How should I get someone to join as an advisory board member ?

An advisory board member can be someone who provides the deep domain expertise of function experience to a startup, and fill in the competency gap that the founding team currently lacks.

Before creating an advisory board, the founders should make a list of the skill-sets that would be required for building a company around your concept/idea. E.g. in an e-commerce venture, areas like supply-chain, procurement, logistics, customer support, marketing, customer acquisition, digital communication, etc. would be critical, of course in addition to technology & GUI and of-course the expertise about the domain in which you are planning your venture.

Once you have identified the skill sets required, you should identify the competencies that the current team has, or could tap from among those you can regularly tap into e.g. a senior friend or a relative who has agreed to help you. That leaves you with the competencies which you would need to seek external advice and assistance on.

You should then identify the folks who you think could be ideal as advisory board members for your startup.

Point 1: Engage the folks for ‘what they can do for you’ and not for ‘who they are’. I.e. even if your uncle is the chairman of a large corporation, it makes no sense to have him on the advisory board if he is not from a relevant domain. In other words, you do not need a ‘show & tell’ board but an advisory board who can assist you with specific things.

When you approach someone to join your advisory board, plan well in advance what you are going to pitch to him.

Point 2: Understand what their motivations and drivers are going to be and then see if there is something that you can excite them with. In many cases, the excitement of assisting a startup is interesting enough for people to sign up… of course, if the startup comes across as ‘high-potential’.

Point 3: Set the expectations right and get their commitments up front. Be clear in communicating what you plan to do and what you expect them to contribute with. Be transparent about the challenges and honest about the roadblocks.

Point 4: Define the interaction frequency and process of interaction. Clarify what the preferred mode, time and day of interaction would be. Some people may prefer on-mail interactions with infrequent in-person meetings, while some may prefer face-to-face meetings. Some may prefer meeting on weekdays, while some over weekends.

Point 5: Once they accept, offer some equity. While many may not seek and some may not even accept, it is appropriate to offer nominal equity to your advisory board members.

Point 6: Formalize the relationship. Document the engagement. Set a formal advisory board meeting date, even if on a conference call. Set a clear annual calendar of engagement and interactions. Provide monthly reports with at least a quarterly conference call with all advisory board members together, even if you meet / interact with them i

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Author: Prajakt Raut

Prajakt Raut is the founder of Applyifi.com, and author of the book for startups - ‘Starting Up & Fund Raising’ Prajakt personal goal in life is to encourage and assist a 100,000 people to become entrepreneurs. _____________ Prajakt is the founder of Applyifi - an online platform that provides startups a 36-point scorecard and assessment report on the venture's investment readiness [www.applyifi.com], and helps them improve their odds of getting funded. Prajakt is also the founding partner of The Growth Labs, a platform where growth-stage companies get sharp, incisive advice from senior professionals and experienced entrepreneurs. [www.thegrowthlabs.in] Before starting Applyifi, Prajakt was the head of operations at IAN, founding member of a leading incubator, and the Asia-Director for TiE (2004 - 2007). Previously Prajakt had co-founded Orange Cross, a healthcare services company, and was part of the founding team member of Idealake Technologies. While in college Prajakt had founded a printing business and has spent over 10 years working in leading advertising agencies. Prajakt’s book, ‘Starting Up & Fund Raising’, helps startups understand an investor’s perspective, and helps them improve their odds of getting funded. The book also helps entrepreneurs understand the building blocks of a business.

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