In this post from his Tropical Gringo blog, Alan Colmenares, Managing Partner at Socialatom Ventures and Director of the Bogota Founder Institute, shares his experience as a startup mentor in Colombia.
Below, an excerpt of How to find a good mentor for your startup has been republished with permission:
"Because of what I do, I have the opportunity 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.
What I truly believe is that an entrepreneur's best mentor is their customer.
In other words, actually finding out what a customer is willing to pay for, or what a user is willing to spend time on.
After the customer, the next most important thing is the vision of the CEO and the founding team (whether evolving or coalescing), and then finally, 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.
What I’m saying and what I truly believe is, 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, then that foundation will greatly increase your ability to interpret and execute 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 four types of entrepreneurs;
- Entrepreneurs who are "rudderless", get confused with advice from so many mentors, and are ill equipped to translate the advice into action;
- Entrepreneurs who have become addicted to interacting with “celebrity” mentors without building the strong "foundation" I described above, and are thus immune to advice from “mere mortal” mentors (their prospects are clearly limited);
- Entrepreneurs who are good at executing, good at listening, and good at processing advice (these are the most fun to be around);
- 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."
For more insights from Alan, join him at the Bogota Founder Institute, or another chapter in Latin America where he frequently mentors.
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[Mentor photo from Shutterstock]