When you view the world of startups through the lens of the financial and technology media, you are usually confronted with headlines of huge cap raises, photographs of young, smiling and carefree founders, claims of going global from day one, predictions of the next unicorn, eye-watering exits, and lots of t-shirts with misspelt names. Rarely do you read about corporate governance as an important part of the mix, unless of course it is the result of a bungled startup or rogue founder or director that has done the wrong thing.
So governance from day one is often overlooked but in my view is absolutely critical to a company’s long-term success. It actually empowers the founder and/or CEO with guidance from the Board to focus on innovation, strategy, growth and execution. A good board works in partnership with the founder(s) in creating the future. It does so by ensuring a sound framework built on high standards of integrity, transparency and accountability. Getting governance right from the outset is more important than ever and can actually be a competitive advantage in attracting capital and investors that are seeking comfort from founders that understand and embrace this early.
Simplifying the complex
Corporate governance is not everyone’s favourite subject. Talk of operational frameworks, internal controls, delegation of authority, fiduciary duties. Compliance and risk management are not on every entrepreneur's bucket list when they jump into a startup. And it can be a mysterious and often intimidating subject matter for many.
For me, when I joined Xero in 2011, one of the first things I did was undertake the Foundations of Directorships with the Australian Institute of Company Directors. It taught me the importance of corporate governance and provided awareness of my obligations as a company director. However, for most people in tech startups, SMEs and indeed the NFP space, AICD and equivalent industry bodies can be cost prohibitive and much of the content can be both complex and dry.
A new software category
BoardPro’s clever and beautifully designed software significantly reduces the administrative burden in managing and preparing for Board meetings along with all the governance processes that stem from it.
Most tech startups tend to use mainstream applications and email from Microsoft or Google to manage their Board papers, agenda, minutes and governance processes. These tools do the job, but after some time you will typically find that the process becomes extremely inefficient. As Boards only meet several times a year, engage sporadically, and these days often remotely, standard tools make the task of planning, recording, keeping track of and administering the Board process quite frustrating.
One thing that BoardPro has focused on is developing tips and templates that are easy to read, understand and apply - all tailored for audiences who are not familiar with corporate governance. Equally, one of the things Xero did very well for the accounting industry was to lead the shift to cloud accounting by embracing the entire industry and developing an ecosystem beyond software. This is something we’re working to achieve with BoardPro and we’re excited to see that a network of like-minded thought-leaders, trainers and governance experts who can unlock and demystify the world of governance is starting to develop. There is a tremendous opportunity to simplify this subject matter and make it accessible and consumable for the masses.