For the past few months, we’ve been testing out a new offering: Calm Advisory Boards (“Calm Boards”), a better way for founders to build strong working relationships with expert operators, centered around their company's unique needs.
Today we’re excited to announce that we're expanding the Calm Board offering to any Calm Company Fund portfolio company that is interested. We're big believers that strengthening the ties between our founders and our growing network of mentors will drive outsized results for all.
But why did we build this?
Having a Board of Advisors is nothing new. In fact, many VC-backed companies have a Board— a curated group of leaders that (in theory) provide guidance and support to the founders as they grow the company.
But in practice, we hear horror stories about how they actually operate, stories like:
Traditional VC boards are also notorious for being only results-driven—if you don’t magically hit “20% growth Month-over-Month,” you could be ousted from your company!
Building a company is hard enough. Founders don't need the constant pressure from controlling investors telling them what to build; they need aligned advisors who meet them where they are and support them in building how they’d like.
“What if there were a better way to do this?”
And we applied the same question to the traditional Board of Advisors. Questions like:
All of those “what ifs” led us to build Calm Boards: advisory boards with 2 – 5 experienced mentors with relevant expertise, centered around the founder’s needs to build the calm company they want.
Every new offering sounds like a great idea until you actually test it. To determine if this idea could work, we ran a semi-structured 6-month beta test with 6 of our portfolio companies and 24 mentors within the fund.
We gave them just enough to get started so we could test out the biggest assumptions:
And the results were promising:
With a laundry list of ideas, we crafted v1.0 of Calm Boards. And today we launch it out to the world!
As with any launch, there are lots of questions that we've heard from participants. Here are the most common ones + our current viewpoints:
That was a big question we had, too. But we were pretty surprised by how responsive the founders were to board member suggestions.
Will that scale to every board? Probably not. Our "founder sweet spot" for a Calm Board seems to be related to the stage we invest in: revenue is starting to come in regularly and they are adding structure, scaling up, and looking to the future.
Financially? Nothing (unless they are a mentor & investor in our fund).
Beyond that? The range of answers goes from "I know the questions they have because I had the same ones" to "I'm basically retired so I have the time and know-how" to even "I just like to help."
Our board members are the type of founders we love to work with: low-ego, little talk, lots of action so that's a pattern we'd like to continue watching as we increase the mentor pool to serve on our Calm Boards.
But it should be noted that at least one board member drove so much value that a founder struck up an official advisory position with additional equity. Which is very interesting...
Yep! This is far from a clever idea; just something we'd love to see more of in this space. What we're trying to do is help our founders get a foundational layer of support tailored around their needs, supplemented by our infrastructure. The additional focus on accountability supports us as well as the founder, which is a nice-to-have.
In practice, Calm Boards become a new layer to triage how we approach our platform offerings as a fund. Founders can now start by turning to their Calm Board first and then (if needed) move out to our private Slack, to 1:1s with our team, tactical closed-door workshops, and everything else we offer to our portfolio companies.
So how do they actually work? The process is pretty straightforward:
Beyond opening up Calm Boards to our portfolio, we're also inviting YOU to join us as a mentor! You don’t have to be accredited or invest to join us; all we’re looking for are talented founders and operators that are willing to step in to engage with our companies.
We'd love to have more folks join our mentor pool as we know that sometimes the necessary experience/background won't be found in our current mentor network!
Interested? Drop in your info and we’ll be in touch.