No doubt that every startup should have a mentor, but the reality is that many a times startups start seeing mentors as a magic potion and very often build wrong expectations.
Since there is enough literature on ‘qualities you should look for in a mentor’, there are couple of salient points that I’d like to mention here, when it comes to managing mentor-startup relationship.
Mentor doesn’t know it-all
Unless you have a mentor who is from a similar background (as your business), chances are that mentors may not know each and every aspect of your business. Likely chances are also that your mentor is actually a big shot in ‘some specific’ domain and will tend to look at your business problem statement from his own perspective.
Mentor doesn’t have all the time for you.
Like it or not, most of the mentors are too busy running their own business / managing their own life to even spend lots of time with you.
So the result of a startup-mentor discussion is (in most of the cases) limited to low hanging fruits. For instance, how do I improve usability of the product? How to get more eyeballs? etc etc.
Be it shorter timeframe of discussions, combined with infrequent meetings – most of the startups really look for solutions to the problems they are facing ‘currently/at that moment’.
But, the bigger and tougher questions are left out, i.e. How do we build a business here?
The point I am trying to bring here is that if a startup isn’t asking tough questions to mentor(s) (or to put it the other way, is taking an easy way out), you are surely not reaping the benefit of relationship and chances are that you could be taken in certain directions which may not be the most sensible for your business.
What’s your opinion?
Question to ponder – Your investor as a mentor? How good/bad idea it is?