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Yesterday, I got to participate in Village Capital’s Edtech Summit in Chicago, meeting a number of mighty entrepreneurs reengineering the broken spots in our skills-based economy. One of the learning devices Village Capital used was the “mock board meeting.”

What the mock board meeting is

Basically, a handful of advisors and investors sit at a table with the co-founder (or cofounders) and follow an agenda prepared by the entrepreneur.

  1. The entrepreneur hands out a written agenda that has two sections–an update on the business’s current quarterly reality and a strategy question the entrepreneur wants the board’s input on.
  2. After the business update, the issue is presented and discussion is engaged. The entrepreneur gets the real experience of managing a feisty group of highly opinionated people. Sure, it’s entertaining–it’s also awesome practice and a ton of fun. The entrepreneur’s goal is to wrangle the discussion to a vote on the mock board’s input.

What the mock board meeting is not

Nasir Qadree, head of education at Vilcap, set expectations with the group that the exercise is not:

  1. Due diligence. Investor types like me–keep your questions to yourself.
  2. Pitching.  Entrepreneurs–don’t play to the investors by showing ‘the good side’–show the warts and get some help.

What the mock board meeting delivered

  1. The business update brought outsiders, like me, into the business quickly on a financial level. You got a quick sense of the next hurdle for the business. Several connections were made.
  2. I can only imagine the entrepreneur got a realistic and helpful sense of personalities around the table–it was much more “hands on” than the typical “investor/entrepreneur one on one.”
  3. For the investor, the entrepreneur’s ability to drive a vote, manage competing smart viewpoints without offending, and present a case were well displayed. I particularly noted one entrepreneur who told us, “Now if this were a real board meeting, I would have spoken with each of you before the meeting and brief you on this issue, gotten your feedback, and a sense of your stance.”

I loved the format and am looking forward to incorporating it into the Startup Runway showcase event. Do you think a mock board meeting exercise could help you evolve your startup even faster?