How to find the right mentor for you as a Startup Founder
And What to Look Out for
When I first started working on my startup, Cudy Technologies, I didn’t have anyone close to me who had founded a startup before. My mentors at the time were developers and designers and they provided me with knowledge about how to build a product.
These people provided me with mentorship through the knowledge that they were sharing with me.
But, it wasn’t until I started looking for people who had actually gone through the process of building a startup and failed, or built a startup and succeeded, that I was able to find the right mentor for my situation.
What I looked for in a Mentor
I decided that what I wanted from my mentor was someone who would understand where I was coming from as an entrepreneur.
Someone who would be able to relate to my struggles as an entrepreneur and help me understand how far along in the process of building a business that I actually was.
So I started by looking at my contacts and asking people that I knew if they had ever been involved in building a successful startup.
If the answer was yes, then I would ask if they’d be willing to meet with me for coffee or lunch and talk about their experiences.
If the answer was no, then I would follow up with the same question once they had gone through a few months of building a startup and failed or succeeded.
Most people were excited to share their experiences with me and most were happy to meet up for coffee to talk about what they’ve learned so far in their journey.
How do you know if someone is a good mentor?
For me, it took meeting more than one person before I finally found the right person who could provide me with mentorship based on my struggles as an entrepreneur.
It wasn’t until this person told me ‘you are here’ that I knew we could work well together as mentors.
This is why it’s important to meet more than one potential mentor before you decide who you want to take on as your mentor.
Just ask them questions like:
What was your experience like when you first started working on your startup? (failure or success)
How did you feel?
What did you do about it?
How long did it take from your first experience until you reached success?
Which parts of building a business are you currently struggling with most?
What have you tried so far that hasn’t worked?
What have you not tried yet that might work for your situation?
What are some resources that helped guide you through these challenges/successes?
Which of these resources would be the most beneficial for me to start learning from now?
What type of advice would be most helpful for someone just starting out like myself who wants to build a successful startup one day like yourself?
Is there anything else that we should discuss before we go our separate ways today (if this is a first meeting)?
Have some questions prepared in advance by making notes as soon as possible after reading this article. This will help ensure that all details are fresh in mind when meeting someone new for the first time even though it may have been weeks or months since reading this post.
Bring a notebook along with pen and paper so that you can write down answers to any questions that come up during the course of the discussion, while taking notes during the conversation. Have an open mind!
Most people will tell you that they are not experts and that they don’t know everything. They will probably tell you some of the things that didn’t work for them and give you some ideas of where to start.
It is important to listen to their advice but not to take it as the only thing that you should be doing.
Don’t let someone else’s failure prevent you from achieving success.
Remember, they were in a different situation than yours and you can build on their knowledge by applying it to your unique situation.
How do I find a mentor who can help me with my startup?
I have found it much easier to find someone who is willing to meet for coffee or lunch after having already built a successful business rather than starting out by asking for free advice from startup founders who are struggling with building their own business.
Most people are more likely to say yes when asked if they were willing to meet up for coffee or lunch after having already gone through a few months of struggling with building their startup because they want to share their knowledge with other people who might benefit from what they learned in the process.
I also found it helpful when meeting potential mentors to ask about what resources helped them through specific challenges in the past.
It’s great if someone has been through something like this before but even better if they know where I can find information about how others have dealt with this problem in the past so that I can learn from what others have done without having first hand experience myself.
This will save me a lot of time because I won’t need to try things out myself before discovering whether or not they work well for my situation.
Most mentors are happy tell you about any resources that helped them through similar challenges so that you don’t have to spend time trying everything yourself before finding out which things work well and which things don’t work well for your unique situation.
Why is building relationships with potential mentors so important?
Building relationships with potential mentors is so important because no one wants an investor or potential customer base walking into their company one day just because they happen upon your website while searching Google for information about your industry (for example).
They want their customers walking into their business because there is a connection between the two companies in some way such as:
They school together as students and decided that neither one would be able succeed without help from each other, or mentors introduced each other Startup founder learned a lot from an investor and decided to start working on a product together.
If you want to build a successful startup one day, then you will need to build relationships with people who can help you achieve your goals.
Your mentors don’t have to be someone that you are working with directly but they do need to be someone that you can confide in and rely on for advice when starting out on your own.
How do you build a relationship with potential mentors?
I have found that the best way to build a relationship with potential mentors is by starting to volunteer for related organizations or starting a blog about your interests and experiences.
This will help you start to build relationships with people who are in your community of interest so that when you do need a mentor, there will be someone who is already connected to you in some way and who will be more interested in meeting up with you for coffee or lunch because they already know something about you and might even want to help make your dream come true.
It’s much easier to get a ‘yes’ when asking someone for help if they already know something about your situation or have heard of you before. This is why building relationships with people from your community of interest is so important!
Why is it important to understand what my mentor has been through?
It’s important to understand what a mentor has been through because it will help you learn from their successes and mistakes so that you can avoid making the same mistakes yourself as you go through the process of building a successful startup.
This will save you a tremendous amount of time in the long run when compared to making all of the mistakes yourself and reinventing the wheel in some areas.
It’s also helpful to understand what your potential mentor wants out of the relationship as well.
Some people are willing to give advice freely without any expectations but most people want something in return for their time, even if it’s just having someone they can confide in or someone who is willing to keep them informed about what’s going on within their industry.
It’s much easier to work with someone if you both have something that you expect from each other.
About the Author
I am the Founder of Cudy Technologies (www.cudy.co), a full-stack EdTech startup helping teachers and students teach and learn better. I am also a mentor and angel investor in other Startups of my other interests (Proptech, Fintech, HRtech, Ride-hailing, C2C marketplaces and SaaS). You can also find me on Cudy for early-stage Startup Founder mentorship and advice.
You can connect with me on Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexanderlhk) and let me know that you are a reader of my Medium posts in your invitation message.