Boardroom Governance with Evan Epstein

Heidi Roizen: "A Good Board Member Has to Be Willing to Speak Truth, Even When It Is Unpopular"

Episode Summary

In this episode, I talk with Heidi Roizen, a partner of Threshold Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based Venture Capital firm. Heidi serves on the boards of Zoox, Planet, Polarr, Memphis Meats, DMGT (LSE: DMGT), and Invitation Homes (NYSE: INVH). Earlier in her career, Heidi co-founded T/Maker, where she served as CEO for over a decade through its acquisition by Deluxe Corporate in 1994. Next, she joined Apple as VP of Worldwide Developer Relations, and from there, Mobius Venture Capital. She's been named to the Corporate Board Member's "Top 50 Women in Tech" list and Hot Topics' Top 100 Women in Tech. In 2018, Heidi was named the Financial Woman of the Year by the Financial Women of San Francisco. She has also earned the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives Annual Achievement Award, among other accolades.

Episode Notes

  1. Start of Interview [1:32]
  2. Heidi's origin story and career pre-venture capital [2:00]
  3. Heidi's first board experience: Great Plains Software prior to its IPO in 1997 [6:01]
  4. Joining Softbank Venture Capital (Mobius Venture Capital) in 1999 [09:09]
  5. The HBS Heidi Roizen Case Study [12:50]
  6. Her experience with foreign boards (UK, Canada) and take on transnational directors [16:21]
  7. Re-entering the VC market with DFJ and Threshold Ventures [23:25]
  8. Private tech company board governance challenges [25:36]
    1. Startups staying private for longer, and getting bigger [25:48]
    2. Change of terms based on cyclical nature of the market ("dual class shares is a grey area") [26:31]
  9. Founder-friendly terms [29:55]
  10. To be a good investor or board member "you have to be willing to speak truth even when unpopular" [31:48]
  11. Dealing with "dual fiduciary duties": be clear about what hats you wear (investor vs company) [32:08]
  12. There will be a "flight to quality" in venture investing [37:06]
  13. Director Independence in Silicon Valley, social ties and networks [38:56]
  14. Distinctions between serving on public and private venture-backed boards [42:27]
  15. Her joke-caution to entrepreneurs: "be careful what VC you pick, because it's harder to divorce your VC than your spouse!" [45:34]
  16. Board self-evaluation. "Collegiality doesn't mean that you're only nice and friendly to each other, but it also means that you have to have a working relationship where you can be honest with each other." [46:16]
  17. On the CA corporate board gender diversity bill (SB-826) [48:35]
  18. Heidi's views on stakeholder capitalism or ESG: "I think that companies earn the right to satisfy a broader stakeholder base by also remaining viable." Big difference between private and public companies in this regard [51:47]
  19. Her favorite books: "Thinking Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman, "Atomic Habits" by James Clear, "Loving What Is" by Byron Katie with Stephen Mitchell, "Never Split the Difference" by Chris Voss [56:15]
  20. Heidi's mentors: her father, Bill Gates, Ann Winblad, Tina Seelig, Emily Melton and Josh Stein [57:25]
  21. Her favorite quote is The Shirley MacLaine 20/40/60 Rule: “At 20, you care what everyone is thinking about you. At 40, you don't give a damn what people are thinking about you. At 60, you realize no one is thinking about you." [58:38] 
  22. Her "unusual habit": she's a glass artist [01:00:15]
  23. The living person she most admires: Bill and Melinda Gates "In 100 years from now, when people look back to Bill and Melinda,  Microsoft is only going to be a footnote. What they do as philanthropists is really what people will talk about." [01:01:05]
  24. How to find Heidi online:
    2. Email:   


Music/Soundtrack (found via Free Music Archive): Seeing The Future by Dexter Britain is licensed under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License