Scientist asks a VC: what weighting does the VC place on the composition of an advisory board?

Welcome to a new part of a Venture Capital Primer for Scientists series based on hundreds of workshops I have given during my work as a deep tech VC at Main Sequence.

Founders get what they need regardless of available resources. On day one it is probably impossible to hire the global leaders in a field into your startup.

But it is possible to get them to join your advisory board (AB).

#1: Don’t be a stamp collector

Sadly, most ABs are empty vessels. A single slide in the investor deck with an array of stamp-like profile pictures surrounded by logos.

Make your AB work for a living, even if it is just for the equivalent of one day per month.

Pay them properly in equity and/or cash.

#2: Get unfair advantage

The right person, working one day per month on your AB, can make a huge impact by giving your company something no one else has.

This might be a vast and curated address book, a factory that can build your first prototypes, a supply chain that you don’t need to build.

The ability to deliver advantage is a strong qualifier to join your AB.

#3: Get social proof

“If she works there, the company must be good!”

That’s what you want people to think.

But don’t fall for the trap of #1.

Make them work for a living.

#4: Practice directors

Many people establish an AB before establishing a formal Board of Directors.

This can be a good practice for running a formal board. Run formal meetings to get the most out of the minds in the room.

Many founders graduate AB members that work well to directors or employees.

They have more than you do at this stage

As incredible as your technology is, if you have been ambitious enough, these are likely to be busy people with finite time. You will need to convince them to join. What’s in it for them?

  • Compensate them properly
  • How might the role evolve over time?
  • How might the AB role facilitate reputation uplift for them?

Every day, I write about what I am learning in deep tech venture building. I hope you will follow me if this is valuable to you ⇢ @philmorle

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