Over the past few days, I was attending several mentoring sessions, part of the open startup days we conducted at my company, EVC Ventures.
New and aspiring entrepreneurs were invited for free mentoring and experiencing the culture of profitable startups working their way out. At the end, they were invited to ask specific questions to the president which addressed their particular case.
The word specific was something they didn’t quite fathom.
In a mature startup ecosystem, entrepreneurs are aware of the specific challenge which waits to be solved. They see growth as a set of consecutive milestones which have to be achieved as if lined on a factory line.
Mentors are also subject to clear demarcation. You go and ask for the feedback from the mentor that is specialized in your stage of growth. Else it is a waste of time for both of you.
This is not the case in most mentoring sessions for startups I’ve been part of.
Startups come to seek answers to general questions instead of using the valuable time to ask for feedback on specific problems.
Inexperienced mentors do not attempt to teach entrepreneurs the art of asking the right question and instead rush to provide them with a quick answer to whatsoever question they ask whether that question is the right one or not. They also forget that they shouldn’t ideally give instructions either but rather guide the founders because each startup journey is unique.
Choosing the right type of mentor for you is what I will dedicate myself hereto.
There are two main types of mentors:
1. Those good for advice on raising business from the ground ($0-$100,000 in revenues)
2. Those good at scaling business with proven business model ($100,001-$1,000,000 in revenues)
Sounds too simple?
It is that simple.
Type 1 mentors are excellent and experienced at bootstrapping businesses from the ground. They teach you how to think about the entire startup ecosystem, show you which variables you should discard and which are the ones left for you to focus on (what matters vs what’s vanity).
Some of the challenges you can address to these mentors — how to get a co-founder, who is your target customer, how to get your first 50 paying customers, then the next 100, which tech stack is better etc.
As you can see all Type 1 mentors have one thing in common — they help you in achieving well-defined specific milestones. Ask them how to build a million dollar company and they will tell you that it’s none of your business.
Type 1 mentors teach you to focus on getting your first 50 customers and point you to the right acquisition channels. A good Type 1 mentor will not open his door to you unless you have your excel sheet with your first 50 paying customers ready.
What to avoid asking Type 1 mentors: How to raise funding, how to prove your business model, how much to invest in advertising, is this a good feature etc.
In other words — A good type 1 mentor will not waste your time or his on anything else which doesn’t involve specific steps in getting your first 50 paying customers.
If good Type 1 mentors will shut your mouth whenever you utter something that cannot be categorized as a milestone, Type 2 mentors will help you on your way in scaling a company with a proven business model.
Some of the challenges you can address to Type 2 mentors: how to spew departments, processes, hiring practices, partnerships, connect you to corporate level executives and VCs.
What to avoid asking Type 2 mentors: how to get a co-founder, how to get my first 50 paying customers, where to run my ads, should I do guest blogging etc.
That’s because by the time of scaling you should have already figured out your most profitable acquisition channels and your customer persona.