By: Promise Phelon
In our quest to catalyze high-growth, dangerous technology companies, we’ve noticed a striking pattern: founders retreat into their shells when faced with challenges. We call this “turtling.” Rather than reaching out to investors, they brave treacherous waters alone, consumed by insecurity and the fear of failure.
We get it-the hurdles sometimes feel insurmountable. But here’s our truth: Asking for help is not a weakness, it’s an act of courage and strength we deeply admire. It’s something that leading CEOs do.
It’s crucial to recognize you can’t do it alone. None of us can.
At Growth Warrior Capital, we firmly believe in the power of founders operating within a fishbowl. We define the “fishbowl” as embracing an environment where you boldly reveal the inner workings of your company to investors. This transparency creates trust, which begets a priceless “whisper network,” sparking conversations among investors about your company and increasing the likelihood that those around you can offer insights, guidance, connections, and direction when you need it most.
Executing in the open
Raising funds from VCs for the first time, especially as a female or diverse founder, means facing extra scrutiny. People are going to diligence you-but guess what? They’re doing so because they’re already interested in what you’re building. While diligence can be a drag, it’s a required step to help ensure the outcomes both sides are seeking.
If no one knows you in an ecosystem, they’ll need to dig deeper. Part of your responsibility as a great founder and CEO is to be known, and another part is to be open. Turtling has a steep cost. When you’re not operating in a fishbowl, the people who are supporting you don’t have enough specificity or trust to make powerful, currency-filled introductions. You also lose trust from people at your own company if they feel like they’re in the dark.
Maintain that fishbowl founder mindset as you charge ahead. Keep your investors informed, involve them in your problem solving, and you’ll reap the benefits of the whisper network.
The monthly update: Essential components for investor engagement
So, how can you stop turtling and work to become an extraordinary fishbowl founder? Try taking a page from the playbook of Tamara Nelson of Barometer. One of the ways she collaborates with investors and nurtures relationships is through her monthly investor update.
Your investor updates should clearly outline your current challenges and, most importantly, specify areas where you need help. By sharing your progress, aspirations, and setbacks, you convey a commitment to transparency that resonates with investors. Here’s what your monthly investor update should contain:
- Prime directive. Start by stating your goals (some call this the North Star Metric).
- Ask for help. It’s important to put this at the top of your email, so your ask is getting the attention it deserves. Don’t bury it at the bottom. Link directly to the websites/LinkedIn pages of the companies you want to connect with and specify what departments or people you’re aiming to reach. Hopefully, investors will click the link, see if they have any mutual connections, and introduce you.
- Key metrics. ARR. Burn. Cash on hand. # of clients. NRR. # of employees.
- Highlights/lowlights. Key accomplishments from the past month plus things that didn’t go as planned. Don’t hide what went wrong-show how you’re pivoting and addressing challenges.
- Things you’re excited about. This could be ecosystem news and/or what’s to come.
- FAQ. Proactively address what you think investors will ask you about (e.g., What does ChatGPT mean for my business?) instead of fielding dozens of emails from them.
In our work at Growth Warrior Capital, we’ve witnessed the transformative shifts in founders who openly seek help and guidance. When you embrace vulnerability and collaboration, you deepen the relationships that are vital to your success and set yourself up to make a profound impact.