I came across this post the other day which, for those of you who can’t be bothered reading it, discusses the steps needed in order to build a good board for a startup.

Next week I’ll be attending the IOD/ConnectNZ event about “The role of independent directors in technology companies“, this coupled with my day to day immersion in things tech, and my position on a number of boards, got me thinking about governance for tech companies.

My comments here are particularly New Zealand centric. Particularly stateside there is a great pool of suitable candidates for tech companies so the issues are different, here there are some problems as I see it.

Having spent a reasonable amount of time around professional directors, I have to report that their tech understanding  is generally abysmal. I mean these people are excellent business people, well versed in the issues facing old industries and with impeccable financial and legal pedigrees. However they do not understand the tech space at all. I contend that good governance requires both a degree of business acumen AND an understanding of the space within which the business operates. I contend that a potential director who doesn’t know and utilise the tools that web 2.0 has given us, is a poor candidate to scale a tech business and help realise its potential.

There are exceptions, clearly Rod, Sam and a number of others have the combination of business savvy with tech immersion – but it is a reasonably rare combination.

Given this situation, it is hardly surprising that startups are staying away in droves from the NZTE small business advisory board funding. I mean they not only have to be sold on the concept of governance, but also find suitable candidates that have the time, the vision and the skills to make it work for them.

So… answers

  1. Identify a pool of young, savvy and creative potential advisors
  2. Let said young advisors sell the idea of governance to startups
  3. Let the old timers do what they do well – primary production and traditional enterprises
  4. Find some new way to advise and be advised – there’s a lot of things that you can do through Web 2.0 delivery now…….

Now how many legacy organisations and individuals have I offended with this post? (Lucky they’ve not heard of blogs yet!)

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.


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