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Part 1 - How to work with your investors at early stages

Aurore Falque-Pierrotin
November 18, 2022

One of our goals as investors is to help our portfolio companies be as successful as possible. In addition to financial commitment, we strive to add value. Typically, the more information you share with us, the better we are able to understand your business and give relevant advice. To us, communication is the only way to drive alignment.

As such, we see Investors Relations (i.e. the management of reporting documents, boards, and monthly calls) not only as a way to ensure legal compliance and our fiduciary duty to our Limited Partners, but also as a way to ensure information alignment between us and our portfolio companies. They are essentially communication channels.

You will find below some general considerations on how to best handle investor relations. Every company and every board is different but this is what we have seen work best. Even if they are best practices typically put in place at the Series A, even at the Seed stage, the idea is to progressively work towards this - demanding - standard.

Part 1 - Company Reporting

Company reporting is the first pillar of Investor Relations. Generally there are two different types of reporting.

  • Reporting at the board level: a precise strategic document that is frequently sent to a limited number of people (aka the board directors and observers). The information included here can be treated as 100% confidential.
  • Reporting at the shareholders level: a more high level commercial document sent potentially less frequently to all company shareholders. As it is sent typically to a much larger number of people, typically on a quarterly basis, the information included there is more sensitive in nature (i.e. could be leaked for instance). Even it is typically included as a contractual right for shareholders, it is more a means to engage your shareholder base (i.e. asking for intros, help with hiring etc.) while updating them on the business.

(!) The considerations listed below are relevant for a reporting done at the “board” level.

How does the ideal investor reporting look like?
  • Actionable: The end goal of reporting should be smarter decision-making and producing “so whats” that are actionable in nature. “Reporting” should be both qualitative and quantitative.
  • Backward and forward looking: Ideally the document should combine actuals (and potentially comparisons vs. budget in recent months) and forecasts, on a consistent basis and in the same document.
  • Financial and operational: You want to have your financial metrics (i.e. financial P&L, Balance Sheet, CashFlows) integrated with your operational metrics (i.e. KPIs dashboard).
  • Top-down: The KPIs dashboard should be at the top of the pyramid (= snapshot of everything you need to pilot the business on a daily basis from Top line and Acquisition metrics to Cash-in-the-Bank).
  • Management approach: You want to have “analytical” financial reporting (i.e. costs grouped by costs centres in the P&L) in place in order to pilot decisions making; and accrued-based accounting gives a much more accurate picture of business performance than cash-based accounting.
  • Conservative: you don’t need to be commercial with board members. We are all in the same boat. Therefore assumptions and projections should be realistic.
What format should reporting take?
  • Monthly cadence, due by t + 15 ideally in order to have the shortest feedback loop possible to pilot your business.
  • Spreadsheet-based dashboard included in an email including highlights/ lowlights of the month and the high level “so whats” of the metrics.
  • Sent by a single point of contact (handling the Investor relations function as a whole), e.g. the CEO or the CFO, to all board members and relevant investors (if applicable).
What metrics should it include?

The specific structure of the reporting will hugely differ with the stage of the company and the business model. However, on top of the financial reporting and key operational KPIs (e.g. ACV evolution, churn etc.), it is generally good to include:

  • The business “Northstars”: i.e. 3-5 KPIs you are optimising for in the short term and that everyone should have top of mind.
  • A granular view of the Acquisition & Sales funnel, especially to understand the volume & depth per channel (number of DQLs, MQLs etc.) and the efficiency per channel (CAC and Conversion rates throughout the funnel).
  • An “analytical” P&L including an understanding of the business cost components, i.e. Gross Margin, Contribution Margin I, Contribution Margin II, Contribution Margin III.
  • A high-level capital efficiency and runway analysis including cash-in-the-bank.
  • Key product/platform usage & engagement metrics.
  • A view on the business’ unit economics (which could be at this stage preliminary) including:
  • LTV evolution month-on-month (calculated on Contribution Margin I basis and on a cohort basis ideally)
  • CAC : LTV ratios and/or CAC payback
Additional tips
  • It’s always useful to start by introducing a “common language” to align on taxonomy between the company and your investors. Sometimes we might calculate key metrics such as ARR (Annual Recurring Revenues), churn, LTV, CAC, CMI etc differently. Let’s align on definitions early.
  • There could be different revenue recognition standards; yet it is fair to assume that the more conservative, the better. Both revenues and costs should typically be recognised during the month of “consumption” following accrual-based accounting as explained before. Hence, although it is important to track “booked” ARR, “invoiced” ARR is typically a safer metric to pilot the business.
  • In our experience, building a dashboard is easy but populating it and updating in a reliable and efficient manner is complex since information sources and ownerships are usually fragmented. Establishing a robust process to feed your dashboard with timely and accurate information is a worthwhile investment that will scale with your company.

Thanks for reading this far. Part 2 will be covering board management, the second key pillar of Investor relations. If handled correctly, a functioning board can be a powerful weapon and a key competitive advantage for a company.

**

At Samaipata, we are always looking for ways to improve. Do not hesitate to send us your thoughts or share other Investor Relations best practices that we might have missed. We strive to partner with early-stage founders and to support them in taking their business to the next level. Check out more ways in which we can help here.

And as always, if you’re a European founder looking for Seed funding, please send us your deck here or subscribe to our Quarterly updates here.

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