BoardSpring- A New Effort Promoting Board Governance Best Practices in Venture-Backed Companies

Russell Garland reported in today’s VentureWire that “Jarrett Collins, a managing director of NeoCarta Ventures, which is winding down, has launched BoardSpring to help directors of venture-backed companies learn about best practices.

“A venture-backed board has an opportunity to create or destroy a lot of value,” said Collins, who has spent some 20 years in the venture business. In his view, board practices generally in the venture industry are substandard and there are few organized resources to guide board members, outside of the work done by the National Venture Capital Association under the leadership of Pascal Levensohn of Levensohn Venture Partners.

BoardSpring is a members-only website for executives, investors and outside individuals who serve on the boards of venture-backed companies, or work closely with them, such as chief financial officers. The driving force, Collins said, was to create a place “where venture-backed-board members could really learn about best practices that could really drive their behavior.”

BoardSpring, set up under a holding company called Shipyard Venture Partners LLC, so far comprises Collins and a part-time graduate student. Collins is financing the project out-of-pocket. He has created some original content but mostly linked to blogs and other relevant subject matter on the Web, looking to present it in an organized manner.

Plans call for BoardSpring to eventually commission research on board governance for venture-backed companies as well as staging regional and perhaps national educational events. Collins said he quietly launched BoardSpring in October and has about 100 people on a weekly mailing list. He plans a formal rollout this summer. BoardSpring has so far organized one event, a meeting in Boston in February attended by about 50 people.

Collins said he would like to include a social-networking element, but would probably piggyback on existing networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

Collins launched the venture arm of Thomson Corp., now Thomson Reuters, and then in 1999 co-founded NeoCarta. The firm raised a lone $300 million fund in 1999 that it continues to manage via Collins and three other managing directors from offices in Wellesley, Mass., and San Mateo, Calif.

The firm has eight companies left in its portfolio, according to VentureWire records. One of them is Everyday Health Inc., a network of health websites that The Wall Street Journal recently ranked as one of the 50 most-promising venture-backed companies. Collins is on the Everyday Health board.

Collins, who is 49, said NeoCarta is not making new investments, has no plans to raise a second fund and is doing its best to manage its remaining assets through to liquidity. “For me, I’ve really found a passion in BoardSpring,” he said. “This is a chance to do something bigger than just personal enrichment.”

Jarrett reached out to me late last year, and we spoke and corresponded on his new venture. I shared with him the work that I have developed over the past 12 years on board governance best practices and am pleased to see someone else committing passion and personal resources to this important and underserved area of business.

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