“Good entrepreneurship is like having a delicate recipe cooked by an expert chef with ingredients added in the right amounts at the right time. The recipe for startup success is tough to intuit on your own without the help of good advisors. Those advisors don’t make decisions for management. Their only role is to assist entrepreneurs by giving honest advice, even when it’s uncomfortable to hear. They’re not there for governance, making decisions or casting votes. They’re there to listen, argue, debate and guide, but leave the final decision to the team that’s going to have to execute it.”
This is what Vinod Khosla , an Indian-born venture capitalist and was one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems, said about VCs. Personally, he thinks, “many if not most of them haven’t done enough in their careers to earn the right to advise entrepreneurs, a job I consider laden with responsibility.”
Then, what’s the role of a board member?
Good board members add many kinds of strategic value that’s critical to building a successful company, and they do it in multiple ways.
The right advisor asks the questions you never knew were important. They serve as guides, helping you navigate the difficult road of building a company from the ground up, spotting things that an entrepreneur might otherwise miss (risks and opportunities alike).
They carry with them an extensive network that they can bring to bear on all the different problems and challenges that might crop up along the way, whether it’s finding a critical hire with the perfect match of skills and experience or getting a company a make-or-break meeting with a decision-maker at a potential marquee customer.
“The job of a good board member and advisor (I use these terms interchangeably) is to help teams raise their heads and spot oncoming problems, scope out hidden opportunities, and get a broader perspective,” says Vinod Khosla.
“We never refer to ourselves as venture capitalists. We try to be “venture assistants.” Getting good advice is much more important than getting funding. It’s much easier to get money than get the right kind of advice,” adds Khosla.