Mastering Investor Updates for Founders
Investor updates are a black box, partly because no one explains this document comes in at least three flavors. Let me break it down.
- There’s the update you’re sharing with your team.
- There’s the update you’re sharing with existing investors.
- There’s the update you’re sharing with investors you hope to win over.
The facts should all be the same, so what’s different about them? Well, the team has a ton of context, but needs more directional guidance. Existing investors have less context than your team, but since they are (hopefully) your shock absorbers and door openers, a bit more color for them is helpful in an investor update. The new investors—they just need the hook or headline to get them to a meeting.
Here’s how I’ve learned to hone effective investor updates in the least possible time.
Start with the team update.
You should have some type of weekly leadership team meeting already, so you review the most update to date version of “where we are today” and that drives your core weekly team email update.
- For many startups in their first $5 million or so of revenue, the weekly team update AND the investor update are one and the same. That’s a great place to be. See below for an investor update format built around what’s good for team and investors.
- If you don’t have a team yet, a monthly update with some of these same numbers on it works just fine. You just may not have the scale to drive a weekly update yet—and if you don’t, great! Start with monthly iterations for your advisors and co-founders. It’s never too early to start tracking your scale.
For a new investor “fishing” update, hit delete until you are left with the 3 most compelling updates.
New investors haven’t earned the whole story and they don’t have the context – help them earn their way in by headlining your 3 most compelling updates to less than 1 one line. You add one line too—a call to action about where you are on your funding cycle. Popular ways to say it? Here are three:
- We’re not raising right now, but we are looking to build relationships with Series A (B…C…) investors who are experts in ____________.
- We’re accepting term sheets (now, next month, etc.) from leading Series (….) investors with driving themes and expertise in _______.
- We’re bootstrapping and open to a handful of conversations next month with informed VCs focused in (_________).
Investor Update Format (SAMPLE)
Here’s Valor’s investor update format—there are lots of good formats, so if you are using another one, as long as it hits the same plotlines, you’re good to go. To make it easier to read the sample here, I used fake data.
SUBJECT: <<Startup>> news for week of (X)
- Financial performance
– Revenue Added (MoM/MRR): 11%; $27,000,
– Gross Churn: 2.8%
– Current MRR: $202,200
– Notable wins: New Customer Name, Name, Name
– Next month’s forecast: $224,000 MRR
– Burn: $18K/month
– Runway at current budget/burn: 9 months
- People performance
– Hires made: 1. BDR Masha Sergovna 2. Deputy CRO LaKeisha Bryant
– Hiring for: Director of Product, 1 AE, 2 more BDRs, React Native (Mobile) engineer. Hiring link is here: URL
– Departures: Our CMO David Michael Jones left to join AirBnB and I’m still thinking through how to best fill his role.
- Product performance
– NPS: 69 (Goal: 75)
– Referrals from existing customers as % of all inbound: 48% (Goal: 50%)
– Customer “issue response time”: 122 minutes (goal: 15 minutes) – getting a team together to help address this next Wednesday at lunch – pizza in breakroom and feel free to jump in with your solution head on
4. Keeps me up at night / need more perspective on
– Hiring. Right now we are on pace to fill our sales team up by end of March, but the departure of the CMO has me rethinking how to set our sails for better marketing.
– Keynote, local startup event, LINK
– Forbes article, last week, LINK
– Panel, Top Startups in Fintech, March 8, SFO (LINK)
– Come see us next month in Indiana for ________
6. Key intros/asks next 30 days
– Thoughts on CMO hiring / next level up for us—any experiences to share or referrals?
– Formulating next round and building a list of quality VCs with a lot of experience in our vertical—got anyone?
Turn this investor update into a weekly investor fishing update.
SUBJECT: Confidential investor update from STARTUP – week of 3/?
Dear <<Investor First Name>>,
I’d like to get your feedback on our growth at STARTUP this week. Here’s the situation:
- $202K MRR this month, up 11% over last month, with 48% of all leads coming from existing customer referrals
- Proud of new customers Name, Name, Name
- See us in Forbes (LINK) or see us next month in Indiana speaking on ____
What’s keeping me up? Big opportunity to bring onboard our next CMO, and looking for perspectives from investors expert in scaling in our vertical. Here are some times on my calendar for a phone call next week if you’re someone who can jump in on that–
<Use Calendly to fill this in>
With investor updates, routine sets you free.
By growing your own curated spreadsheet of potential investors, YAMM, Calendly and a rigorous commitment to your numbers, it’s possible to keep your team, your investors and your next investor in the loop on the adventure that is you.
When an investor “opts out” of short, real updates from the front lines of your business—they’re not the right investor for you.
A great investor for you sees these hooks as opportunities to win your trust. Smart money follows smart updates. By demonstrating you have a handle on your business—the hard numbers and sharp edges—you’re showing you’re the type of founder VCs are looking for.