Seed Stage Investor Update Template
Every month I write an update to our investors and advisors. I’ve been doing this since before Great Question was a company, before we wrote any lines of code.
And almost every month I get asked by folks on that list if they can copy the format, or share a sanitized version with their portfolio companies.
You could say that our investor updates have achieved product-market fit, even if it’s something we think we’re still working on ourselves.
So I figured I’d create a canonical version to share with folks, including context on each section and why it works, as well as how we leverage these updates to maximise value from our advisors + investors.
Our investor updates go out to everyone who has written a direct check into Great Question, but they go further than that.
I extended the group of people who get our unfiltered investor updates to anyone who I would go to for advice along the way. This includes my wife, life-long mentors, our executive coach, but it also includes friends, batch mates from Y Combinator, and other founders who I regularly catch up with.
Including this extended group means I’ve got more eyes on what we’re doing, more folks to jump in when we’ve got gnarly problems we’re dealing with, and makes it easier to get advice outside of our investors since there is already a high level of context.
There is some risk that the list is too large — there might be 60 people on it today — but I have a bias towards trusting these people with this sensitive data, and I’ve only ever had to remove one person from the list.
I send these updates out religiously every single month, and have done so since we went full-time. At first it might have gone to half a dozen people to let them know about the new thing I was working on, but slowly but surely that list grew.
The updates go out as close to the start of the new month as possible, and rarely more than 5 days out.
The monthly cadence keeps me accountable, but also creates a moment to reflect on how far we’ve actually come from the month before. Often times I’ll sit down to write the update and surprise myself at all the things that have happened in 4 short works.
These are the key sections I include each month. Sometimes I’ll add in a new section where it’s relevant, other times I’ll drop a section if I don’t have anything to say.
If I’m in a rush I might drop the “What we’re thinking about” section for instance.
I generally use the same subject line every month to keep things consistent. I bookend the title with emojis to make it stand out in folks inboxes too.
🚨Great Question Investor Update — June 2022🚨
My intro is pretty standard and rarely changes week to week.
There are three main parts to it:
- Providing meta context on what happened this month & my energy levels;
- Reminding folks what we’re doing as a company (some folks get a lot of these!); and
- Re-iterating that this is a confidential memo.
How was your June?
<insert 1–2 sentence overview of my month, energy level etc>
As a reminder Great Question puts customer research on autopilot. Everything from recruiting participants to sending surveys, running interviews or prototype tests — and then sharing what you learn with your team — all in one place.
Please note that the information circulated in Great Question’s investor updates are confidential — please don’t share with anyone.
I put any “asks” that I have of folks on the list up front in the update, before we even get to the highlights, since this is often the primary goal of the update: to get some kind of support.
I also make sure to make acting on these asks as easy as possible. Depending on the ask this can include:
- Writing a pre-canned tweet that folks can share on social media
- Getting folks to reply if they have a potential intro so I can write a personalized double opt-in message that they can just forward along
We’ve just opened up our first account executive role, with a focus on finding a “renaissance rep” who can act as a “full-stack” rep, help us to build out our sales playbook, and recruit for our next 2–3 sales roles.
Ideal candidates will have 2 years experience in an Account Executive role at a B2B SaaS company, bonus points if they have experience in hiring or managing a team, double bonus points for ex-founders.
Who have you previously worked with that fits this bill? Hit reply and tell me their name and I’ll send you a forwardable double opt-in email for the introduction.
If no one comes to mind it would be great if you can share this on your social media. Here is a tweet you can copy and paste…
This is the “too long, didn’t read” section of the update; a teaser so folks can get the meat of the story up front and ideally convince them to read the whole thing.
I keep it to 3–4 bullet points max, and always at least one line about growth.
XX% growth MoM, up from YY%.
New customers include…
Particularly hectic month with 2 new employees, 2 conferences, 1 offsite
Voice of the customer
This is a chance for us to share some of what we’re learning in the words of our customers. Quotes can come from a few places including customer interviews, NPS comments, support emails etc.
I include the quote sources name, title + company as well so folks can see how this aligns with our ideal customer profile. I’ll also often include a negative quote alongside a positive quote, especially if I’m trying to highlight why we’re working on a particular problem internally.
Since we love to eat the dog food I’ll often embed a video from a customer discovery interview or a sales call using Great Question’s video clipping + embed functionality too.
“The team has been saying great things about the new scheduling functionality — so much easier than doing it manually or with Calendly”
-Joe Bloggs; Head of UX Research; Acme, Co
I pull metrics out of Stripe, Mixpanel, and our bank. I have a template doc I pull from which always links to the same place so I can just click through to the right place, grab the number and move on.
I include context where relevant, such as specific targets we’ve been aiming for, how we calculate certain things (like burn rate), or where there has been a one off anomalous event like a large invoice has landed.
– Target: YY% MoM
Product metric #1:
Product metric #2:
XX full-time employees (+XX)
Cash in bank
XX months (Cash at hand/ Burn)
YY months (Projections based on historical growth + projected hiring)
This is my chance to highlight some of the great stuff that we’ve been working on, major logos, new hires, experiments that are starting to stick etc.
Less good stuff
We used to call this “the good, the bad and the ugly” but often there wasn’t a lot of bad or ugly stuff, at least that we were aware of. I renamed it “less good stuff” to make it clear it’s things that could be better but not catastrophic stuff we’re freaking out about. I’m sure at some point sooner or later I’ll need to reintroduce the “Ugly” section.
What we’re thinking about
This is a chance for me to highlight some of the strategic thinking that’s been going on. It could relate to all kinds of things from how we’re thinking about our path to product market fit, fundraising needs, new product launches etc.
For those folks who lean in on these updates this is generally the section that elicits the most responses.
The month ahead
This is a fairly short section for what we’re going to be working on in the month ahead to let folks know where are focus is going to be going.
We’re dubbing July the Summer of (Customer) Love
- A chance to work on giving back to existing customers
- Bug fixes, long standing feature requests, and general platform improvements which are going to improve the lives of our power users
Continuing to refine our H2 roadmap + values from our offsite. More to follow next update.
Investors tend to be pack animals, highly competitive, and fueled by ego. Except for you, that is. You’re great.
We always include shout outs for folks that have helped us in the previous month, and you’ll often see the same names popping up again and again.
At the end of the year we do a tally of all mentions throughout the year.
Pete Koomen for advice re: prioritization and product market fit
Daniel Zarick for the idea for the “Asks” section
Alex Mittal for pushing us to XXXXX
I generally sign off with a final reminder of the ask, or at the minimum a request to reply to the email with their feedback. I’d say I get a ~40% response rate which I’ve heard is quite high.
Thanks for reading. Hit reply, I’d love to hear from you.
I use Apple Notes for my day-to-day note taking and have a folder in there for “investor updates”. Throughout the month I’ll jot down any ideas on things to include in the update, from major milestones, to challenges, or customer quotes I want to share. This is also a great way to track folks you want to shout out for their support throughout the month.
I MixMax to manage the mail merge. I duplicate a past sequence so I can remind myself on what we shared last month, update numbers, et.
I store my investor updates mailing list itself in a Google Spreadsheet. I download the CSV fresh every month to import into MixMax since I might have added new folks onto the list that I’ve interacted with that month.
When we first started sending these updates out it was a way to keep ourselves accountable, and make sure we were making maximum progress each month.
I didn’t want to get to the end of a month and have nothing to share, or not have done what I said I would do in the previous update.
It was incredibly motivating to then start to get responses, high fives and suggestions from the folks on the list. We got some great push back from smart folks on everything from our burn rate, hiring strategies and approach to product-market fit.
As the list grow, and we had more folks with skin in the game we started to get excellent referrals for potential customers, potential investors and employees.
The whole thing takes me about an hour or two a month but has been one of the higher leverage ways I’ve found to spend my time.
If you end up using the template, or have suggestions on how it might be improved, I’d love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org