Building an advisory board for an early-stage tech company means finding people who bring expertise, knowledge and assistance with decision-making. If you’re someone leading a business, it’s critical you understand how to do so.
Tech companies should look for advisers with skills and experience the founders lack. So start by considering where your team has crucial gaps.
Remember, an advisory board serves as your advocate. That said, it’s your responsibility to ensure that whoever represents you is truly top-notch. To do that, you must consistently evaluate each member’s value on a regular basis.
Recruit Key Players
Seek potential board members who offer specific skill sets your current team lacks. The strongest advisers will be seasoned individuals who bring outside perspectives and valuable industry insights.
When vetting, ensure that candidates understand expected time commitments and responsibilities. For a well-rounded and effective board, look for the following key players:
1. The Loyal Customer
As your career progresses, you might grow removed from directly interacting with customers. By adding one to your advisory board, you can gain valuable insights into what prospects are looking for.
Want to know what motivates customers to make their way through your sales funnel? Or what long-term improvements you can make to create more competitive products? This adviser should be a gateway into the mind of your target audience.
2. The Industry Networker
Don’t forget to consider individuals who are big players in the industry your technology serves. Imagine you’re operating a logistics software company: Leverage someone from a nearby logistics company that might or might not be a client. It will let you build a favorable reputation through association and gain valuable, industry-specific insights.
3. The Pragmatic Expert
When vetting potential advisers, keep your business plan in mind. Is an IPO in your future? Then seek out a board member who has experience taking a company public. This adviser will be able to use personal experiences to give you practical strategies to move forward.
4. The Global Navigator
Oftentimes, cultural nuances derail what would otherwise be successful international business ventures. If you’re looking to do business abroad, find an adviser who has successfully navigated the subtleties of working in your target area.
5. The Marketing Maverick
Powerful outreach initiatives are crucial, so bring a member with marketing acumen to the table. A seasoned tech specialist will know how to engage your audience. He or she might suggest innovative ways to leverage your company’s existing proprietary platforms. Furthermore, this marketing maverick will empower your team to use analytics to stay on top of industry trends and market demand.
Make an Offer
Once you have your team in place, measure the value of each adviser based on participation, the sales they bring in and other important variables. Then, you can get creative with the type of compensation you offer your advisory board members. Stock options or equity incentives are a great place to start.
A board of advisers should act much like an athletic team. Members must meet together consistently to provide leadership, support and constructive feedback.
By putting together a strong, diverse team, you’ll ensure that you have the right point person to turn to when the time comes.
Mr. Kopelman is a Partner-in-Charge, Business Tax, Technology & Blockchain at Aprio, a 2019 ATDC program sponsor. The views expressed are not necessarily those of ATDC or Georgia Tech.