Founders, there’s a better way to give investor updates.
The purpose of an investor update at face value is to inform the people who have put capital into your business how things are going. They gave you their money — you owe it to them to tell them how and what it is doing. But it can be so much more than that! A quarterly or even monthly investor update can drive tremendous value to your company in ways that you don’t expect.
But first, you have to write it. If you make it part of the process of your quarterly board meetings, it will be sure to get done. First, read my column on how startup CEOs lead great board meetings that drive results. Then, start here:
The pre-checklist work
1. Package up your deck: You have already done 85% of the work.
You have prepared a deck, gotten all your financial documents in order, synthesized critical information about every department of the team, and already packaged it for “non-internal” consumption. The last part of the work is omitting any slides from the board deck that are just for the board’s eyes — things like compensation plans, discussions still in the idea stage, legal decisions, or sensitive pending contracts. Don’t overdo the edit. Transparency and honesty drive great investor relationships.
2. Summarize your learnings and the company’s current status: You need to post-process your board meeting for yourself.
You have spent hours preparing for a multi-hour meeting. All that preparation needs a match of decompression, analysis needs synthesis, feedback and discussion with your board members needs a match of reflection. Writing a note summarizing the progress, sharing the wins, and letting your investors in on the challenges a few days after the board meeting allows you to background process and then bring it all together. Investors really are your fans, they want to hear the news, whatever it is, and they want to hear how they can help.
3. Determine what you need help with or access to: Your investor update is the opportunity to make asks and get on their mind.
It is the opportunity to give your investors something to talk about, and that something should be you! It can be brief, it can be detailed, it can be full of stats. Whatever you decide to include, give accurate data, tell a story, and have an ask. What do you need? Who do you want to meet? Who are your next hires? Who should they forward this email to?
4. Share the love: Investor updates don’t have to just be for your investors.
Add friends, fans, former colleagues, your old boss, relevant acquaintances, irrelevant acquaintances, investors that said “let’s keep in touch” — create a broad circle of trust. Everyone likes feeling like an insider, and everyone knows somebody who knows somebody who is looking for their next job. You are smart, have smart friends, and know smart people. And that person might be exactly who you are looking for. Make it “forward-friendly” and welcome advice and feedback — you never know who is going to wind up back in your inbox with a great connection.
Great, you’re convinced. When you write your investor update, here’s the checklist of what you need to include:
- Summary of the quarter shared openly from your vantage point as the CEO (3 to 5 narrative sentences, optimistic but honest)
- One-liner on the company (2 sentences on how they should be explaining what you do and your value proposition)
- Top KPIs that are relevant to business performance and how they have increased or decreased since your last update (MRR/ARR, DAUs/MAUs, churn, NPS, CAC, burn rate, runway, total customers, total pipeline value, CLTV)
- Top prospects or partnerships that you are currently pursuing (3 to 5 with status)
- Wins from across the business including new customers, product updates, and noteworthy press (3 to 5 highlights)
- Business challenges (3 to 5 lowlights or losses with your analysis of what happened and if it has impacted or initiated change)
- Upcoming travel for the team (conferences, customer meetings, even vacation for serendipity)
- Upcoming hires and links to their job descriptions (2 to 3 even if one of them is stock and always open for engineers, sales or customer success roles)
- Upcoming initiatives (2 to 3 work-in-progress things)
- Asks (3 to 5 things you need, like an intro to this prospect, “reshare this article and here’s the pre-written tweet,” feedback on draft sales deck, forward this email to one potential investor, customer, or advisor, help weighing two decisions)
- Board deck (Attached and packaged for this broader audience)
You got the checklist. Here’s a few pro tips:
- Nothing inspires a response like a good chart, a list of product feature releases and where they came from, or a few photos. Find a way to drive some engagement with easy things to give commentary on.
- A personal touch reminds investors that you are human. Did someone have a baby, did your kids do something cool, is your pet cute, did your team member do something special in a volunteer group? Put a picture at the end, and remind everyone that you’re a team of people out here giving it all you’ve got.
- Being diligent about sending out investor updates not only shows respect but earns respect. If you take the time to write it, they will take the time to read it. If they read it, they’re probably going to take a moment to generate some goodness.
What if you don’t have a board yet?
Everything above applies.
Even if you don’t yet have a board, these update emails are an opportunity to build awareness and make an impression on future investors. Challenge yourself to build out a list of 50 people from your network that become the base of your “Friends, Fans & Future” update email. This could be former colleagues, investors you’ve met, community stakeholders, other entrepreneurs, or future customers. You can even include your extended family members and friends from college. Create a real list of people that enable you to commit to this reflection and synthesis process and hold you accountable to the ritual.
- Short Read — On Investor Updates
- Long Read — How to Write the Perfect Investor Update
- Related — How Startup CEOs Lead Great Board Meetings That Drive Results
- Tangential — How do you turn a network of connections into meaningful relationships?
- Template — Investor Update Template