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Should a startup find a mentor before they raise capital, or after?

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Luke Fitzpatrick 18 Rep. Lou Schillaci answered

What I’ve come to discover is that if you’re an early stage startup, nobody cares about you, and you’ll have plenty of people watching closely. And if you ‘become’ big, everyone wants to be your friend.

Do you think startups should look for a mentor ‘before’ raising capital, or ‘after?’

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Lou Schillaci 126 Rep. Lou Schillaci answered

I’d like to answer that with a question.

“Are we talking business process mentor, a mentor who is a technical wizard, a successful serial entrepreneur, or who?”

I believe the answer should be all of them and more. These are some of the invaluable people you will need by your side. And you’ll go on to consider yourself lucky if you have the ear of any of them.

However you need all of them at differing times in your start-up’s evolution.

Here’s my take on this.

Never let a technical wizard mentor, I call them with respect and admiration “propellor heads”, anywhere near investors more than absolutely essential. They can be a distraction and sometimes speak out what need not be heard.
Never let a business process mentor anywhere near your technical innovation (unless of course, it is a business process start-up) as they may well stifle you and align you to an older safer way of solving issues, thereby perhaps negating your very innovation.

 You can identify these guys by the often heard phrase, “Well that’s the way I would do it”

So who does that leave in our selection of just three possible mentors?

In my opinion, the mentor to have by your side before you contemplate raising capital is the successful serial entrepreneur.

Why?

There is little doubt that their success and therefore wisdom comes after having made many mistakes, bad choices and enduring failures – and yet after all that learning and suffering becoming a success. He’s been there before and knows what to look out for.

And that is the perfect case for

“It’s not only important to know what works,  but also what doesn’t.”

Once he is on board, go looking for that elusive investor together.

I hope that helps,

Lou

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Emlyn Scott 278 Rep. Emlyn Scott answered

The key thing is having the mentor. However, if the mentor has fundraising knowledge then definitely prior to raising. They can help you steer you away from the many many mistakes we see on a daily basis. However, be wary. We see plenty of business advisers that claim to know a lot, but really are just full of platitudes and don’t add much value.

You’re right Luke that people tend to want to help and be associated with you once you’ve already made it (or it’s obvious that you will). It certainly gets easier once you get more traction in your business. Mentors and your advisory board can help you stay motivated through the early tough days.

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