Off The Record is an organization started by venture capital investors to support their founders. The program assigns founders into groups of 10 similar entrepreneurs who meet each month. What goes on during these meetings?
It’s a secret. Kind of…
What’s discussed between the members is kept confidential, but the structure of the meetings is always the same and something we want to share as a best practice.
The most important part of any meeting is making sure it actually happens. Founders are notoriously busy, and getting 10 of them into a room at the same time is never easy.
We schedule the group meetings for the entire year upfront, so founders always know when it’s going to happen and can plan their schedules around it.
Starting a meeting
First, we eat. Most groups decide to meet around 6pm on a weekday and order in food.
Each group has a pod leader who assigns the members responsibilities including: time keeper, scribe, and note taker.
The start of each meeting is a quick “check-in” with all of the members. Each founder shares with the group how they are feeling about their work and personal life on a scale from 1 (“I’m about to go bankrupt”) to 10 (“We just went public on the Nasdaq”). They also share 1–2 of their urgent, big picture issues. The scribe tracks this on a whiteboard and the note keeper takes a picture to keep in the group repository (usually a WhatsApp group).
[Then we take a potty break]
Issue Processing & Deep Dives
This is where it gets interesting.
One group member presents their issue to the group, and each of the members try to help them solve it. Whoever has the most urgent and important issue goes first.
After learning about the issue, the group members spend about 15 minutes asking additional probing questions (not yet giving advice). Once the group feels like they have exhausted all their questions and deeply understand the issue, then they start offering advice and solutions, which are tracked on the whiteboard.
The founder who presented the issue chooses which solutions they will try to implement and then reports back next week on the results — maintaining accountability is crucial.
Wrap Up & Housekeeping
After the deep issues are resolved, groups can hold a brief “popcorn” session where they ask for help on smaller issues — like recommendations for a good accountant or banking provider.
Most importantly, the group confirms their next monthly meeting to make sure everyone can still attend, or update it accordingly.