Entrepreneurs around the world are searching for great mentors who can show them the ropes of how to short-circuit their entrepreneurial journeys.
Recruiting mentors is a tricky thing. Mentors -- unless they have an emotional investment in you (friends, family, former boss) -- tend to want to only work with entrepreneurs who have compelling businesses, can score substantial funding, and yield solid exits.
Typically, these are potential advisors who want to be compensated in equity in your business, or potential investors who want to invest in it. Either way, they want to invest time, or money, or both. Let's call them investors.
Investors, by definition, look for compelling investment opportunities.
At the very early stages of your entrepreneurial journey, you are most likely not there yet.
The question is how do you get there? You almost need a mentor to get to a mentor, so that the second level of mentors can, to an extent, come to the rescue of victory.
Although there are many successful entrepreneurs who claim they mentor entrepreneurs, in reality, you can perhaps get one meeting with one of these people, but not really sustained, regular mentoring that can help you work through the issues that your business will be facing on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.
My advice: look at these as separate categories of individuals whom you need to lure in different ways.
When you meet a potential mentor, ask what he/she is looking for in working with you. Looking to get equity compensation? Looking to invest? Based on the answer, you can set your expectations on how to engage.
Also, first and foremost, do the homework necessary to get your pitch to a point that it looks reasonably compelling, and show how potential equity holders (equity-compensated advisors and investors) would make money from your project. Until you are ready, do NOT talk to potential investors.
When you talk to a potential investor disguised as a mentor, you need to be ready with as many of your ducks lined up as possible.
The other danger of potential investors disguised as mentors is that when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Your project may not be venture fundable, but eminently viable as a bootstrapped business. These folks don't really have much patience for such businesses, and may be quick to dismiss you.
This, most entrepreneurs find extremely discouraging. You need to protect yourself from such cavalier dismissal.
Remember, over 99% of the businesses who go out to raise financing are rejected. That doesn't mean they all fail. Many of them succeed. Have a look at this video.
As you know, I mentor a very large number of entrepreneurs. Because of the reasons discussed above, the 1M/1M program does not take equity in the businesses we work with. This allows us to be inclusive -- work with very early stage entrepreneurs who cannot even think of attracting investors, work with bootstrapped businesses, self-financed startups. It also allows us to mentor entrepreneurs to qualify for investment, as well as to attract advisors who can be lured with equity compensation.
Just like there is a capital gap in the early stages of the startup life-cycle, I believe, there is also a mentoring-gap.
We hope to fill that!
Cartoon: Book by Sramana Mitra and Irina Patterson. Art by Mike Varouhas.