The Weekly Email

One of my favorite moves that I have seen founders do in the early stages of their company (think pre-seed, seed, and possibly into the Srs A stages), is the weekly email.

This can take a number of forms; a weekly email to the team, a weekly email to the investors, a weekly email to everyone, even a weekly email to yourself! It matters a bit who the audience is for the weekly email because it determines what the founder can put into the email.

But I am not sure it matters that much who the audience is. What matters more is a weekly cadence of what is on the founders mind, what happened in the last week, and what the objectives are for the coming week.

Early stage startups are hyper-changing environments. The founder needs to keep everyone aligned and on-board as he or she weaves and bobs around product market fit, the positioning of the company, the composition of the team, and a lot more. The weekly email does a good job of accomplishing that.

But more than anything, writing the weekly email is a tool for the founder to collect themselves, get grounded for the week ahead, and articulate what they and the company are doing and why.

I like Sunday evening for the timing of the weekly email best. It sets up the week to come. But any time over the weekend, or even monday morning, works fine.

If you are starting something new and want a routine that can help you get into a rhythm and stay there, consider the weekly email. It’s a great one.


Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    writing on a schedule with intent is game changing.

    1. Vendita Auto

      back in the day perhaps

      1. awaldstein

        more true every day actually

        1. Vendita Auto

          My algo agrees and would like to learn more

  2. thinkdisruptive

    Make a lot of sense. I would find it useful to see 3 or 4 examples of these from founders willing to share them, and i think it would make your point more strongly if we could see how the idea is being applied.

    1. joewaltman

      Ditto this….would love to see a few examples of these emails.

  3. William Mougayar

    And I would add that GitHub, Basecamp or Slack activity are not a reason to avoid that weekly update email. I see decentralized projects rely too heavily on online project status updates and they think that’s enough to communicate progress and reality to team members. It’s not.

    1. awaldstein

      to true.communications within large groups in these channels is really chaos.

      1. William Mougayar

        you can say that again. yup.

  4. Guy Lepage

    You read my mind.. I feel that newsletters are an excellent way to keep oneself focused and on track.. Just launched mine yesterday. 🙂

  5. Pete Griffiths

    One interesting wrinkle to this is self discipline.NEVER write anything shitty. If you have something difficult to communicate, say it in person. So no matter how stressed you are be very careful.

    1. Girish Mehta

      “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor WitShall lure it back to cancel half a Line,Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.” — Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

    2. Pointsandfigures


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  6. TeddyBeingTeddy

    Can you post an example of an excellent weekly email, with names omitted/redacted?

    1. Adam Parish

      Is the weekly email looking at the week ahead, the week behind, or a little bit of both?

  7. Sean Burke

    Really enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Richard

    Email to self: send email to self:

  9. LIAD

    – Copy Weekly Startup Email Concept – Find “Startup- Replace With “Life”- Write Email

  10. markslater

    David cancel of drift wrote this exact post on linked in yesterday.

  11. Susan Rubinsky

    When I worked at a software startup back in the day, there used to be a weekly conf call on Friday afternoon so everyone at Director level + could recap the week for the exec team. Then on Monday morning each Director and/or SVP would meet briefly with our teams first thing in the AM to delineate accomplishments/challenges from the prior week and communicate the plan for the coming week. Really loved this method.

  12. Phil Hayes-St Clair

    Couldn’t agree more. I’ve been writing each week for five years, pressing send on Sundays, and the benefits are immense.

  13. jason wright

    For some time i’ve been pondering getting a tablet with a pen to send hand written letters. I’m thinking that it might have more of an impact.

  14. Vendita Auto

    Soooo agree but AI will change the signal, Qbit small machines wus here …

  15. Chris Phenner

    I’d add that non-founders who write a Weekly Email will benefit. The first time I was a Sole BD Lead, I used to recap my Weekly Metrics in a Friday email. In the earliest days, each metric was ‘0.’ When you ‘write zeros’ to your founders enough, it focuses you. :)15 years later, I still write an ‘EOW’ email. Its first draft begins mid-day Monday, and I edit 10+ times per week as calls, meetings and movements happen. Single-sentence snippets that explain why $250k ACV turned into $200k ACV (for example).By Friday, it’s a finishing exercise. And scripts my recipe for Monday.Love the Weekly Email.

    1. karen_e

      This times ten.

  16. sigmaalgebra

    I just did some of that:Last weekend I finally got totally torqued and finished up an old project that lets me painlessly get to files no matter how the first parts of their tree names have changed due to the files being moved among different computers and hard drive partitions with different drive letters. I worked for 30+ hours, no rest or sleep, ended up with about 2233 lines of code typing and just wrote an ‘update’ e-mail about it, 605 lines of typing. This e-mail was just for family. Now all up to date!For writing anything like weekly update e-mails to investors, all hands, immediate subordinates, customers, etc. — no thanks. I’m dreading that.For investors, I hope never to have any such, especially because of the need for communications, e-mail and much more, for care and feeding. JLM has had some advice that sounds like wisdom obtained from paying “full tuition” along the lines of, IIRCNever confess any weaknesses to anyone who has the power to fire you.IIRC, some lawyers have emphasized that in case of any legal case, the fewer records that exist the better!!!For predicting what will accomplish next week, sure, that’s easy — all I can controlled mostly by things beyond my control and otherwise usual for software — much less than I can say now.History shows clearly that I CAN do the work; mostly I canNOT say with much accuracy how long it will take.At times, I’ve had spectacularly high software productivity, one time in an all-nighter saved our team at least 8 person-weeks, maybe 6-person months, of effort and ended up with a MUCH better product. It was by a nice margin the nicest piece of software in our group — won an award, with a check, for that.Uh, the key was I kept an entry variable with the value of an entry constant on the push-down stack of dynamic descendancy and exploited it. It WAS cute and darned productive.By analogy, there’s a project that has been directed from the CEO and run for six months. A guy seven levels deep in the organization needs his pencil sharpened. So, the guy stops the project, goes to the CEO’s office, and sharpens his pencil; all the work for the project from the CEO down for the last two months is redone just the same way as before, and the guy starts to use his pencil. That was the architecture! My solution was to give the guy direct access — via the entry variable back in the push down stack — to the pencil sharpener in the CEO’s office.Uh, right, never had a course in computer science! Taught such courses? Yup. Took any? Nope.If you really want to know how long it will take, then I’ll (A) do it all once and test and document it nicely and then (B) give you a good estimate, modulo unpredictable outside interruptions, how long it will take to do it AGAIN. Quite generally in software and much more, can give good time estimates ONLY for work very similar to work done successfully, often, and recently in the past. Sorry ’bout that. An old software developer newbie sucker question is,You REALLY believe it might take you THAT long?If I were to write weekly e-mails to investors predicting what I was going to do next week, beyond theFight the worst of the new fires; try to kick the rest of the fires down the road; get the HECK OUT of the office and take my computer setup to a cottage in the mountains and get some REAL work done.I’d be lucky to last through 52 such e-mails, just a year, because too many BoD Members would get all antsy about doing something, their fiduciary whatever, curious about “WHAT is he DOING in there with OUR money?”, even just stir the pot, or get totally torqued because over 50% of the predictions didn’t come true on time.For immediate subordinates, they darned well BETTER know what the heck the company is doing in their areas of responsibility — usually just the current stuff without any important predictions about the future — sure as heck without any Weekly Reader editions from me.I vividly remember, image burned into my brain, a senior staff meeting at FedEx: Founder, COB, CEO F. Smith had his notebook of topics and issues and went around the long table of his subordinates and relevant other people and asked for the update and information. No one had ANYTHING. Smith nodded and requested that the answers be available at the next senior staff meeting. At the next meeting, Smith went around the table again, and, right, presto, bingo, exactly NO one, not even one, person had ANY of the requested information. NO one had their weekly homework assignment done. Not a big surprise — at the first meeting, NONE of the people took notes.What the heck was Smith going to do, immediately fire all the senior staff and kill the company?In response, when I start to hire such staff, one by one as I hire them I’ll test and check their ability to get such homework done on time. I’ll expect them to show up at meetings with a calendar and ability to take notes — on paper, a PC, whatever. That IS one place I’d believe that most women would do MUCH better than most men. If they can’t do homework, then time for me to know this and fix it one subordinate at a time — hopefully by leading them and not firing them — and not wait until I have the same problem with all of them on the same day where it would appear that the culture had become to ignore such homework assignments.To be clear, they are welcome to do their best thinking in bed, in the shower, looking at the stars at 2 AM, sitting in a stall in the restroom, etc., but when there is an actual piece of routine work due at 10 AM on the next Monday, they need to take that seriously enough to get it done nearly always, modulo two feet of snow, several data sources out with the flu, etc. Everyone ignoring the specific task as happened at FedEx is not acceptable — need to do much better “running a tight ship” than that.For all hands, I’ll let my COO do that. Apparently that all hands stuff didn’t do very well for Marissa at Yahoo — but that picture of her in Vogue or some such looked GOOD, like there was SOMETHING Darwin had in mind she COULD be good at!For customers, when the company is small, I can tweak the About page on the Web site.Later, I’ll let some marketing or PR guy handle that. E.g., I own three GM cars, but I don’t get weekly e-mails, or any communications, from GM; I get little or no weeklies from any of the main places I shop, from Sam’s to Amazon. Communications to all the user/customers need not be frequent for all companies.

  17. Chaim Klar

    I do weekly emails for a few years already, nice idea to include an incrementing number to the subject line (i.e. Weekly update #143) it adds some flair.

    1. Chaim Klar

      The question is, how do you suggest the receiving end to respond? Is ignoring ok? Should they reply with questions? Slight pointed thanks? Or?

  18. Pointsandfigures

    Do you think this applies to fund managers and LPs?

  19. Nicholas W. Stuller

    Great advice. I have been reading AVC for about three months, and have learned two very important lessons, this being one of them. Thank you Fred

  20. Luke Thomas

    I’ve been working on this problem for over 2 years ( A few learnings:- virtually all communication “channels” have been built around ad-hoc communication (Slack, email, etc). This is great for collaboration, but it’s needed to take a step back and write something more thoughtful.- structured communication w/ regular prompts significantly increases the signal in the noise of everyday communications.- This is something that every person in the company can do, not only the CEO- Structured, regular communications that flows throughout the organization is key component of top-performing companies. See Amazon’s “press release” document when working back from customer. Also, look at how Square requires anyone in a meeting of two or more people to take notes, which Dorsey reviews everyday.