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Sessions: 2013-11-19 - 2014-03-04
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How to find a good mentor for your startup, by Alan Colmenares
Founder Feedback gives you insight from the startup trenches.
In this post from his blog, Alan Colmenares, Managing Partner at Socialatom Ventures and Director of the Medellin Founder Institute, shares his experience as a startup mentor in Colombia. In addition to believing that not all mentors need to be of celebrity status, Alan says, "What I truly believe (and what I tell some) is that their best mentor is the customer".
Below, an excperpt of How to find a good mentor for your startup has been republished;
"A few days ago, I received and interesting Tweet from @EndeavorCol asking my opinion on the question of how to find a good mentor for your startup. Even though it’s 4am and wisdom should dictate that I get the point forthwith, I’m going to take a step back and give my general thoughts on mentors, startups and founders (mostly in the tech space). I don’t usually make it a point to beat around the bush, but I feel the subject warrants a broader conversation before jumping into the topic of how to actually find a good mentor.
Because of what I do, I have occasion to actually mentor startups. Each year, I probably listen to over a hundred business ideas (usually for startups) or pitches of ongoing startups. After listening to these, I normally communicate my thoughts, which sometimes include my suggestions to the entrepreneur. It’s up to the entrepreneur whether they’d like to take this advice or not.
Many entrepreneurs are surprised when I convey my philosophy on the importance of mentors (such as myself). What I truly believe (and what I tell some) is that their best mentor is the customer. In other words, actually testing things out finding out what a customer is willing to pay for (or what a user is willing to spend time on). After this, comes the vision (whether evolving or coalescing) of the CEO and the founding team and third comes listening to mentors.
I’m not saying that mentors can’t and don’t make a big difference. In fact, I’ve seen first hand when entrepreneurs who have taken my own advice have translated it into incredible business results and/or million dollar fundraising success (other times, my advice was better left unheeded, but I won’t mention such instances). Don’t tell anyone, but I’m sometimes surprised by these results. What I’m saying is that I truly believe that, if you have a strong team that knows how to test things in the marketplace and a solid leader with an inspiring vision for the company, that foundation will greatly increase the possibilities of a company’s ability to follow through on good advice.
As a recent Business Insider article highlighted, most of the technology visionaries we can think of had one or more mentors which helped them along the way. Nonetheless, even if the right mentor comes along, many entrepreneurs are just not ready to be mentored. In Colombia, a lot has changed in the past two years (many international mentors have visited the country) and I’ve seen the following:
1. A few impressive entrepreneurs who are both good at executing and good at listening and processing advice (these are the most fun to be around);
2. Entrepreneurs who have become addicted to interacting with “celebrity” mentors without building the aforementioned foundation and are immune to advice from “mere mortal” mentors (their prospects are clearly limited);
3. Rudderless founders who get confused with advice from so many mentors and are ill equipped at translating it into directed action and finally,
4. Entrepreneurs who have built a successful, growing business and are pretty good at distinguishing insightful advice from superficial suggestions.
These last ones are the self-assured, talented entrepreneurs, some of whom, could build high impact businesses, but in Colombia, are, for the most part, building lifestyle businesses."
Click here to continue reading How to find a good mentor for your startup, and for more insights from Alan, join him this Summer in Medellin where he will be mentoring and hosting the Summer session of the Medellin Founder Institute. Early applications are due this Sunday, April 28th. Click here to apply today.