No one. Let me say this again. NO ONE can advise you on how to turn your startup into a success. As a founder, you have to make all the mistakes, hopefully in the right order, and learn from it. That’s the only way you will build a company.
At most, people can give their opinions. And as you know opinions are like ***holes. Everyone has them, the only thing that come out of it is shit.
What amazes me is the incredible cottage industry of well meaning, advise giving individuals that has cropped up. And it’s absolutely hilariously diverse. Here is what I have seen. Please point out if I missed anyone.
Uncle aunty advisors.
Also includes husband wife brother sister…you get the family-ier drift. The only obviously link is the genetic accident that linked these folks to each other. It’s not that uncommon to see advisors in this category. And if that distant cousin went to IIT, he will also show up. Usually I look for last names which are same as the founder. I don’t want to be in an advisory board conversation which starts – “remember Khanna uncle, his son is also startup. You want to me call him now.”
Nothing wrong in this one but a retired army official is not going to add significant value unless, you are a nuclear weapon startup. Which you shouldnt be anyways. If the retired person ran a business, govt dept, consulting company, marketing firm etc, by all means. No need to have a person because she is retired, and hence must be wise. This combined with uncle aunty advisors is definitely lethal.
In-between job advisors
There can be no worse than this one. It’s a purely cv gap filling exercise and doesn’t serve any purpose. Startups are littered with graveyards of ill given advice from someone in between jobs or in between startups.
These folks have been advising their whole lives. Professional gyanis. They can go on and on. To give them credit, most of these guys capitalised on a gap in the existing advisor network. And of course they all have advised flipkart, redbus and all the others. Now that you showed up wet behind the ears, they will try and give you advise. This one comes with a fee.
Fresh out of college advisors
MBAs with advice. Enough said.
Rich investor advisor
Have money, must have good insights type of advice. Might not be bad as long as they have money at stake in your company. These people usually don’t nit pick but go out of their way to connect you. Budget for long repetitive conversations. To account for their short memories and long stories.
You went to them. They said yes. You haven’t seen them since. Scheduling challenges keep this Jodi apart. Typically stretched CEOs of large companies. Good intentions, not enough time.
“You didn’t know you had an advisor” advisor
They have it on their cv, not on LinkedIn. You had one conversation long time ago and said thanks for your advice. Technically you took their advice and built a business. Or so it seems to them.
Must have if you are building super tech stuff like ai, robotics, diagnostics etc. Please don’t put them in room with the others. These are precious people. Shield them. Maybe set them up in tech advisory board.
“I know smart people so I must be smart” advisors
Name dropper advisory, attends lots of events, collects cards and has contacts. Definitely good contacts, not advisory material. Unless your business is about networking with influential people and sell to them.
Some one who is shitting the same bricks as you, much larger scale. Have the battle scars, eager to help. Ideal advisor. Go after them. They might not have time, so make sure you bring the right problems to them. Listen to stories of how they handled it. Understand mistakes and wins. Make them your buddy.
A buddy who is wiser.
[Guest article by Dr. Ashwin Naik, Founder – Vaatsalya, Ashoka Fellow & Young Global Leader of World Economic Forum.]
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