Quiz Time for Board Members!

The other night, at a startup holiday party I attended in San Francisco, a board member gave a funny toast in which he imagined the CEO quizzing the board on what the startup actually did.

As we all laughed over some imaginary acronyms, I imagined what I might ask the board members of some of this years’ most buzzed-about companies. They went a little like this:

1.  GROUPON: Please list all of Groupon’s proprietary advantages. Here, just put them on this Post-It.

2.  FACEBOOK: Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t want to take Facebook public, possibly ever. As a result, do you ever think, “Geez, I’d like to strangle that kid?”

3.  GOWALLA: Please tell us where you were at the exact moment you heard about a.) Foursquare’s Series B funding and b.) Facebook Places.

4.  INSTAGRAM: “If I see another photo dripping in candy colored hues, I’m going to kill myself.” True or false?

5. CRAIGSLIST: Trick question: you don’t have a board!

In the sober light of morning, I realized it’d be a better idea to poll entrepreneurs about what they’d most like to ask their board members to test their knowledge of their companies. Here are some of the questions they came up with. I think the feedback will give investors a little to think about.

1.    When is the last time you listened in on a sales call?

2.    What positions at the company are we most looking to fill?

3.    How have you personally increased the market value of the company (not including your firm’s investment)?

4.    How do you prepare for board meetings?

5.    Do you believe in replacing board members who don’t perform? (What sort of performance metrics should board members have to meet?)

6.    How often do you talk about the company with your partners? Partners at other firms? Other CEOs? The press?

7.    Are you planning on attending the company’s next off-site?

8.    What’s the name of the most popular person in the company? (Every company has one.)

9.    What’s the percentage of unallocated shares in the option pool?

10.  Why did the last employee leave the company? Have you met with this person to get more insight on your investment?