make sure this Monthly Investor update isn’t a huge burden. It has to pass the 20 Minute Test. A quick, month-end update shouldn’t take longer than 15-20 minutes to assemble. Save that for board meetings, quarterly updates, etc.
This. Literally don’t get how you could not take a few minutes and do this every single month. https://t.co/cCJ3FYr9nj
— Scott Evanson 🍋 (@scottev) July 21, 2020
- Get Board Meeting Materials Out 3 Days Before the Board Meeting. I know, board meetings again. But your best hack here is to get the materials out 3 days ahead of time. That instills huge confidence in your investors. The slides that don’t show up until the morning of the meeting? Confidence destroyer.
- Have Clarity on, and Share, your Zero Cash Date. You should know exactly when you are running out of money … and update that date every month or so. Share it, so everyone knows and can plan accordingly. More on that here.
- Have Your Team Present More, and You Less. All-hands meetings, board meetings, whenever. Yes, you are the CEO. But everyone hears from you all the time. Your investors and others will learn a lot more hearing about sales from your VP of Sales, your CTO co-founder … and not you. This also will make you appear to be a much stronger manager. Especially, don’t try to talk over your weakest VPs and managers. Instead, backfill them and help them present the best that they can. It’s OK for your investor to see which leaders are stronger than others. It’s good for them to know.
- Regularly Ask Your Investors How Happy They Are on a Scale of 1-10. At least, the ones you might want a second check from. You don’t have to do this every week. But learn your Investor NPS. If you ask for a firm number, you’ll get it. And importantly, it likely will be different than you think. Asking at board meetings isn’t perfect — folks tend to be a bit guarded if they answer in front of a group, and sometimes a bit overwhelmed with all the info from a board meeting. Asking right after is probably better.
- Transparency is Key, But Stay Positive. I sort of made this mistake, as do many driven founders I work with. It’s easy to be self-critical. But if your growth is OK, make sure to have as many positives as negatives. Even investors need positive reinforcement. They need the truth, but both the good and the less-than-good.
- Invest More Time In The “Heavy Lifter”. VCs have this annoying term of “heavy lifter”, by which they mean the one investor or board member that does most of the “work”. As founders, you can snicker at this, as if being an investor or board member is so much work. It isn’t, compared to a CEO. But that aside, usually, one investor will be the one that helps you most recruit the team, recruit more capital, promote the company, be its biggest champion. Don’t take this for granted. Spend more time with her or him. She’s the one that will produce the most downstream benefits for you.
- Don’t Expect Another Check from Any of Them. Just assume none of your investors invest again. This will de-stress a lot of relationships right there.
- Bring Your Investors Together. In the old days, VCs hung out in packs. But there are 1,500+ new firms just in the past few years alone. And so many deals over the past 2 years were done so quickly, and over Zoom. This means many of your investors never really get to know each other. There’s only downside for you there. You want them to be aligned when you need something from them. Do an “investor meeting” once a quarter, even if you don’t do board meetings. It’s worth it. You need to bring all your teams together, at least once a quarter. External and internal teams.
- Most Importantly — Do Not Hide Bad News. This is the #1 mistake I see. Communication and updates tail off during tough times. That’s backward. Professional investors are OK losing money. Professional investors can even write off any given investment if they have to. What stresses them out are surprises. Any bad news you have, they’ve already seen before in another start-up. Share it, and share it without judgment.
Getting a rough investor update, (ideally with a little context)
Still 20x more confidence inspiring than no update at all
— Jason ✨2022 SaaStr Annual Sep 13-15 ✨ Lemkin (@jasonlk) July 11, 2022
This checklist may seem somewhat obvious, but do all these things, and your stress level with investors will be lower. And most importantly, you won’t have to look over your shoulder. Not knowing if you can trust your investors is stressful. Take that out of the equation, and you can focus that energy on more productive things. Like growing faster.
Note: an update of a classic SaaStr post