Optimizely CEO Dan Siroker’s Trick For How To Test Investors, Board Members

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Dan Siroker, the co-founder and CEO of Optimizely, a Y Combinator-backed company that helps businesses A/B test their webpages, says he’s got a trick for testing prospective investors.

He runs them through mock board meetings, he told founders and hackers at Y Combinator’s Startup School today in Cupertino.

Siroker says that the classic ways founders meet potential board members don’t work. They’re usually in fancy dinners or pitch meetings on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, where it’s hard to tell what an investor will have to offer a prospective company.

So when Optimizely was raising, they held fake board meetings to see who could offer the company the best guidance. Ultimately, they settled on Benchmark Capital and Peter Fenton to lead the company’s unusually large $28 million Series A round.

Siroker said Fenton didn’t fit what the founders originally thought they were looking for in a board member.

“He wasn’t technical. He didn’t have operational experience,” Siroker said. “But what he did have was a very good way of helping us get better in the feedback he gave us. He focused on asking the right questions, not on prescribing us the right answers.”

Optimizely is now a growth-stage company with a team of 130 people. Last year, they cleared $7.6 million in revenue with a team of 42 people, up from a team of 10 people and $1.2 million in revenue in 2011.

“We haven’t looked back,” he said.