iPads in the board room
I don’t know about the rest of the country, but Sand Hill Road has clearly embraced the iPad. There was a time when every VC on Sand Hill proudly carried the latest, greatest Palm Pilot. No self-respective VC would be caught without one. And for good reason. Suddenly VCs could carry their calendars with them (no need to print out a pesky piece of paper) and have their contacts at their fingertips. It was a huge improvement over the status quo and increased the efficiency of VCing greatly.  Plus, it just looked cool when you pulled out your Palm Pilot at a board meeting. It said to everyone at the meeting, “hey, I’m on top of all this tech crap and I have the tools necessary to be a world class VC, so check me out.”
Fast forward a decade and that tool of choice for the VC world is the iPad. Since its launch, the iPad has taken over the board room. I have not attended a single board meeting since the day the iPad shipped in which at least one iPad wasn’t present. Ok, that’s not exactly a fair measure, given that i have carried my iPad to every board meeting since launch. But I am not alone. In nearly every board meeting I attend, multiple iPads are unfurled. In a recent board meeting, after every VC in the room pulled out his iPad 3G in matching black Apple case, one of the entrepreneurs in the room noted, “I take it the iPad is the new board room toy of choice.” Indeed, it is.
And I think there’s good reason that the VC community has embraced the iPad for board meetings. Prior to the launch of the iPad, VCs would arrive at a board meeting and promptly set up their laptops. Anyone who’s attended a meeting of laptop users knows that it is not the most conducive environment for discussion. Open laptops create a real obstacle to discussion. Perhaps it is the clicking of keys. Perhaps it is the physical barrier the laptops create. Whatever it is, the VC community has realised that an iPad lying flat on the table does not have the same effect. It is possible to pull up your calendar, browse for a piece of information, share relevant contact info (and, in all truthfulness, scan your email) with minimal interruption on the iPad. Less distraction. Less interruption. Better board meetings.
The iPad has also eliminated the need to print out board slides. For a decade now I have been greeted at board meetings with printouts of the latest PowerPoint deck. Some folks like to take notes on the printouts, but most of us just use them to see the teeny tiny little numbers in the financial updates. Thankfully, the iPad is a fantastic PDF viewer and has made the wasteful printing of slides a practice that will go the way of the dinosaurs. At least I hope so.
I will say that, for some, the iPad is perhaps not the perfect board room device. If you actually want to take notes, the iPad is not your friend — I have yet to find anyone who can type with speed or accuracy on the thing. That said, the former litigator in me thinks that’s more of a feature than a flaw. I personally think that hanging on to board notes is a recipe for disaster. It is a bit like keeping delicious smelling food in your tent. Eventually you will attract a bear.
If you are not a note taker, the iPad is the board room device for you. It does all the things you’d need for a great board experience, plus you can play some awesome games if you arrive a little early. You can count on seeing a whole lot more iPads at board meetings — all meetings for that matter — in the months to come. You’ll certainly see me with iPad in hand.
 I’m sure there is no such word as “VCing” but I think there should be. If I were to define “VCing” it would be the act of being a VC. Dictionary people please take note.
David Hornik is a VC at August Capital. This post was originally published on his blog, VentureBlog, and is republished under the Creative Commons-attribution licence. Follow David on Twitter at @davidhornik.
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