On Board Service

Posted on May 5, 2020. Filed under: Uncategorized |

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about the past 10 or so months at Pace has been my service on the board of an unannounced company in our portfolio. The vast majority of my board experience over my career has been in the CEO seat with institutional investors from firms like General Catalyst and Softbank serving on my boards. Although I probably led 50+ investments during my time at Lerer, in most cases, as seed investors, we did not take board seats with an investment. Now sitting in the institutional investor seat and serving on someone else’s board, I have a different level of empathy for the job. I think one of the absolute privileges of board service is profound alignment. I don’t want anything except what’s best for the company. There’s nothing for myself outside of that desire. I think I’d be there philosophically regardless, but it doesn’t hurt that what’s best for the company is best for me…i’ve internalized deeply that my success is hitched to the wagon of a CEO and group of people I believe in.

Service as I see it is not directive. I sync with the CEO every 2 weeks and I never come with an agenda of things I think should happen. I do way more listening than talking and my only goal is to help the CEO make the best decision possible on any given topic. When I have product or tactical ideas, I am sure to preface with “feel free to throw this away or tell me it’s stupid.” When I interview a candidate on the company’s behalf, I debrief with inputs not conclusions. The CEO of this company is a better CEO than I ever was. I expect that to be the case for every founder I support. The best decisions and best outcomes for the company are going to come from him and his leadership team…I want to be a foil, inspiration, food for thought, emotional support, ethical support, but decidedly not a decision maker. Sure in the realm of governance and management team construction, there are moments that will call for more assertion, but almost every other decision that might float up to the board, I tend to redirect back through the eyes and mind of the CEO. I don’t want to be persuasive, I want to be illuminating. Success is listening and widening the aperture of the team’s thinking, if only to discard and zoom back in narrowly.

I was very clear with the CEO prior to our investment: “You don’t pick me on your board to tell you how to do it. If you want that level of applied contribution there are better people. You can hire for applied value. You pick me for trusted counsel, and that is something you can’t hire for.” I believe that in my role as a board member, if I can help world class founders be and decide at their best, everything else in our model at Pace falls into place. So far so good.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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