Board members with industry experience

I participated in the board meeting of one of our startups last week. After growing strongly in the first quarter of this year, its growth has recently slowed down. We had the meeting to brainstorm ways to reignite this growth.

Our meetings usually include a group of VC’s. We’re all well versed in the internet space. However, we don’t have experience working directly in the sector that the startup is disrupting. While we may have good ideas on how to grow an internet business given a set of customer demands, we don’t know these customer demands in deep detail because we’ve never been a customer or a service provider in the industry.

Fortunately, this most recent meeting included an angel investor in the company with deep industry experience. He knows our startup’s customers’ needs from having served them for tens of years. And specifically, he knows how our startup has the potential to serve these customers in a much better way than the traditional outlets through which he served the same customers in the past. This is why he invested in the company.

As a result of being in touch with customer demands, he approached our brainstorming session from a different perspective than the VC’s around the table. This unique perspective allowed him to flesh out the benefits of an idea that we had touched on, but never sufficiently grasped the full significance of, in our previous meetings. We therefore hadn’t explored the idea in as much detail as he did.

In the end, we all agreed on the merits of the idea and the founders have started executing on it. This wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of our board member with industry experience. Such a person who combines deep industry experience with an openness to a new way of doing things can be an especially valuable startup board member.