There is no doubt mentors can help you build a successful startup. Research shows that entrepreneurs … [+]
According to MicroMentor, mentors contribute significantly to startup success rates. In their study, they found that mentored founders increased startup revenue by 83% as compared to only 16% for non-mentored entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the study shows that entrepreneurs are less likely to execute on their ideas without a mentor. 42% of mentored businesses started as opposed to 29% without a mentor.
There is no doubt mentors can help you build a successful startup. It’s priceless to have someone who has gone through a similar path, made costly mistakes and managed to overcome the biggest challenges help you make decisions that save you money and time while guiding you through a path with a less bumpy road than the one they took.
Here is how to find mentors to help you launch your startup app idea.
1. Business Communities
The answers are out there for those who look. Today, there are thousands of business communities with members who can help you answer burning questions. If you have the time to engage, build relationships and help the group, you will find support when you need it.
The drawback of relying exclusively on business community support is that you may not get the level of personalized mentorship you need. Those communities are created to help members publicly which in turn inspires and answer other people’s questions. It’s like asking a health question to a community of doctors. Too many answers can get you even move confused.
I found that business communities are most valuable when you are looking for feedback on a job done but not necessarily on how to get a certain job done. For instance, asking a group, “I built Y, I’d love to hear your thoughts,” is not the same as, “I’m working on testing hypothesis X by building Y, how do you suggest I do that.”
The reason is, there are many ways a product can be built and tested. The answer will depend on many variables like budget, competing products, founders’ programming skills, willingness and feasibility to start with a non-scalable approach, etc. Community members’ answers will differ and can get you even more confused. For those types of questions and a more personalized guidance approach, consider the following paths.
2. Cold Outreach
Entrepreneurs at a later stage in their journey and mentors in general are always willing to help. You may be one email away from getting quality advice from entrepreneurs you have always looked up to. Here’s how.
Start by engaging with the list of your target mentors on social media. Like and write thoughtful comments on their posts several times within at least a two weeks period until you get noticed. Look for a recent announcement they made or an article they shared that you find insightful. Use the announcement or the article as a reason to strike a conversation over email without asking for anything.
If they answered to your first email, reply asking if it’s OK to send them your questions. Asking for a permission to get their insights is key because if they’re not available, they will ask you to circle back in the future. However, if you send them questions they never wanted to answer in the first place, you’re likely never going to hear from them back again or at least not until you meet under different circumstances.
As you can see, there are ways to get the top experts to help you overcome big challenges, however, it’s a long and unsustainable process. Once you get an answer, most of the time, you won’t get a reply to your follow up questions until a few weeks later if any. This mentorship channel is great for building relationships with future investors, advisors and partners while getting insights from time to time.
Just like with anything else in life, the mentorship channel that will help you the most and get you the best results requires some level of compensation. Here’s how and why.
3. Compensated Mentors
The reality is, every successful business was created with the support of mentors. Whether it is spending hours filtering through and testing answers obtained from business communities or investing in seminars, conferences, courses and directly paying advisors through cash, equity or both.
Often times, entrepreneurs budget for an investment that will allow them to take a product to market but don’t consider the consequences of building the wrong products, making the wrong hiring decisions, investing in ineffective marketing channels, etc. Compensated mentors can save entrepreneurs tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours by drawing from years of experience to help their mentees make decisions that optimize results.
Here are different ways to compensate mentors depending on your needs, stage and goals.
If you are a non-technical founder looking for a technical partner to help you build the product, you can accomplish two things in one by hiring partners with an experience building and growing startups. Building startup products is unlike any other technology project. Look for partners that can help you build a startup not just an app.
If you are a solo founder or a team and have the time to join an accelerator, this is a channel that can expose you to a group of mentors with complementary skills who can help you in many areas. One of the other benefits of startup accelerators is that they can lead to an investment.
Accelerators are compensated through equity in your startup. To minimize risk, they are very selective in the startups they accept to their programs. It is easier to get into Harvard than the top accelerators like Y Combinator and Techstarts. Thousands of startups apply, less than 3% are accepted.
Most accelerators require your full-time participation and commitment to the program. If you don’t have the time to join an accelerator, look for local startup incubators. Like accelerators, some incubators have a selection process, but most will let you into their facility and network of founders and mentors for a fee.
If you’re bootstrapping a startup and don’t plan on raising funds yet, look for mentors who can get involved in the business as advisors. Through biweekly or monthly meetings, they can help you make big decisions with confidence.
There are many successful founders who are open to get involved in interesting ventures. Reach out to them as described in the second channel above. This is the best channel if you’re building a startup on the side and need help making the right decisions to reach your goals faster while avoiding costly mistakes that will set you back, especially if you have many commitments like another business or a job.
In sum, entrepreneurs who are not leveraging the power of mentors are leaving money on the table. When you decide to build a startup app idea, you’re betting on the viability and potential of your hypotheses and your ability to execute. Involving a mentor who has been in your shoes is the best way to better yourself and make wiser investments.
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