How to: Find a board member (through your crowd)

It’s been a three month long quest, but we’re almost there replacing the vacant seat on our board. While we’re sad to lose dear Anake, this has been a great process for us to find new talent, mix up our board, and get really clear on where we’re going and who we need in the mix to get there.

Having appointed (and tried to appoint) a few board members over the years, we’ve realised that finding good governance beyond your founding team is hard. Like capital raising — something we know a bit about — it’s often seen as a ‘nice to have’ not a necessary. So I thought it might be useful to document the process PledgeMe took finding our new board member, so other startups (and stay-ups) could see it’s not so hard and it is so necessary to set your companies strategy and manage your risk.

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Who run the world?

While 61 percent of university graduates in New Zealand are women, only 17 percent of NZX-listed board positions are held by ladies (a 5% hike from 2013). Despite the increase, there seems to be a huge disconnect in Who Run The World (hint: not girls). And, sadly, the number of women in leadership positions may be decreasing with female c-suite execs decreasing from 21% to 19% in the same NZX findings. 

There’s a bunch of research that indicates more diversity (from gender, to age, to ethnicity, to abilities, to sexual orientation) is A Good Thing.

We’re not that great at governance diversity at PledgeMe either. Half of our team are amazing women (and then there’s me) but only one of our board members is a woman (yup, me again).

That makes me sad.

I rant talk enough about gender (in)equality to ruffle a few feathers.

I’ve even been told to be “a bit less feminist” by an early investor.

But, if we want to be in a world where gender inequality is a historic relic, we need to start in our own backyard. And board room.

As we announced last week, we are searching for a board member to replace Anake. We’ve already had 30 applications so far, including 12 from women. And, we want more. I’d really like the successful applicant to identify as a woman so we can practice what we preach and hit our internal target of 40% women on the board. 

And, Mr. #notallmen, before you say it:

Yes. We do want the most skilled person.

Often that ol’ “most skilled person” line is used to justify the default stale, pale and male approach.  This response indicates a belief that there aren’t women with those skills. It also shows an unconscious bias from the person using it. Like being on a board is akin to a mission to Mars where only rocket scientists need apply.

Yes, we want skills. We wouldn’t ask someone to be on our board who would feel uncomfortable performing the role required.

 

So what do we want?

An awesome woman with experience providing feedback on strategy and operations, as well as an understanding of the risks involved in being the director of a fintech startup. We’d like someone with skills in branding/marketing, scaling a company, or a legal background. And we want to call bullshit on the assumption that there aren’t heaaaaps of wonderful women with the skills PledgeMe needs. I know there are.

 

We need you to help spread the word

We need help to find someone (preferably a woman) who has the skills we need, the risk appetite for a start up, and who is values aligned with our team.

Who better to ask for help than our crowd. Click one of the links at the bottom to tweet / share the link to this blog with someone you know. Click here for the job description. Click here to apply. Click here to ask me more questions. Click here if you just wanted another option on the clickable side of life.

 

We’re trying harder

I’ve been talking about this for ages. And I send apologies to all the amazing women I have talked to about this for the lack of a structured process and lack of clarity around what we need and want previously. We’re trying harder now because in my mind it’s gone from the ‘nice to have’ to ‘it’s not going to happen if we don’t take direct action and it will help our company’.

Now that PledgeMe is diversifying our product offering, I feel compelled to diversify our board too. I’m going to be sending this blog to the people I’ve ranted to / w(h)ined with in the past and I would love it if you could please share it too.

Here’s the job description.

Here’s the application process that we’re running.

Applications will close Wednesday, 10 Feb 2016.

ps. Thank you to all the amazing applicants that have applied for our board position so far, men and women, you rock.

Directing PledgeMe

An acquaintance once told me a good director (on a board of directors, not like Steven Spielberg director) is like having someone on the roof of your car, shining a light onto the road ahead. They aren’t driving (that’s the CEO) or actually in the car (that’s the team) but they make sure you are heading in the right direction, and might occasionally reach into the car to pull the handbrake if they need to.

With Anake leaving our board of directors, we’re on the lookout for someone to jump on the roof of the car that is PledgeMe. That someone needs to be able to shine their fullbeams on our mission to help Kiwis fund the things they care about, our strategy, and oversee our management team.

We’re going to crowdsource applications because… you know… we’re a crowdfunding site. Typically, the hunt for a new board member goes on behind closed doors, but, we’ll be searching for the right person with our crowd’s help. Who is our crowd? Well that’s you! So if you are interested, or you know someone who might be a good fit, have a read of the job description below and apply using the Weirdly form below. If you have further questions then get in touch with either Nick (Chair of the board) or Anna (you know, me).

Details at a glance

Position: PledgeMe Board Member
Length of term: 1 year with the option to renew annually
Applications open: 15 January
Applications close: 10 February
Interviews: 15 February
Directors’ Fees: $1,100 per month (paid in shares / cash annually).

How PledgeMe does governance has evolved significantly since we started up almost four years ago. We started out with the two co-founders setting the direction, doing all the things, and trying to prove crowdfunding was actually a thing New Zealand needed.

Then, we realised we needed outside support. We got a group of smart people together for monthly advisory panel meetings to test our ideas, get feedback, and discuss the best ways to grow PledgeMe.

When we decided to start equity crowdfunding, it became apparent we needed to get serious about governance. It became more formal, with our initial investors in equity crowdfunding becoming our original board members.

After almost two years on the board one of our original board members, Anake, is leaving to focus on his family and other commitments. We’ve decided to go out and find a new director with a fresh perspective. We’re aiming to bring more diversity to our board, and need someone who is ok with the fast pace of a startup and who has the rigour required for being a director on the board of a financial service provider (FSP for you acronym lovers out there).

The sorts of skills you will need

Here’s a list of skills, experiences, and general things we reckon will indicate value-alignment.

Someone who’ll ask good questions

You don’t need to know the answers, but you do need to help us ask the right questions and work toward constructive solutions together. It’s not only about the questions, it’s about sharing your experience and reviewing our work, and chipping in with your informed opinion about the best path forward.

Someone who is ok with a bit of risk (but can manage it too)

PledgeMe likes to do things differently. We want to push boundaries, move quickly, and make a difference. You need to be comfortable with a constantly evolving playing field. To change the world you’ve got to be a bit uncomfortable, right?

Someone constructive

We want to make sure we have a diversity of opinions in our decision making — that’s why we have a board. We don’t have to always agree, but we do need to come to solutions which work. You’ll need to be able to identify and tell us about risks. This needs to be done in a constructive and consensus-focussed way.

Someone who is good with kids

You don’t have to have any. We don’t need a babysitter. In our experience, the best board members are the ones who are great parents / aunties or uncles / mentors. Startups are pretty similar to a teenagers, sometimes you need to protect them from themselves but often you just need to let them make their own mistakes in a safe space.

Someone comfortable with tech

You won’t have to dive deep into the Ruby or be our new scrum master, but we need someone who likes using Google Docs, responds to emails promptly, and who knows how to use platforms like Slack, Trello, and Loomio.

Someone who is comfortable with the financial and legal side of things

You don’t need to be an accountant or a lawyer. But, you should be able to read a balance sheet, and be comfortable with the requirements of being a director. We’re also looking for the new board member to bring experience / skills in branding, scaling operations, and/or a legal brain (though, we’ll still call on our lawyers, Buddle Findlay, as needed).

Who is on the board?

Blog - Board - Nick
Nick Lewis — Nick is an experienced entrepreneur with a history of work in the investment banking space (from JP Morgan through to co-founding Woodward Investments in New Zealand). He is the Chair of our board and independent board member, and started off (back in the day) on our advisory panel.

Blog - Board - Anna
Anna Guenther — Anna is our Managing Director, co-founder and CEO of PledgeMe. She sounds American but she’s definitely a Kiwi. If pushed, she’ll say she’s technically from Dunedin, but will later admit she grew up in Boston. Having roamed around the world, she now calls Wellington home. Anna completed her Masters on crowdfunding and has worked for everyone from NZTE to MIT (and all of the acronyms in between).

Blog - Board - Breccan
Breccan McLeod-Lundy — Breccan manages all things tech for us with the help of the awesome Rabid team. He is passionate about what the next level of crowdfunding could be, and has a beautifully analytical brain. He’s the only board member left in his 20’s…

Blog - Board - Anake
Anake Goodall — Anake, our departing board member, has a strong background in both the public and private sector. This busy man is currently on the boards of Meridian and the Ākina Foundation as well as ours. During his time as CEO of Ngāi Tahu, he developed an intergenerational asset allocation programme around their then $700million portfolio. He’s South Island based. Read our farewell to him here.

04 team and board

 

You? We’d like to add some diversity to the board. That could come in a few forms: gender, age, location, physical ability, orientation, the list goes on… More on this soon.

How our board rolls

The Board has the primary responsibility to oversee the conduct of PledgeMe and to supervise management (who are responsible for the day-to-day activities). In performing its functions, the Board primarily considers the interests of PledgeMe to which its fiduciary duty ultimately resides, and then to its shareholders. It also considers the legitimate interests of other constituents such as employees, suppliers, and customers.

Number of board members

We currently have four board members, and aim for between 3–5 board members at any time, with a mix of skills, backgrounds, and expertise. A quorum is currently 3 board members. Nick was deemed our independent director under the NZX rules, but we aim to get one more independent director. Aiming for 40% female representation, with wider general diversity (age, location, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual orientation).

Chairperson

The Chairperson shall be appointed by the Board on an annual basis (May meeting). The current Chairperson is Nick Lewis.

Term

New directors are appointed at PledgeMe’s AGM or through a resolution passed with the shareholders during the year. Nick will manage the staggering of the board terms, based on interest, their performance and the filling of skill gaps.

Board membership is set to a 1 year term with the ability to renew annually.

Directors’ Fees

Set at $1,100 per month paid annually in arrears and paid in a mix of shares but with enough cash to cover tax implications.

Frequency

Monthly board meetings and occasional discussions on Loomio, though this can be moved to purely online (via Loomio) as needed. 10–15 hrs per month. Board members are required to respond to discussions and emails within two working days.

Board Responsibilities

The Board retains the responsibility for managing its own affairs including the responsibility to:

i) Appoint the Chairman of the Board;

ii) Appoint, review and/or replace the Chief Executive Officer

iii) determine the timing and agenda for Board meetings.

iv) annually review the skills and experience represented on the Board in light of rapidly changing business requirements.

v) recommend the criteria and potential candidates who meet the criteria to the Board.

vi) on the recommendation of the Chair, appoint, determine the composition of and set the terms of reference for Board committees;

vii) approve the terms of reference for the CEO and Chairman.

viii) implement an appropriate process for assessing the effectiveness of the Board, the Board Chair, committees and directors in fulfilling their responsibilities.

ix) assess the adequacy and form of director compensation and make recommendations to the shareholders to approve the director compensation at the Annual General Meeting.

x) assume responsibility for Company’s governance practices and ensure they meet the needs of the shareholders, employees and customers; and

xi) monitor our compliance with our licensing obligations under the Financial Markets authority.

APPLY

So that’s the role and the kind of person we’re looking for. Think it’s you? Then please fill out this application form powered by Weirdly.

UPDATE: Some people have been having trouble filling out the embedded form. If it isn’t working, not saving, or crashing then please click through here and complete it.

An unboring Board

Often when people hear the words “The Board”, eyes glaze.

They picture bland suits. A faceless, omnipresent entity that crops up every once in awhile in conversation – as in, “The Board vetoed this decision last Thursday.”

But, please – deglaze for a moment. Because that is definitely not how our board rolls.

We really want you to see the brilliant personalities and expertise that lie behind the names of the Board roll, because each member of the PledgeMe board was meticulously hand-picked to bring their savvy heads and extreme passion for business and community to the PledgeMe table.

These folk are here to make things happen for you, so with much pleasure, we introduce our unboring Board!

Anna Guenther, Founder & Chief Bubble Blower

Super Skills:

  • Breathing life into crowdfunding brainchild PledgeMe, and nurturing this 2-year-old every day to help Kiwis fund their very own brainchildren.
  • Certified crowdfunding academic/swot – Loves crowdfunding so much, completed masters thesis at Otago University on the topic of crowdfunding with a focus on what motivates people to pledge.

What she brings to the PledgeMe table: A background in economic development and major events at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and grant administration at a research institute affiliated with Harvard and MIT.

Pet passions: Singing to Pat Benatar in the office, wearing her panda onesie, coffee, and helping people out (not necessarily in that order – and not all at the same time).

Crowdfunding Soundbite: “I’m passionate about crowdfunding – and how it empowers creators to include their communities earlier in their journey. Our potential move into equity crowdfunding just strengthens our mission of helping Kiwis fund the things they care about!”

Anake Goodall, Director (though, we call him Obe Wan Anake)

Super Skills:

  • Former CEO of Ngai Tahu; developed intergenerational asset allocation programme around its $700 million portfolio.
  • Currently serving on the boards of Meridian Energy and social enterprise accelerator, the Hikurangi Foundation.
  • Strongman background in both public and private sector as a union delegate, credit union founder, iwi authority and startup champion.
  • Governance guru* – currently holds a range of governance roles in commercial, government, social enterprise and philanthropic entities .

What he brings to the Pledgeme table: A huge brain for strategy and development. Anake doesn’t just think about what we should be doing this week, or next month – we swear, he has a hundred-year-plan mapped in his head.

Pet Passion: Especially interested in organisations that are taking the lead on a low carbon, re-localised, sustainable and resilient future; very passionate about communities realising their collective aspirations. He also loves photography, and can often be found with his camera in hand.

Crowdfunding Soundbite: “It’s really exciting to see crowdfunding remove one of the biggest constraints to innovators evolving and going to scale. Creative ventures have just slipped the leash!”

Nick Lewis, Chairman of the Board

Super Skills:

  • Polymath-esque background in engineering, finance, entrepreneurship, education and mentoring.
  • Co-founder of Wellington boutique investment bank, Woodward Partners (having done time at JP Morgan).
  • Serves on the board of Creative HQ, the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s business incubator that brought the business accelerator Lightning Lab to NZ.
  • Frequent guest lecturer at Otago University’s Masters of Entrepreneurship programme (“Where I first met PledgeMe’s unstoppable entrepreneur, Anna Guenther!”).

Pet passion: Calculators and suits aren’t Nick’s only tools – he’s also pretty powerful with his pen. Much to his wife Diane’s dismay, he took a sabbatical to write his first novel a few years back (a thriller), and he still stretches those creative writing muscles with us!

What he brings to the PledgeMe table: As an entrepreneur, banker and investor, Nick has spent most of his career at the intersection of companies and the financial markets that fund them.

As a result, he’s naturally passionate about how PledgeMe provides a platform for Kiwis who want to support projects they find worthy or (license pending) invest in businesses they find promising.

Crowdfunding Soundbite: “OK, New Zealand, over to you! Support each other’s exciting ventures!”

Breccan McLeod-Lundy, Director / Technical brain

Super Skills:

  • An incomparable technical brain combined with human empathy like no other: as the founder of Rabid Technologies Breccan supports the development of new products and companies with a belief that partnerships and relationships are more important than simple transactions.
  • An ability to discuss complex philosophical ideas with the best of them (he did his degree in it – bless him).
  • But also the ability to simplify things down so even a child could understand them – very useful with tech lingo!
  • He lets the team talk him into karaoke, when and as required.

What he brings to the PledgeMe table: A background in technology and startups, Breccan has been programming since he was six with a Commodore 64 and has degrees in philosophy and management.

Pet Passion: Watching the top 250 movies on the IMDB list. He only has 30 more to go, and is always up for discussing the merits of all the movies he’s enjoyed to date.

Crowdfunding Soundbite: “I’m excited about our potential move into the crowdfunding equity space because I believe it will release a broader base of capital to startup businesses and help New Zealand grow.”

Mark Kirkland – Director / Legal Eagle

Super Skills:

  • With a background in commercial and financial law, Mark is a founder and partner of Auckland boutique law firm, Carter Kirkland Morrison.
  • Guest lectured at the University of Otago’s Masters of Entrepreneurship programme (where he also crossed paths with Anna).
  • Speaks semi-fluent Russian – we’re not quite sure how to channel this talent for PledgeMe yet, but it’s merely a matter of time.

Pet passion: His Harley. So much so, we had to include a photo of it. Which we think plays into his adventuring, pushing new boundaries spirit – which is exactly how he’s helping us with the legal side of equity crowdfunding, forging new boundaries and demystifying some of the legalese around the capital markets.

Crowdfunding Soundbite: “Bring on Naked Investment!”