Boards play a key role in the development and growth of scale-ups, innovation and the growth of our economy. Scale-ups require a different approach when it comes to governance, as they have different challenges than traditional boards of larger (listed) companies.
Traditionally, a board should supervise the manner in which the management board implements the long-term value creation strategy. This is written down in the Dutch Corporate Governance code.  This code is applicable to Dutch listed companies (traditional companies), not to scale-up companies. For scale-ups there is no governance code available. Although parts of the code might be helpful for scale-ups, applying the Dutch Corporate Governance code to scale-ups will not work.
The needs of scale-ups differ from those of traditional companies. Boards of scale-ups can bring vital experience and expertise, and play a critical role in supporting, rather than governing, the founder to help them build the business.
Scale-up boards can play different roles according to The Startup Board Report , as was discussed in the business cases used in the ScaleUpBoard program. Because of these different roles, diversity and agility is critical for board members of a scale-up. Especially in terms of:
- Strategy setting
- Monitor the operational and financial position and performance
- Founder support and mentoring
- Helping founders assess their leadership and succession planning
As scale-up boards play a different role compared to traditional boards, they need distinctly different board profiles. According to Dr. Natalia Blagburn, there are main differentiators in a profile for a scale-up board member compared to a board member of a traditional company . Board members in a scale-up should have (1) expertise in scale-up stages and high growth and (2) mentoring/supporting skills.
According to my experience, research and the knowledge gained during the ScaleUpBoard program, I would say that the following characteristics are key to the success of scale-up boards:
Alignment on purpose: Often boards under designed (composed by default), under led (no chair) and under resourced . Therefore, it is crucial they are aligned on the purpose.
Experience and expertise in scale-ups: Boards that bring the right balance of expertise, experience and access to senior global networks can help founders build faster growing and higher performing companies.
Mentoring/supporting: Board members play a critical role in supporting/mentoring the founder to the next stage of growth.
Agility: In scale-ups it is more about executing the opportunity rapidly and keeping up with market movement than detailed business planning and weighty board papers.
Diversity: Diversity is important for all boards, but the majority of start-up boards do not have any diversity targets in place for board recruitment and selection. 
Self-awareness: Boards are not evaluated (self or by 3rd party specialist), so they are rarely self-aware. 
 The Dutch Corporate Governance Code | 8 December 2016
 KPMG Enterprise | The Start up board report
 Dr Natalia Blagburn | Venture Board Effectiveness | 16 September 2021
Martine has a long track record as an HR professional. From consulting to scale-ups, she has held positions at Accenture, Danone, DLA Piper and Adyen. Martine is currently the Head of People at Studytube, a learning platform for companies, where everyone from employees to managers can complete training programs.
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