In the past, when I met founders who were not disciplined with their investor communications, I typically forwarded them this article by Micah Rosenbloom. He built this concise template that is easy to follow, and it brings a level of consistency and discipline to this process.
And then I saw an update from Chris Knutson, CEO of TeamGenius, and my whole view changed. I now think video updates are the way to go, and I want to share his methodology and tools for founders who are struggling with their updates.
Let’s be real, investor updates suck for all parties involved.
Personally, I loathed writing investor updates. I know they are important – it’s critical to keep your shareholders informed with the momentum, as well as ask for their support with your core challenges.
However, putting together a concise investor update is really hard. Not to mention, you are busy! Given the millions of things on your plate at any given time, it’s easy to push this out. Also, sometimes the news ain’t so great, and that makes it even harder. Once you slip for a month or two, you are already gone from your investors minds. Lack of consistency makes you look worse as an operator.
In addition, it’s a single purpose document – it goes out to a group of recipients, who rarely even acknowledge the receipt of the update, let alone give useful responses. When I was running SwipeSense, the most important thing in the world was my company. I couldn’t fathom how an investor wouldn’t care as much as I did.
Now that I’m on the other side of receiving tens of these updates, I get it. It’s so much easier to skim the document for major highlights, or simply mark them as read after a grueling day of meetings where I’m trying to clear my inbox. (It’s embarrassing to admit this – I know how much work goes into them!)
The reality is that while you as the founder have a single goal to win with your company, your investors have a goal to win with their portfolio. After receiving their investment, founders need to fight for the attention of their investors to ensure they are high on the list for their participation in future rounds.
It is a massive signal for other investors to have your current investors participating with enthusiasm in your future rounds. It shows that you have delivered in the past, and are credible in your projections. In other words, you have built a relationship of trust with your shareholders.
Now that we understand why the updates matter, let’s see how we can improve them for all parties involved.
Video is a much better medium than email for investor updates.
Chris uses video updates instead of emails. His approach has the best of both worlds: It makes it easy for the operators to pull these updates together, and it is a much better format for your shareholders to consume the content. Here’s his formula:
- Build a slide deck template: This should be a subset of whatever you use for weekly all hands and board decks. Think critical metrics, core updates, anything that keeps you up at night or things you need alignment on.
- Outsource the components to leaders (current or up and coming): This is key – you shouldn’t be putting together the inputs! Hopefully you have managed to build a small and effective team, and you are no longer the point person responsible for these key functions. This is also an awesome opportunity to see if someone is ready to take on leadership responsibilities. I’ve often thought that a promotion is the recognition of an existing role. Your junior talent should be holding themselves accountable for results and the right candidates will jump at the opportunity to share their outcomes with your stakeholders.
- 10 minute video where you talk through the update instead of a long email: That’s it – Chris uses a tool called Vidyard to capture his screen while he talks through the slides. This has a number of advantages:
- You can 2x the speed – much faster to consume than reading.
- You get facetime – and it is so much easier to share bad news in person and highlight what’s working. It’s also way easier, I could talk about SwipeSense for hours! Make sure to keep this short and sweet.
- You get to recycle the content – this is basically a dry run for your board meeting and all hands.
The goal is to make your life as easy as possible, and view investor updates as a time saver for other critical activities in the company. It goes without saying, always be transparent with your updates, remember to underpromise and overdeliver, and share bad news sooner than later.
Operators, what do you all think? How are you doing shareholder updates these days? Would love to hear your feedback.