Mentorship — the right kind of friendship with benefits. Techstars’ Graham Mann wrote a good piece detailing 5 Ways To Get More From Your Mentor Relationship, which I definitely recommend reading if you’re a founder. Mann recommends that founders prepare in advance of meeting with a mentor and to have a willingness to show vulnerbility among other things. Mann’s post pushed me to consider why mentor relationships are facilitated in the first place.
We offer a mentorship program to help founders work on different aspects of business planning and financial statements as we move through the accelerator. Our mentors are a tremendous resource for us to have on board and we encourage the founders to take advantage of their expertise.
Checking-in and connecting on specific topics enables both sides to best posture for the future.
Founders aren’t going to want to do “homework” unless it applies to their business and mentors are there to help guide theory-based teaching and accelerate practical application. The network of mentors we’ve assembled for the current cohort include Darden Business School, investors, operators, lawyers and industry experts. Below is a list of what I consider to be the optimal outcomes of mentorship:
- Validate an opportunity where customers are willing to pay for a product or a service
- Assist founders with moving forward into the community and the economy
- Provide real value, not just time
- Evaluate the management capability of entrepreneurs
- When capital requirements are appropriate and relevant, assist entrepreneurs in connecting with funding
- Create a culture that emphasizes hard work/bootstrapping vs. being “cool”; maintain pressure and a sense of urgency — that basement/kitchen table feel vs. cool, hipster hangout
- Assist entrepreneurs in developing relationships with real, quality people
- Build the product/service, validate the product/service
- Acquire basic tools for successful entrepreneurship that include incorporation and assembling a board
- Develop competitive advantage
- Link strategy to execution
- Help founders understand the role of VCs and angels in early stage startups
- Terminology and contracts
- Customer development
- Marketing — how to understand growth potential based on market size
- Sales — how to run a good “sales call”
These are outcomes that I like to see come from a good mentorship. If you have other goals in mind that should come from a mentee/mentor relationship, then please list them below in the comments.