Operating a successful startup is challenging. Studies show that a large percentage of startups fail within ten years of their launch, whether due to cash flow problems, ineffective management, or poor product quality.
Getting mentorship can greatly increase your startup’s chance of survival. A study based on 700 startup founders revealed what 33% of top-performing founders had in common — they were mentored by successful entrepreneurs when they were starting out.
Many successful business leaders have had mentors and advisers. Bill Gates considers Warren Buffet a mentor, and Steve Jobs received mentorship from John Sculley (president of PepsiCo before becoming CEO of Apple) and Ed Woolard (chairman and CEO of DuPont).
Mentorships create an entrepreneurial advantage that allows founders to unlock new opportunities, weather setbacks, and adapt to changes.
What Does a Startup Mentor Do?
Mentors provide valuable advice and support to entrepreneurs through the early stages of growing their business. Whereas VCs and angel investors put in money, startup mentors invest their time and knowledge.
Startup mentors are typically successful entrepreneurs themselves. They’ve seen their fair share of mistakes and missteps, and their years of experience allow them to guide founders and warn them against common pitfalls.
They can, for example, provide guidance on how to prepare your startup for acquisition. Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) have an equally high failure rate of 70% to 90%, so startups looking to be acquired should ideally seek help from an experienced mentor.
Mentors take on the role of adviser, coach, sounding board, and cheerleader, which can help founders make better decisions and weather the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.
Mentors also provide an objective evaluation of a business’s strengths and weaknesses. Whereas a business owner may be too attached to an idea to recognize when something’s amiss, seasoned mentors know when to cut your losses.
Top Five Benefits a Startup Mentorship Can Offer
1. Access to a Wider Network and Resource Pool
Networks are a valuable asset. Mentors can help you gain access to their web of contacts and resources. They are established in their industries and can connect startup owners with fellow industry leaders, potential investors, new hires, or potential buyers.
Aside from connections, their resources may prove helpful in other ways. For example, a mentor with a spare studio or workshop may let you use it to develop a prototype, or connect you with discounts on software or other equipment.
2. Improved Decision-Making Skills
Having a seasoned mentor can help a startup founder make sounder strategic and operational decisions.
Mentors provide an objective view on the business and the industry, and can help entrepreneurs view things from a different perspective. Using their experience, a mentor can help you make informed decisions regarding:
- Finding and picking the right investor
- How much investment you need and securing the right kind of investment
- Resource allocation
- Balancing your short- and long-term goals
- How to expand your employee base
- Hiring the right leadership team
3. Support for Risky Situations
Risk-taking is a crucial component of entrepreneurship. A startup mentor can help business owners identify which risks to take and how to effectively manage them as they arise.
They may also advise when it’s best to play it safe. Often, having someone to warn you of potential consequences can make the difference between surviving during difficult times, such as economic downturns, versus falling into distress.
4. Professional Growth
A mentor can help you acquire new skills and knowledge as you navigate entrepreneurship.
For instance, a mentor can teach you tips on cash flow management, a common area that startups struggle with. They may also offer practical advice regarding business processes, such as:
- Licensing an invention
- Getting market approval for your product
- Dealing with complex regulations
- Recognizing your weaknesses and determining whether to educate yourself or hire to fill in the gaps
- Managing new hires
- Shaping company culture
5. A Boost in Confidence and Motivation
The startup journey can be overwhelming and lonely. A mentor can provide a boost of motivation that keeps entrepreneurs focused, enabling them to push through challenges and make progress toward their goals.
Mentors can also help business owners manage stress, combat feelings of self-doubt or loneliness, and provide emotional support. Knowing that someone has experienced the same struggles and came out on the other side can be invaluable for new founders.
Where To Receive Startup Mentorship
There are several mentorship platforms that startup founders can look into to find mentorship:
MentorCruise offers online startup mentorship, with a focus on startups within the technology and design industries. The flat fee, which may range between $150 to $1k, is paid monthly to a mentor of one’s choosing.
The mentors set their prices, and offer a seven-day trial during which mentees can explore whether the mentor might be a good fit for them and their business.
GrowthMentor is another online mentorship platform that connects growth hackers with mentors. Mentees can enjoy unlimited calls with mentors and post help requests that their mentors can respond to.
Light Membership starts at $50 per month, while Pro starts at $85 per month. Interested startup owners can look for mentors based on specific skills, roles, tools, industries, or locations.
Unlike other mentorship platforms, Clarity’s mentorship model is more problem-specific, which means that startup owners usually work with a mentor briefly to solve a specific problem.
One can browse through the platform’s library of mentors and request a call with one of them. Mentors have a per-minute rate ranging from $2.50 to $80. Mentees can select mentors based on their areas of expertise, such as funding, product and design, sales and marketing, skills management, and overall business.
HubSpot for Startups
Rather than one-on-one mentorship, HubSpot for Startups offers more of a community-based approach where startup owners can get connected with Accelerators, VC, or Incubator partners and connect with potential mentors via events and programs.