Picking Winners

with Ullas Naik

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Investing beyond the capital

Ullas Naik

Seed Investor, Streamlined Ventures, Very Early Specialist

Lessons Learned

The role you play with your portfolio is different if you have a seat on the board.

Being on the board is not the only way to contribute to a startup's success.

If you are on a board, there is more to do than just show up for the monthly meetings.


Lesson: Picking Winners with Ullas Naik

Step #7 Governance: Investing beyond the capital

Governance comes from just joining the board. So if I join the board then I'm involved in all aspects of things that one does in a company as a board member. That ranges from not just showing up every month at board meetings, but actually staying in regular touch with the entrepreneur. It could be around strategy or key strategic questions, certainly on tactics. It could be on sales pursuits or it could be on recruiting again. Those are the two main areas that I think I get involved in.

Sometimes it's around product development as well, architectural choices, but I don't tend to get as actively involved. I rely on some other people who are technically more astute than I am for that, but I am involved in sort of how the product maps strategically to the market space. Those are areas that I tend to spend a lot of time on in terms of both in a board meeting setting as well as outside a board meeting setting.

There are companies in which I'm not involved on the board, in which case there the value-addeds I do differently because they already have a board of directors, presumably, that's working on all of this stuff. In which case I am trying to help on communication is one key area, which is communication within the board, often among the founders and often founders to the rest of the investors, so that's one.

Recruiting, always developing recruiting. Sometimes the entrepreneurs need an outside third party to come in and look at strategy as well as tactics, in which case I'm always available for that, to come in and give a different point of view, which may agree with the board or it may not, but it's a valuable perspective for the founders to get.

Then finally, sure, sometimes I do team building stuff, which would be go to a company where there's five or six founders and just get together and take them out for a beer and just talk about any questions they have. It's astonishing to me sometimes the kinds of things that I learn about the business and I'm able to sort of let the pressure out of the pressure cooker in a very, very nuanced way because they've just never had an opportunity to be able to speak about things.

These are all interesting things that can all be done whether you're a board member or not a board member, as long as you're an active investor.

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