Startup Accountability Playbook
Whether or not you are interested in raising funding or bootstrapping, accountability is a good practice to have.
Early transparency can lead to early buy-in. This could be in the form of new customers, potential investors taking notice, or just general goodwill in the form of support from other founders, operators. It's not uncommon for people to cheer you on or offer solutions to blockers you may be facing. While these serve as side benefits, the goal as an entrepreneur is to be accountable to self.
This is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all. However, it is helpful to make the playbook part of the workflow rather than something that adds to it. One way to do this is to have the information captured as part of internal workflows. This could also potentially be sent out in an automated fashion. While the title suggests it might be a practice pre-fundraise, I recommend continuing the practice as you build.
Why do it?
Before we dive in, might be good to think about why you might want to do this. Here's three reasons:
- Consistency - it takes effort to keep people posted. Consistency and persistence are arguably among the most important skills one possesses as a startup founder.
- Free help - in asking for help, you exhibit vulnerability that could lead to upsides you least expect - a strong hire, new customer, free ad?
- Build audience - building a community along the way can help with early customers.
- Accountability - it creates a container both internally and externally to work toward the growth of your startup.
The goal of this piece is to share what you're up to with enthusiasts from time to time. The frequency based on the pace at which product is shipped internally.
Maintaining an opt-in mailing list of people that want to hear from you is a useful practice. These enthusiasts could be primarily people that work with you, and additionally other founders, angels, venture capital firms, over-engaged customers, potential hires.
For investors, keep it short simple and summarized with the key asks:
Attained X new customers, hiring a COO (suggestions welcome) + other key roles, runway for 8 months strong, planning for another round. Thoughts?
Here's some things you can share:
- Progress made
- Help needed
- Updates to roadmap
- Snapshot of the metrics
- Feel good moment - customer testimonial
Attach a short TL;DR in the email body, with links to posts or a document where your audience can read more. Daniel Gross has a nice piece on investor updates that I recommend reading.
The medium could be Twitter, a blog, email depending on how public, short and frequent you'd want it. This showcases consistency and brings in a clear sense of accountability.
If the space you're targeting is new, or not easily understood, it can help to create collateral that helps operators, VCs. It can be daunting to get a sense of the market opportunity.
For example, Flux a hardware building tool does an excellent job of illustrating the status quo and what they're transforming in the space. It helps people that are new get a sense of the product, market, and general vision.
Startups can help by pulling together what is commonly asked questions in the form of a quick video, or a document. Gokul tweeted about this as well.
Similarly, the goal is to showcase the conviction of the team toward space and why your team might be the right team to solve this.
While this is not always possible and offering dependent. It is helpful to open up a part of your roadmap, it could be something as simple as your goals this quarter, or as detailed as your internal Trello board.
The goal here is to give your startup's aficionados a sense of what's in store. As a side-effect, you hold yourself accountable a little more and create a container for people to request features.
Here's an example, here's another one from my friend Benjamin over at NALA (he's additionally rolled out a page featuring live updates).
Here are things you can capture:
- Target deliveries (this quarter, this year)
I've observed embedding variations of some of these 3 ideas to your workflow can help your startup in ways your least expect. Good luck building, feel free to add me to your updates list (email startup (at) jasonr (dot) org).