Being the founder of a startup is a lonely experience. You are constantly faced with hard decisions that need to be made with incomplete information. Many of these decisions are business-critical. Yet, you have limited people from whom you can get input.
Of course great VCs play this role and many founders rely on VCs for input to hard decisions. Founders can and should also form or join peer groups of trusted other founders where they can open up and be vulnerable. That’s one reason I loved my experience with Vistage.
I think when you choose an independent board member you should be thinking about somebody who can mentor you. It’s valuable to have somebody who knows all of the confidential details of your company, knows the perspectives of your investors, knows your extended team, knows your industry and importantly knows YOU. It’s true that since they’re a board member it’s not the same as having a peer listen to you, but being able to open up to a non-investor board member can be hugely rewarding.