Minimum Viable Mentor?

Last month on Learning Hacks, resident big thinker Rick Harris identified three things that the successful entrepreneur needs to learn in order to mentor others to become successful entrepreneurs. Rick points out that just as the best athletes don’t always become the best coaches, the best entrepreneurs are not always cut out to be mentors. And even among good mentors there is always room for improvement—particularly around how and when to give advice. Somehow the good mentors have the surgical ability to insert advice at just the right time, while others would have provided more help by keeping their mouths shut.

Rick’s post was in part triggered by a rant that I shared with him and then in a post of my own. Rick’s post (and mine) asked entrepreneurs to take a short survey describing what they looked for in an angel investor turned mentor. I hoped, that with Rick’s help, we could inject some data into the discussion around the importance of mentorship being championed by the likes of Brad Feld, Mark Suster and any of the multitude of accelerators/incubators/combinators out there.

Boy Scouts and Bat Shit?

Early returns from the survey seem to promise some provocative results. For example, what if the mentor wants to provide help and guidance in an area of little interest to the entrepreneur? Remember the old joke about the Boy Scout helping the old lady across the street…but it was the wrong street? Clearly this mentoring thing is more than just showing up.

Here are some highlights (in my words) of what Rick has shared with me so far:

1. Too many angel investors are like the proverbial Boy Scout dragging that poor old lady the wrong way across the street.

2. Given a choice, entrepreneurs will gravitate toward mentors who can guide them through the funding process, as opposed to mentors with deep domain knowledge of the business (money over brains).

3. Providing input is valued by some and drives others bat shit crazy (this is a technical term I am teaching to Rick).

Start-ups Add Your Voice

I am intrigued by the results so far and want to help Rick in his quest to define the MVM. Take a second to tell me what you think is the most important contribution that a mentor can make to an entrepreneur by clicking on the poll below. If you want to give Rick some more help, take Rick’s full 12 question survey It only takes 3 minutes and may save an entrepreneur a funding cycle of pain and suffering.

Thanks for adding your vote.


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