People often ask me for information about our startups. Investors, competitors, entrepreneurs, potential employees, my friends and family, and others all want to know how a particular startup is doing.
In these cases, I pay attention to only share that information which the startup has already shared in a public setting. If the startup hasn’t shared the information, I don’t either. My memory is fallible so I’m sure there have been a few times when I shared a piece of information thinking that the startup had already shared it publicly when they actually hadn’t. However, I think I do a pretty good job of sticking to this principle in general.
If I’m asked to share information that I know isn’t public, I respond by stating that I’d need to ask the company’s founder for permission before doing so. Most of the time the inquirer understands that this is likely private information and therefore takes back their request. However, sometimes they still ask for the information. In these cases I check with the founder before getting back to them. I know that sometimes this frustrates the inquirer.
If it were up to me, I would share that information which is the output of strategic decisions taken by the company, but not information which can be used as an input to strategic decisions.
For example, I would share a website’s overall visitor count because this is the output result of many factors like the size of the market, the quality of the product, search engine optimization, and marketing. Knowing how many visitors a website has gets the recipient of this piece of information no closer to replicating the website’s performance.
However, I wouldn’t share how the company’s marketing budget is evolving as this may contain valuable strategic information about which channels work to drive traffic in that specific market. This information could then be used as an input in the design of a competitor’s marketing strategy.
Ultimately, however, it’s up to our founders to decide which information they want to share and which they don’t. And it’s our responsibility as investors to respect this.