You’ve finally secured funding. Phew. You can put that pitch deck to rest — for the time being. For now, you have investors. It’s imperative that you build and nurture a relationship with them, and a key part of that is sending regular investor updates on company performance.
Indeed, informed investors are not only happier but also more helpful. Regular updates set the stage for participation, not just dispersing information. They also may help you secure funding in the future. By staying top-of-mind for your current investors, you increase the chances that they will think of — and refer — your company to their colleagues.
But how do you update them about what you’re accomplishing with their money? What do you include, how do you portray it, and how often? Here are some best practices, recommended by trusted thought leaders and VCs around the web.
Your investors, of course. But who else? Potential investors. Advisors. Anyone you trust who has vowed to help you through strategic conundrums and product predicaments. You don’t need to send the exact same update to every audience. In fact, there’s likely some proprietary information or internal metrics that you want to reserve only for investors and the board. But a simple redacted version is enough to keep those other interested parties in the loop and engaged.
The generally accepted rule for investor updates is once a month. There are varying opinions, though, from once a week to once a quarter. So it may just be a preference set between yourself and your investors. It also may depend on the stage of your company. Here is what Jason Lemkin has to say:
Even if you think you have no news or bad news, send the update anyway. There’s still plenty of value for both you and them. “No news,” the status quo, is still valuable information, and bad news creates an opportunity for investors to advise you. Plus, the consistency of these updates demonstrates a lot more than just the content within them:
You’re predictable and reliable
You’re learning fast
You’re staying top of mind
And all of the above will look attractive to potential investors, as well.
Short and focused. Here the opinion is unanimous. Investors, like you, don’t have a ton of spare time. So it’s in both your interests to develop a simple but comprehensive template, containing all crucial information, so that takes no more than a minute or two for them to scan and perhaps half an hour for you to populate.
Christoph Janz recommends a one-slide update for board meetings which you can adapt to email. (And perhaps refashion in an attractive Slidebean deck.)
The suggested format of the slide is the “Progress, plans, problems” framework, which Janz adopted from Seedcamp:
This requires already having a comprehensive plan that addresses the key areas of your business: Product & Tech, Sales & Marketing, Team/Hiring.
From there you measure all progress and status updates off the original plan. Where are the shortcomings, what’s on target, and how are you exceeding expectations?
After updates, orient the investors around the goals and objectives for next month.
Then focus on the challenges you face in reaching those goals and keeping to the plan.
Let’s break this down a little further.
What to actually include?
Define what you’re doing.
In one sentence. This not only serves as a refresher for overloaded or distracted VCs, but is especially important — particularly in the early stage -- when your product or target market might shift. Can clearly re-define and communicate that here. If your shifts are more significant, closer to a proper pivot, then you should expand more and explain thoroughly in a correspondence dedicated to that subject.
Tailor these to suit the type and stage of your business, as well as the preferences of your investors. Most investors agree that they primarily want to see the answer to this question: “Where is the money?” So listing cashflow, runway and burn rate as a topline summary is a good idea.
Beyond that, Tom Tunguz recommends ten metrics that span three areas: distribution, engagement, and revenue. But again, pick and choose what’s relevant for your business.
Is your company pre-revenue? Then you could include other numbers and information, such as headcount and staffing developments, product progress, etc.
Provide the necessary context around each metric so the investor can easily comprehend its trajectory. A simple number doesn’t mean much when presented in a vacuum.“Clear data leads to productive conversations,” says Tunguz.
So, what’s the right amount of context? Include other data, such as the previous month’s number, the current month, the current goal, next month’s goal.
You could also provide a visual for the one key metric you want to highlight. A good option is a chart that displays Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) movements: new business, expansion business, reactivation, churn, and downgrades. ChartMogul, a tool to track and analyze SaaS metrics, offers an MRR movement chart that visualizes all of these revenue points all together.
Ask for help.
Last but certainly not least, you must ask for help. Choose between 1-3 strategic asks. It’s possible your investors don’t have time to help you — but if you’re staying top of mind, it’s also likely they’ll think of you when they come across someone who can help! They’ll remember who you are and what you need.