I was ill yesterday and so had to dial in to a board meeting. That is something I really try to avoid doing because I think it is much better to go in person. That is partly because it is usually difficult to hear everything when you are on the speaker phone but it is more because you build much stronger relationships with the other board members if you see them in person every month.
Fred Wilson wrote the following yesterday in a great post entitled You Get What You Give (if you have time I really recommend the whole post):
Working with entrepreneurs is a lot like being a parent. If you are attentive, work hard to build a connection, if you are there when the entrepreneur needs you, then they’ll listen to you. Otherwise, they’ll just end up “managing you” and you’ll never have the impact you want to have on the company. You get what you give.
Turning up to board meetings in person is probably one of the most important ways to build that connection.
To believe in all this then you also have to believe in VC value add. To state the obvious there is no point in either the entrepreneur or the VC spending time building the relationship if it doesn’t help the company.
I love to work closely with my companies (as do most VCs I know) but I have heard a few people recently casting doubt on the whole idea that you get much out of us beyond money. And that has come from both VCs and entrepreneurs.
I don’t want to come across as some kind of maniac who has to get involved in everything and would actually rather be an entrepreneur – I am not that guy. The amount of time I spend (and hopefully the value I add) with each of my portfolio companies goes up and down over time and I am always pleased when my time is freed up – but at all times I work hard to keep the relationship strong so it is easy for everyone when it makes sense for me to get more involved. The times when that happens are usually in the first period after investment, when later rounds are raised, on exit, during senior management transitions and in the run up to big strategy shifts. I’m a big believer in the fact that good VCs can add a lot to the value of their companies at these critical points.