Building A Wiser Startup Community With Mentorship

Seeking help doesn't make you a weak entrepreneur


Something that is often an issue for aspiring entrepreneurs is that they are too ambitious and stubborn. They may be smart and talented but unfortunately, nothing can replace the fact that at the beginning of each startup journey there can be a lack of business experience. When problems appear, and they always do, smart entrepreneurs don’t wait until they start sinking, they seek professional help and get a mentor.

According to Statistic Brain, the chances that a startup will fail after one year of existence is 25%. After two years this number increases to 36%, and after three years it approaches a shocking 44%. There may be different reasons for startup failures, but one of them is definitely an inability to get the business side of things right. Upper management might be lacking funding or simply the market is not ready for particular products or services - the factors are countless. To minimize risks, it's worth considering asking for advice from those who have already been there.

The right mentor is capable of assisting with tips on running a business. A mentor can also help to built an efficient long-term business plan and strategy, instead of a short-term one that startups may be holding in their hands. Mentors could be found either directly or through innovation labs. Such professionals usually hold a senior position and shouldn't be treated as school teachers or tutors. They are there to share their experience and to guide, using the mentee’s potential. Finding a good mentor is not easy, as they are usually incredibly busy and often have several people looking for their help. The search can often turn into a challenge, where a startup or entrepreneur keeps being rejected again and again. Chasing mentors can be exhausting and frustrating, especially when you seen others succeed because they have managed to find the right mentor.

Looking at the entrepreneurial examples we can see that even the best once had mentors. For instance, Warren Buffet’s was Benjamin Graham. Bill Gates’s early mentor was his father and later it was Warren Buffet, and finally, Mark Zuckerberg’s mentor was Steve Jobs. Entrepreneurs often ignore the benefits of getting a mentor, as they presume they have enough knowledge to build a successful business strategy. Growing a company will always bring challenges and a mentor’s experience can provide unique opportunities, helping to guide young companies through future investments and contracts. You could see it as a coach and athlete relationship, where one is more active on the field, but the role of the other is to get them performing to their maximum potential.

Another useful aspect of being mentored is an opportunity to get to know people. Because mentors often come from C-suite positions, their network is both large and powerful, getting those connections can significantly boost a startup's growth. An analysis of mentoring relationships by Endeavour revealed that many of the entrepreneurs leading top-performing companies in New York had strong personal connections with the founders of other successful startups. For example, Chad Dickerson from Etsy and Nat Turner from Flatiron Health have been mentored by other successful entrepreneurs such as Caterina Fake from Flickr and Brian O’Kelley of AppNexus. Building relationships with others without having an established reputation and network is tough, mentors are there to help.

It’s important to remember that simply having a mentor is not enough to guarantee success.For one, the quality of the mentor is critical. Entrepreneurs may admire a successful top-performing entrepreneur, but it doesn’t mean that that person would be a good mentor, regardless of their business achievements. Business success is good, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are good at sharing it with others. It’s not only the mentees that have to show their potential. Mentors are there not only to have an impressive story but also to inspire, inform and innovate others with it.  

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