Ideally, every CEO sends out regular updates to their investors. And that doesn’t mean sending out your board update to a select few people. I’m talking about sitting down and writing an update specifically crafted for your network of investors—everything from what you put in your update to who you have on your list can be of strategic value to your company. And having investors who want regular updates from you is an excellent problem to have.
There have been many posts about investor updates from the investor side (Jason Calacanis has a great one here), but here’s how I approach them as a CEO.
Who I send investor updates to
Before I get into the strategic value of why I send investor updates, I’ll go over who I send them to. If you’re a venture-backed company, you likely have some of your largest investors already represented on your board of directors. But in reality, that will only represent a small portion of your total investors. I highly recommend you include all of your investors (both VCs and angels) on your investor updates.
Many companies will also include previous employees on their investor updates. If you’ve been around long enough to have employees who have vested and then moved on, those employees are now investors. It’s up to you what you include in your updates, but keeping previous employees in the loop about the shares is a good thing to do.
Why I send out regular updates
Now that we’ve established who the updates are going to, we can discuss why it’s important. There are two main things we use our investor updates for: Keeping in contact with our pool of investors and advisors, and making sure all of those people have enough context so I can tap into them as a resource when necessary.
Everyone on the list for our investor updates can be used as a strategic advisor for DocSend. Knowing that they’re up to date on the company (and being able to clearly see what they’ve read and what they haven’t), I can reach out to them for advice. Sometimes I want feedback on our product roadmap, or I’m looking for someone who’s run into a similar sales problem that we’re currently facing. I’m also always looking for recommendations for our key hires. Everyone who gets our investor updates is literally invested in the company and its growth. You shouldn’t be afraid to use them to help your company.
What I include in my updates
Once you know who’s on your list for updates and why you’re sending them, you need to know what actual updates you’ll include. This shouldn’t be an extensive update about everything that’s happening with your company. While the topics I cover in my investor updates look a lot like my board packet, it’s more streamlined in an investor update. I include these six sections:
- Summary of the most important news
- Team update
- Product update
- Key metrics
- Upcoming questions to answer
To get a sense for the length and layout of each section, you can check out this blog post (it also includes an easy outline to follow).
How often I send out updates
In terms of timing and tools used, here are some best practices I’ve arrived at:
- Investor updates go out every quarter (this is also how often we have board meetings).
- Updates go to all investors, even those that don’t contractually have information rights. Investors can only be helpful if they know what’s going on.
- Don’t spend more than two hours putting together a deck. Metrics take the most time, but we mostly just copy/paste graphs from internal dashboards.
- I used to use Keynote, but switched to Google Slides since it’s easier to collaborate and get feedback on before sending.
- Updates get sent 48 hours in advance of board meetings to board members and observers. After each board meeting, I send out the deck to all other investors.
- I always use a DocSend Space for my updates. I BCC everyone on an email with the link to the space (I do require email verification to view, more on that in the security settings below).
How I send out investor updates in DocSend
We use DocSend for all of our investor updates and board materials. I’ve created a DocSend Space so our investors can access our current investor update along with all of the previous updates, all in the same experience. We’ve used our current branding in our Space so it’s clear that it’s from DocSend.
Your security settings are important for your investor updates. This is confidential material about your business that you definitely don’t want just anyone to have access to. I have a list of email addresses that I send out my investor updates to, but I also whitelist several domains. For our investors like Uncork or Lerer Hippeau, I’ve allowed anyone at their domain to have access to my updates. I’ve also allowed downloading to give our investors the option to view it as a PDF when they’re offline.
I do require an email address and email authentication to view. If you’re concerned about a data breach, you can use our analytics to see where in the world your documents are being viewed and if anything looks out of place. You will also get real-time notifications every time someone accesses your documents.
Why engagement is important
Investor updates can only provide strategic value if they’re being read. The best part about using DocSend to send my updates is that I can see who’s reading them and what areas they’re the most interested in. Here are a few of the highlights from our updates:
- The average view time is over six minutes. This is quite a long view time relative to other types of documents (a fundraising pitch deck gets viewed on average for under four minutes).
- Our investor update documents range from 11 to 18 pages long.
- Over 87% of document visitors make it all the way through the update.
- Over 80% of our investors (at least one person from each firm) regularly look through our updates.
Using DocSend essentially makes each update a bit like role-call, where I get to see if anyone doesn’t look through the material (or if they forward it places it should go).
Since our investors all know how DocSend works, it definitely increases the pressure for them to look through the material. I’m essentially invoking the social norms of an in-person meeting. Just like it’s rude to be on your cellphone in a meeting (everyone can see you aren’t paying attention), it’s rude to not go through a DocSend link (or at least you had better have a good excuse).
If you put time in to making a thoughtful investor update, remember that you deserve to know who actually looks through it.
With DocSend, you can share sensitive materials with external business partners while getting real-time, actionable insights on document engagement, so you can be in full control of your business outcome. Say goodbye to email attachments once and for all. Start your free trial of DocSend now.