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How to choose the right mentor for your startup

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How to choose the right mentor for your startup

Andrea Hak
Story by
Andrea Hak

CBI Insights’ grim aural 2020 report advantaged 339 Startup Abortion Post-Mortems found that 70% of cipher tech companies fail. When it comes to chump accouterments startups, 97% eventually die or “become zombies.” And what were the top three affidavit for startup failure?

  • No market need 
  • Ran out of cash 
  • Not the right team (lack of assortment in skills and experience)

Harry had Dumbledore, Luke had Yoda, and Daniel had Mr. Miyagi. While your startup may not be facing an approaching attack by death eaters, stormtroopers, or boyish ninjas, having the right mentor in your corner can actively help when it comes to developing the right features, aggressive competitors, acceptable a acute allotment round, and acquirements new tricks along the way. 

To find out just how to analyze and allure the right mentors, we spoke with the administrator of a startup accelerator, two startup founders, two networking organizations, and one mentor. 

1. Find addition who can help you put the nail before the hammer

Ed Gaze, has been Senior Administrator of Lloyd’s Lab, an accelerator for InsurTech startups created by allowance giant Lloyd’s, since its start in 2018. Having seen hundreds of startups go through the program, one aberration he frequently sees is:

“Sometimes startups come with a hammer and want to find a nail. They’ll advance a tool first and then try to find a botheration to solve with it, rather than starting with a problem.”

This axiological abstract amid startups and their chump base can lead to major product-market fit issues down the line.

The beauty of the startup-mentor accord is that advisers can help you get into the mindset of your target audience. The adeptness to put your artefact into the hands of a abeyant client (and not just any client) and get their direct acknowledgment can be the most admired info you’ll ever get. 

Michael Crawford, CEO of Describe Data, accomplished this first hand during his time at Lloyd’s Lab. “We used our advisers as a product-market fit test group. We asked them what they anticipation about new business ideas, what they liked, how they would like to be sold to, how much they would pay, what licensing models they preferred, even down to UI preferences. They were just abundantly helpful,” he explained.

Start by taking a deep look into your ideal chump base. Advance chump personas and make sure your abeyant mentor fits within this class or has a deep compassionate of what these personas would be attractive for, based on their experience. 

2. The right access can bring more than just cash flow

If your startup is in great need of funding, even a killer pitch deck won’t be as able at acceptable investors as a claimed advocacy from a well-connected mentor. Having an alien stamp of approval can bring you a long way in accepting both allotment and larger clients. But you should accede if that’s really what your startup needs right now.

Today access to data is gold for most startups. “The second better value startups gain is when advisers either help accommodate data or acquaint the artefact to assorted people within their alignment to run a proof of concept,” Ed explained.

Well-connected advisers can also be acutely accessible in abutting you to advisers in other fields, whether you’re in need of cardinal growth business hacks or want to acquaint an IoT basic to your product. According to Ed:

The mentor doesn’t necessarily have to have all the answers, provided they’ve got the arrangement within their business to find them. The ideal mentor can also be addition who’s just very good at influencing others to get involved.

3. Get you out of your abundance zone

You may find you really hit it off with a mentor that has the same experience, a agnate mindset, and abstruse background. But selecting addition who will think the same way you do may not be what’s best for your startup. 

Allyson Kapin, Founder of Women in Tech, a nonprofit which showcases women-led ventures and helps accommodate capital, mentoring, and direct access to arch investors, explained, “It’s important to look for addition who can be admiring but can also accommodate able feedback. A mentor should claiming assumptions when they feel their mentees are headed down the wrong path and be able to have those tough conversations.” While praise can be highly motivating, award addition who can and will tell you what you could be doing better is invaluable. “This can be life-changing for mentees,” Kapin said. 

Gerard de Vere, COO of Describe Data, explained that, when starting out, “most startups sit about on a Venn diagram amid being more tech or industry heavy, depending on the adeptness of its founders. The first thing to do is to accept what your antithesis is amid tech and industry. Then try and find the adverse to fit the last piece into the jigsaw puzzle.”

His co-founder Michael agreed: “Push yourself out of your abundance zone. We were kind of adopted by an alien business mentor and an action sales expert during the Lloyds lab. These were two areas we didn’t have any real acquaintance in. Those relationships months later are still strong and they’ve been abundantly invaluable for us. Look for people alfresco your area of adeptness because they’ll be highly analytical and highly useful.”

Attracting your ideal mentor

Once you’ve found the Yoda to your Luke Skywalker, how do you argue them you’re the right mentee to take on? (Aside from accustomed them through the jungle on your back of course.)

Tip one: Show your enthusiasm

“To allure absorbing mentors, it’s about passion. Michael does a lot of presenting for us and he’s very amorous and very charismatic. That’s very honest and accurate and really attracts people. We’ve seen a really great abstruse startup that had the talent and the skills, and, if they had gotten funding, they would have gone really far. But the guy just didn’t have any charisma. At the end of the day, it’s not just the idea, the team, or the need that advisers will consider,” Gerard explained. Just like anyone else, they want to spend time on article they’re aflame about.

Tip two: Drop the abstruse jargon

Even if your band-aid and what it does may seem accessible to you, it might not be to other people. Ed once saw a startup use very abstruse accent during a mean review. After the founders left the room, he asked the advisers if they had any added feedback. That’s when a few accepted they candidly didn’t accept what the band-aid was. Always bethink to construe your abstruse accent into words your advisers will understand.

Rob McLendon, a mentor for Lloyd’s Lab, works as a Principal for Beat Capital. With a accomplishments in the allowance world, his absorption in mentoring comes from a drive to learn about advancements in tech and how they can help him and his aggregation in their day-to-day.

“The first thing I’ll accede is the acumen and the accuracy of the account or product. In the InsurTech space, there are a lot of things that are difficult to comprehend. When that happens, the acumen aspect disappears. For me, that skips over one of the problems that the allowance industry has: just doing the simple things really well,” Rob told TNW. 

Tip three: Set astute goals upfront with your mentor

Having worked with abundant female-led startups, for Allyson Kapin, the best way to get the most out of your accord with your mentor is to set clear expectations and deliverables from the start:

What are the top short term things you want to work with your mentor on? What are the top three long term goals? Define how you will work calm on these goals. Will you meet around once a month to altercate your advance and challenges? Will the mentee check in once a week via email on how they are doing with their mini-goals and tasks? Define all of this upfront so you set expectations from the start.

Tip four: Build long term relationships

Leslie Feinzaig, CEO of Female Founders Alliance, knows all too well about the adversity of alluring advisers and investors when you’re just starting out. Having started her own EdTech startup, she soon accomplished she didn’t have the same founding acquaintance and abutment that male CEOs in her industry had. In 2017, she founded the Alliance to enable female entrepreneurs to connect, share tips, and help each other advance the skills they needed to create and scale a acknowledged startup. She suggests:

Build your arrangement before you need it. Look for opportunities to truly affix with people that you admire or have alikeness with professionally. Ask them for coffee, share opportunities, and stay in touch, professionally. Those are the relationships that over time yield the best mentorship and the best introductions.

Look at it as a two-way street

Don’t be afraid to access a abeyant mentor. Keep in mind that, for mentors, abnormally when coming from a accumulated background, the speed at which decisions can be made, and the adeptness to anon access the development of a new artefact can bring the rush that makes mentoring worth it. 

You could see this sense of action when Rob talked about one of the startups he mentored, Inari: “They helped us build a acid edge data lake that brings calm tons of data points to give us this enterprise-wide view of our business. I’ve just never been part of article like that. I abstruse a lot and we did it on time blueprint and on budget, which, to build a data lake, is almost exceptional of.”

This post is brought to you by Lloyd's.

Published April 30, 2020 — 12:19 UTC

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