Board Dynamics Over the Startup Life Cycle

Board Dynamics Over the Startup Life Cycle

Michael Ewens, Nadya Malenko

Series number :

Serial Number: 

Date posted :

July 09 2020

Last revised :

March 18 2021
SSRN Share


  • venture capital • 
  • board of directors • 
  • Corporate governance • 
  • Independent Directors • 
  • Mediation

Venture capital (VC) backed firms face neither the regulatory requirements nor a major separation of ownership and control of their public peers. These differences suggest that independent directors could play a unique role on private firm boards. This paper explores the dynamics of VC-backed startup boards using novel data on director entry, exit, and characteristics.

We document new facts about board composition, allocation of control, and dynamics, and examine the roles of independent directors. At formation, a typical board is entrepreneur-controlled. Independent directors join the median board after the second financing, when board control becomes shared, with independent directors holding the tie-breaking vote between entrepreneurs and VCs. At later stages, control switches to VCs and independent director characteristics change. These patterns are consistent with independent directors playing both a mediating and advising role over the startup life cycle, and thus representing another potential source of value-add to startup performance.


Real name:
Michael Ewens