Union Square Ventures VC Fred Wilson in a recent blog post, "The young entrepreneurs who are starting companies for the first time are best served by seeking out and getting experienced serial entrepreneurs as angel investors, board members, and mentors. We encourage all of the first time entrepreneurs we work with to do this."Says
In a perfect world, launching a successful product would simply equate to building something phenomenal. But in reality, an isolated phenom can get buried beneath the noise of thousands of other startups. Wilson and a number of other investors ask first-time entrepreneurs to bring on trusted advisors in the hopes that newbies will broaden their social graph and avoid making the mistakes that others have already made. Below are some of the things you should consider before choosing a mentor.
Success: Just because someone speaks at conferences and has been in the industry for 10 years, does not mean they are qualified to be your mentor. Look at the individual's past successes and find out exactly how they've contributed to them. Check with others to gauge this person's visibility in the industry and determine whether or not that success is directly related to the type of business you want to build.
Connections: A good advisor/mentor will open doors in the places you need doors opened. If you're a music content provider and you need help with licensing, find someone who knows the legal and business development side of major labels. If your revenue model is based on advertising, find someone who can help broker deals with ad networks and agencies. If you're building your business on a 3rd party platform, get an advisor with friends on the inside.
Personality: Determine whether or not your potential advisor is famous or infamous. Sites like The Funded allow entrepreneurs to share their good and bad experiences of investment groups and individuals. While these reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, you want a mentor that is present to answer your questions, engaged enough to offer suggestions, patient enough to explain some of the basic tenets of startup life, and finally, mature enough to have their suggestions occasionally rejected.
Let us know how you chose your mentor/advisor in the comments below.