If you’re a startup planning to fundraise, you need to have an investor dashboard. Also known as the CEO dashboard, executive dashboard or KPI dashboard, this is the place where board members, potential investors and your team can see the company’s key metrics. In this post, I'll show how easy it is for any startup to use Google Data Studio to create a live dashboard of their key metrics for free.
Choosing Your Startup Metrics
First, you need to decide what KPIs to include in your CEO dashboard. There are plenty of opinions on which metrics matter the most, but here are a few starting points:
- Your Startup’s 10 Most Important Metrics, by Tomasz Tunguz
- The Seven Startup Metrics You Must Track, by David Ehrenberg
- 16 Startup Metrics, from Andreesen Horowitz
Once you've chosen the startup metrics for your dashboard, arrange them into four categories:
- Top 3 Metrics
- Marketing Metrics
- Sales Metrics
- Financial Metrics
With this structure, your investors will first see the top three metrics driving your organization, followed by additional metrics on the top of the funnel, the bottom of the funnel, and your financials.
Connecting the Data Sources
Google Data Studio connects to popular Google data sources, like Google Analytics and BigQuery, as well as standard MySQL and PostgreSQL databases. The first step in creating your startup metrics dashboard is to connect the data sources. Assuming you're using Google Analytics to track your website traffic, this is where your marketing data will come from:
But what about the rest of your metrics? Even if most of your user data is stored in a database, chances are financial data and other key metrics are distributed in a variety of systems...
The Google Sheets Hack
Google Sheets is the perfect intermediary for your dashboard. Create a spreadsheet with date as the first column, followed by all of the metrics you can't get directly into Data Studio:
For calculated metrics (such as number of days before running out of money), you can either do the calculation in Google Sheets or in Data Studio.
To help you build the first version of your startup metrics dashboard, manually enter the data for a range of dates. Once your dashboard is finished, you could certainly continue entering the data manually, but that's probably not the best use of your time. Thankfully, we can layer on another hack using Zapier.
Zapier + Google Sheets
Zapier enables you to create workflows to seamlessly transfer data between cloud services. For example, if your SaaS startup uses Stripe for payment processing, you can use Zapier to put sales data into Google Sheets:
Depending on the data source, you may need to do some additional math in Google Sheets in order to get the data into the correct format (alternatively, you can put the raw data into a Google Sheet and do the math in Data Studio).
Creating Your Startup Metrics Dashboard
Now that you've got the data, it's time to create your dashboard. Data Studio has an WYSIWYG editor that allows you to easily add charts and numeric metrics to your dashboard.
Start by creating the basic structure for your dashboard. The design features of Data Studio are limited to inserting images, adding simple shapes, and editing fonts and colors, but it's enough to create a basic design that highlights your top three metrics and presents the rest of your metrics in a structured way.
Next, start adding your metrics to the dashboard. Select the chart type you want to add (use "scorecard" for a numeric metric) and drag-and-drop to size it correctly:
Using the menu on the right, select the data source for your chart:
Then, select the attributes to use for your chart. Attributes in green are dimensions (for example, date) while attributes in blue are metrics:
Use the dropdown under "Type" to select the appropriate data type for your metrics. Data Studio uses this to determine how to format the metrics (for example, displaying a dollar sign for US currency). The "Aggregate" dropdown determines how multiple values within a date range are combined.
Once you've selected the attributes, make sure that the date range for your chart is correct. Most charts in Data Studio have a date filter associated with them, which defaults to "Last 28 days". You'll need to adjust this for many of your metrics (for example, to "Yesterday" for point-in-time metrics, or "This Year" for year-to-date metrics). Clicking the "Custom" radio button will bring up these options:
Using Calculated Metrics
Calculated metrics (also known as "derived metrics") are metrics you create using formulas. For example, you might want to show the number of days of cash remaining. Data Studio allows you to create calculated fields using any attributes from a data source:
Once you've created your metrics, adjust the data type and aggregates as before and add them to your charts.
Polish and Publish
Google Data Studio is still very much a beta product, so it may take some work to get exactly the dashboard you want (for example, there are currently a number of limitations with the calculated fields, date ranges and automatic formatting). Once it's ready, you can share your startup metrics dashboard publicly or on a limited basis using the same sharing controls used by Google Docs and other Google products: