Pre-seed advisory board agenda template

I recently took on the role of Entrepreneur in Residence at the Kiwibank Fintech Accelerator, powered by Lightning Lab.  Consider me the “Mentor-in-Chief” – as well as advising the ventures and helping them make great connections and destroy roadblocks, my main job is curating the relationships between the ventures and their mentors, and later in the programme, between the ventures and their [potential] investors.

We have a super strong group of mentors contributing to the programme, and we’ve organised them into advisory boards for the teams. I am totally humbled by the calibre of the mentors, and their generosity in contributing to the growth of these nascent startups.

If you’re a mentor in this programme, or in any other programme, please accept my deepest heartfelt thanks for your contribution. People like you make the startup world go round.

Here is my suggested agenda for a one-hour pre-seed Advisory Board meeting.  NOTE: this is only a template, and should be adjusted (likely cut down) to your specific requirements at the time.

1. Welcome and into (5 minutes)
Roll call
Conflicts of Interest
Approval of previous minutes
Matters arising from the previous minutes

2. Context (10 minutes)
Current pitch and feedback
Changes to Lean Canvas
Learnings from last week
Key things we need to learn
Product update1
Runway2
Roadblocks we need to destroy3

3. Metrics (5 min)
Site analytics (acquisition)
Users: total, active, growth rate week-on-week (activation)
Revenue
Retention
Referrals

4. Sales (5 min)
What’s working
What needs improving
Action plan

5. Investor wrangling (5 min)
Who have you talked to?
Who should you be talking to?

6. Strategic Topic (changes every meeting, be sure to set this in advance) (15 min)

7. Other business (5 min)

8. Actions and deliverables (who is going to do what by when) (5 min)

9. Next meeting time and farewell (5 min)

If I had more than an hour, I’d throw a little bit more time at context, and most of the time toward strategic. I’d like to stress that the above is only a template – what you actually use will vary from startup to startup, and from meeting to meeting. Do not stick to the template slavishly, but use it as a mnemonic or a guide.  The timings are so quick, but it is designed for an accelerator, where things happen quickly.  If you want to make a longer meeting, I’d throw the extra time at strategic topics, where you’re going to get the most value.

You can (and should) also make time to meet individual advisors or mentors outside of your advisory board meeting. Also, encourage them to talk to each other (we have a Slack for that) in between meetings.

I’m interested in community feedback for the above agenda. Am I missing anything (like the boat)? Please comment below, and I’ll modify the list as required, with appropriate attribution.

Thanks to the following people for their contributions for improvements to this list:
1 Ryan Baker
2 Andrew Wallace
3 Sunit Prakash

Getting the most from your mentor in an accelerator

I’m planning on being very involved in the Lightning Lab Christchurch accelerator programme that starts next week, mainly as a mentor.  As I look back on both Lightning Lab Wellington accelerators where I mentored in 2013 and 2014, I felt that most of the teams could have used their mentors more effectively.

With that in mind, here’s a brief guide to how to get the most out of your mentors in an accelerator.

  1. Choosing a mentor is one of the most important decisions you’ll make during the accelerator.  Choose wisely.
  2. Be clear about what you want from a mentor up front, even though expectations may change during the course of the accelerator, as you and your mentor learn more about unknown unknowns. What are the gaps you’re looking to fill?
    1. Industry experience
    2. Specific skills, eg sales
    3. Contacts (NZ / Overseas)
    4. Potential investment, especially someone you can turn into a lead
  3. Be clear about what your mentor wants up front.  Why are they doing this?
  4. Make sure your mentors have read and understand David Cohen’s Mentor Manifesto.
  5. Don’t accept any mentor that comes along – even if you’re desperate.  A bad fit is a lot worse than rejecting them.
  6. Do “due diligence” on potential mentors.  Check their LinkedIn profiles.  Ask for references.
  7. Don’t take on too many mentors. Ideally, have one “lead” (or maybe two) that you spend at least an hour a week with, and possibly some others that you use for specific advice
  8. It’s like dating.  Do what you can to attract The Right One (or three).  And like dating, you could end up being “stuck” (or thoroughly enjoying) a long-term relationship with them.
  9. Look after them, and hopefully they’ll look after you.
  10. Be honest at all times.  One porkie can really wreck trust, even if it’s only a minor one.
  11. Keep track of action points for each side from mentor meetings.  Ideally, send out an email after each mentor meeting identifying who is going to be doing what between now and the next meeting.
  12. Hold your mentor to account, and expect them to hold you to account.  If one or both sides is blowing the other off, it’s not working and you should terminate the relationship and invest your time more productively.
  13. Your mentors are probably extremely busy people.  Try to plan meetings and activities well in advance, and establish a regular rhythm if possible.  Here’s a typical week in my calendar:
    dave-calendar
  14. REMEMBER – IT’S YOUR COMPANY, NOT YOUR MENTOR’S.  Don’t hold back on pushing back. Be reasonable, and listen to reason, but your mentor is generally all-care-no-responsibility, and you’re the Founder left holding the baby company.
  15. Timing is everything.  Use your founder spidey-sense to know when to cut your losses and fire your mentor, and when to double-down on their advice.

Is there anything I missed?  Please let me know in the comments.