📈 Board
Series: Day One

Making Your First Board Meeting Deck

Sunil Nagaraj

Module Description:
Sunil Nagaraj walks through how to approach your first board meeting deck and what specific areas to cover.

Full Transcript:
Welcome everyone to our Ubiquity University session on making your first board deck. I'm Sunil Nagaraj with Ubiquity Ventures. We are a pre-seed and seed-stage venture capital firm, investing in software beyond the screen startups. That means that we back early entrepreneurs who are trying to solve real world physical problems by bringing software off of the screen of computers and into the real physical world, often using smart hardware and machine learning.

In today's session, we're gonna be talking about how a pre-seed or seed-stage entrepreneur can pull together their very first slides for their very first board meeting. We have a companion session to this that I would strongly encourage you watch that has to do with making sure you have the right mindset around your board and your first board meeting. So, with that, let's dive right in. In today's session, we'll have a brief agenda. We'll recap a little bit about the mindset that I encourage you to have, and then we'll talk about what your board meeting materials, the questions they're supposed to be answering. And then, I'll go through a sample template of what I believe to be an appropriate deck for the pre-seed/seed-stage.

So, from our last session, you know, we talked a little bit about how to nail that first board meeting mindset. I think I'll just go through a couple points very quickly. I would strongly encourage you watch that full module. The keys to this, the principles are no spin. The idea is you're not trying to impress anyone with this deck. It's very different than a pitch deck. What you're trying to do is lock arms and get to work. There's very little packaging because this is your group of people who've been following your company and they're incentivized to help you unblock issues. The board meeting session is really your chance to pull up, to be forced to pull up every 30 days along the way. And as you do this, you really wanna make sure that you're not changing your materials too much because your board meeting members have been through a lot of other meetings and you'll improve the understanding if everything looks about the same, same terminology, same slide formats. Finally, as we think about these board meeting slides, ironically the slides are not the whole board meeting. You wanna make sure you save 15 minutes, you know, 25% of the meeting after the slides are done to have the real board meeting. That's when you can have open, honest conversation.

So, with that in mind, from the mindset module, let's talk a little bit more about the board meeting outline. You know, the set of slides you're gonna make at this pre-seed/seed-stage. Again, the mindset here is you are hunting for product market fit. I love this Steve Blank definition of a startup as a temporary organization built to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. And against that backdrop, what you're trying to do is have a light board deck. This is for a monthly board meeting, and my goal is that this should be 30 to 60 minutes of preparation. So, if you have all of those kind of decisions in concert, then I think this board meeting outline will work. So, as I think about the board meeting, I wouldn't jump straight to like what the slide should be. I would think about what are the questions you're answering and what does that imply about what information you should include. So, at some level, the very first slide is the highlights. You're trying to answer what went well in the last 30 days as honest as possible. You're not trying to impress your boss, you're trying to communicate. Here's what I was really happy with. On the flip side, you wanna share what went poorly in the last 30 days. Now, I've been in many board meetings where these lowlights are very flimsy or very thin or very superficial. I want the real stuff, like what is the worst stuff that happened? It's not to judge you. You already have our money. We're already on the same side. It's actually to understand what are you worried about, and then what can I do to help unblock the most important things. Many board members I know would say, this is the whole board meeting. Tell me what was really good and then what can I help with? But again, this is very short, two to three bullets for each of these. Then, a quick update on product, in particular, if we've had board meetings before, then we can just talk about what changed, what was harder to build than you thought? What was easier to build than we thought? What has shifted along the way? What is now more important because of something you've learned along the way? So, what I encourage you to do on the right side there is screenshot your feature manager, your Trello, if it's Google sheets, and in particular, try to show me the diffs, what changed, what moved forward. We'll actually look at a visual of that in a few minutes. Next up, we've talked about highlights, product and then sales. Sales means a lot of different things at different stages of a startup. I often use this word customer development in the Steve Blank mindset of things. What have we learned by talking to prospects, customers, advisors over the last 30 days? What have we refined about our ideal customer profile? What have we refined about the problem space? And if we have prospects, what is the status of those prospects? And again, it could be that we've visited them on site and showed them a demo. It could be that we're starting to sign a letter of intent, an LOI, it could be we've signed a contract. So, depending on which tool you're using, you may or may not want to use the heat map, which we have a whole Ubiquity University module on this idea of managing early customer development, or you may wanna use a pipeline table. So, finally, the last slide in any board deck is the admin slide and it's a very straightforward one. Are we on track with cash? I want to know when we need to start raising again, informally by looking at your cash out date and then any other sensitive issues, letting someone go, legal issues, et cetera. So, usually something as simple as a screenshot. So, the goal is this right side is really your template and it can be pulled together fairly quickly if you adopt this mindset.

Highlights, lowlights, I put some samples up here, but what you really want to do is say the best thing that happened in the last 30 days and the worst things that happened. As me as a board member, I stare at the right side and say, oh, I know someone at AWS who's unlocked credits very quickly for two other companies, let me connect you. CTO candidate, let me help pull in some benchmark cash compensation data. Or let me do a phone call next time with the CTO candidate, so I can help win over the candidate. So, again, the lowlights, it can be thought of as where you're asking for help, not what your personal weaknesses are.

Moving on, on the product roadmap, product template, ideally, you can screenshot this from Trello or whatever tool you're already using. Ideally, you don't have to make something new. But in a perfect world, you know, let me orient you this. You have time going across. These can be usually months at a pre-seed/seed-stage startup. I don't love quarters when it's that early of a company. And then, a couple areas of your product. In this case, maybe there's a web element, maybe a mobile element. This is just a screenshot off the web, but so don't read too much into it, but you wanna have a couple, these are called swim lanes for your areas of your product. And then, show me what features are planned at different times and roughly how long you think they'll take. And then, very, and once we have that after the first board meeting, then the next board meeting, it's really more about these arrows and Xs. You know, what have you cut off the roadmap? What have you moved up, what have you moved back? When I see an arrow that says something's moved back, maybe it's because it was harder than you thought. Maybe it's because you decided it wasn't more important. That's the interesting stuff on product. If it's harder, maybe as a board, we need to unlock some more engineer hiring. So, every slide here, it's less about judging, it's more about how can we fix it? How can we fix it? That's sort of what you're trying to get to. And I put this in here, you'll see at the top it says product last month. That's another way to show the diff is just literally pull in the exact same slides from the prior month, put a big sign that says last month, and that way we'll know how to compare. Most board members I know pull up the last month's deck if you don't do this.

One of the almost end of the deck now is to show your customer development work. You know, you've been interacting with customers. On the right side is the customer development heat map. We have a whole module on this, but the idea is that across the bottom there, you have different features that you could build using your innovation, and then on the Y axis, maybe there's different form factors, maybe there's different customer types, but you wanna throw on the logos of who you talked to in the last month. And the goal is to start to show here's where the heat is. You see the cluster of logos around handheld monitor worker movement in this example. So, this is one way to show, you know, what you've been doing over the last month. Maybe you put a star next to the new conversations, but as you're honing in on your ideal customer profile, the feature set, this is one very useful tool. If you're a little farther along, a different way to show this is with your customer pipeline.

And again, here, the idea is that every row is a customer and you wanna lay out why is Toyota want this product? What are they gonna use it for? 'Cause we're learning at this phase what industry they come from, how big could it be right now, the contract size and the annual recurring revenue. And a very important was how big could this get? We wanna know so we can prioritize this customer. How likely could it be and how soon could we close it? At the bottom, you have totals. They can be dollar totals or they can be probability weighted totals.

Finally, the last slide in this deck would be what your cash balance is. Screenshot it directly. It doesn't have to be too fancy. It's okay if it doesn't come from your accounting or bookkeeping firm, but the screenshot helps keep us honest. This is exactly how much cash we have. I realize that there'd be other liabilities and things like that. What's your gross burn, which is how much did you spend. If you factor in any cash receipts, what's your net burn? For most pre-seed/seed-stage startups won't be revenue. So, it'll be the same gross and net burn. And then, help me with the diff by showing me what happened last month and the cash update.

So again, this is a quick tour of what a board meeting template could look like and some of the watch outs along the way. So, again, my name's Sunil Nagaraj with Ubiquity Ventures. You can reach me at sunil at ubiquity.vc and thank you for watching.

8 minutes
Series: Day One
Startup Stage:
Pre-seed, Seed, Series A
Upload Date: