DTU teaches the art of being a board member: “The most important thing is everything you can’t just read about”


Research shows that startups and scaleups with boards generally perform better. That is why DTU Board Education teaches the special skills board members need to create value.

Research shows that startups and scaleups with boards generally perform better. That is why DTU Board Education teaches the special skills board members need to create value.

This post is also available in: Danish

Practice makes perfect, they say. But how do you practice something that requires trying it in real life?

At DTU Board Education, board members are trained using real startup, scaleup and SME cases throughout the program. Combined with the latest research, this is the key to learning how to create value for a company, says Anne Malberg Horsager, Director, DTU Board Education.

“Being a board member is not like being a CEO or owner – it is a discipline on its own. That’s why the whole course is practical and directly connected to the ecosystem out here. There are no theoretical cases. You are hands-on from day 1 and the founders of the case companies are always present, ready to give direct feedback.”

Before the process, the case companies send their pitch deck and materials to prepare the board delegates . This forms the basis for everything from board meetings to feedback sessions that are simulated 1:1 as they would take place in real life.

The ambition is to sharpen the students’ skills in a boardroom, but just as much to help them bring their competencies into play in the right way, Anne Malberg Horsager explains.

“We know from research that companies with boards grow faster and are more robust. At the same time, many founders struggle with board members who approach their work the wrong way. That’s why we practice appropriate behavior just as much as anything else: Do you play well together? Do owner-managers feel seen, met and heard? Do you create a shared realization? A lot of it is about the way you bring your own skills into play.”

Anne Malberg Horsager Program Director for DTU Board Education

Part of the ecosystem

For many years, DTU has been a large self-sufficient ecosystem where startups, students, venture funds and research interact every day.

That is why DTU Board Education classes often fish in the talent pool of up-and-coming startups and scaleups associated with DTU.

One of the selected case companies has been the DTU X-Tech spinout Reel, which works every day to democratize the green electricity market for small businesses.

“When we pitched to the fictitious board, we experienced a group of people who had really prepared themselves. The sparring was sharp and they gave us some important perspectives and approaches to networking,” says Jon Sigvert, co-founder and CEO of Reel.

One of the participants was Peter Larsen, CEO of the startup PHLIT. The course prepared him so well that he subsequently became a board member of Reel.

“The most important thing about board work is everything you can’t just read about. At DTU Board Education, you are thrown into a creative ecosystem of entrepreneurs, startups, investors and researchers, where you can discuss actual issues with real companies. It’s really cool,” says Peter Larsen.

At DTU Board Education the ambition is to sharpen students skills in a boardroom but just as much to help them put their skills to work in the right way

Full circle

Today, Peter Larsen has also become an investor in Reel.

Since its founding, the company has been so successful that it is categorized as a growing scaleup. And one of the keys has been a professional board of directors, says Jon Sigvert.

“It’s definitely something I would recommend to other startups, because it’s a way to get access to some super skilled, competent and subject-specific people who are usually very difficult to get access to. It’s worth its weight in gold for a young company.”

A good board can provide invaluable advice on everything from growth and capital raising to internationalization and exit preparation. That’s why the collaboration between Peter Larsen and Reel is a good example of one of the things DTU Board Education hopes to achieve.

“Board work is about much more than going to board meetings. It’s about being part of the journey and bringing the relevant skills into a company in the right way. And our program is one of the only times when startups and scaleups will experience that they are not the ones being grilled,” smiles Anne Malberg Horsager.

DTU Board Education

  • 3-month program
  • +16 days of training and board meetings at DTU
  • Participants are founders, innovators, board members, business developers, managers, specialists and investors.
  • Participants create value for boards by expanding their leadership toolbox and mindset and by working with live cases in start-ups, scale-ups and SME boards.
  • The program is a mix of lectures, teamwork, live board work sessions, coaching, feedback and dialog with board members, founders, managers, investors, experts and DTU professors.

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