Advice on Startup Advice

I spend quite a bit of time mentoring startups.  In an average week I’ll have a handful of meetings and a couple of hours worth of follow up or homework.

On of my biggest pet peeves in mentoring is unrealistic expectations from someone requesting advice from me for the first time. I’m happy to meet with just about anyone.  I’ll listen to any idea and I’ll give you candid, unfiltered feedback.

I’ve noticed a trend recently where younger entrepreneurs show up with expectations that I am suddenly their startup champion.  Even before we’ve really explored what their product/service is, how it fits, etc, I’m getting peppered with requests for introduction, investment or product advice.

If you’re a fresh startup and asking me to meet with you, slow down.  Take the time to make sure I understand what your product or service does and why you think it’s important.  Come with a handful of questions that you think my background can help you with (hint: it should be product related).  Get to know me and let me know you.  At the end of the meeting, ask for a second meeting.

The second meeting is where we should both be able to define what actionable items I can a) help with b) am willing to do.

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Advisors and Equity

I read an article this morning that really resonated.  When I started my first startup, I was hell bent on assembling a team of advisors with industry expertise and big company logo.

As George point out, and my experience proved out, seeking “advisors” and giving them equity doesn’t mean good advice.

Truly experienced and credible people –more often than not– have made some money throughout their career. This is also a testament to their track record so far, if not anything else. Now, if one can afford to pay for it, her money comes cheaper than her time. In other words, she would prefer to invest and act as an angel, rather than as an advisor per se. In this case, the interests are aligned and advice comes naturally, plus the company gets some cash.

Every startup that I’ve been at since my own I have preached this advice.  If they’re really interested in helping and believe in your idea, they’ll want to invest.