What do VCs want from their CEOs

What do VCs really want from their CEOs? A recent study by VentureOne shows that #1 is sales and marketing, followed by operations leadership, financial management and product development.

The study summary can be found here here

This study of VCs and CEOs reflects some interesting, but not surprising statistics about board members in startups and tech companies.

  • most companies have 4-7 board seats, with 4-5 being the highest out of that range. 5 is a pretty common number, since that avoids a deadlock.
  • in about 1/3 of the companies, the VCs hold 20-40% of the seats; in about 1/3, it's 40-60%. Again, a board of 5, 1-2 seats is commonplace.
  • conversely, company management holds 20% or less on most boards – 1 seat for the CEO then in office is pretty common. If that CEO is also the founder, and later is displaced from the CEO office, it is common for the founder to remain as the Chairman of the Board.
  • As far as compensation for Board membership, it looks like most companies do not compensate their directors in any way, and that a minority does so with stock options. Cash and stock seems to be a more phenomenon, which makes a lot of sense considering how cash dependent most startups tend to be.
  • It is a bit surprising to find that both VCs and CEO agreed that the most significant value of a VC boardmember is for help with financings and locating investors. The answer I would have expected from the VCs is their business expertise and strategic vision is their most valuable asset. Sales and marketing experience is valued, albeit in second place.
  • Finally, "dilution of investment" is cited as the biggest factor of conflict on a board. This is a good reminder that while your investors are usually aligned with the founder's interests, when it comes investment time, all bets are usually off and its every man (or VC) for him/herself. This is especially true if you have been lucky enough to have had multiple investment rounds (or "series") and have various illustrious investors on your board. Since this is something that most investors fully acknowledge, founders should not be afraid to voice their concerns about potential conflicts and should seek to have at least some disinterested (independent) directors on their board.
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