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What I learned about mentorship in my two startups

I started my first company in 2013, but I had to shutdown before its first anniversary in 2014. There were many reasons for our failure, one of the major reason being the lack of mentorship.  

Author : Pardeep Goyal
 
I started my first company in 2013, but I had to shutdown before its first anniversary in 2014. There were many reasons for our failure, one of the major reason being the lack of mentorship.  
 
Mentors play a pivotal role in startup’s success stories. Founders should be very choosy when asking for mentorship from someone. 
 
The startup ecosystem is booming in India, I see linkedIn flooded with “CEO & Founder” profiles. People who were writing themselves as freelancers few years back, now flaunt themselves with titles like CEO & Growth Hacker.  
 
Ohh I was supposed to write about the mentors but why I am writing about founders? Because, the crowded space of founders gave birth to junk mentors. Every other person wants to mentor startups because of his own hidden agendas. You will find IT managers, consultants and brokers* who are looking for startups to mentor. (*Brokers who claim to provide investments to startups). Beware of Do… I mean brokers. 
 
Startups should have clearly defined reason of having a mentor. A good mentor for startup-X may not be a good mentor for startup-Y. You should look for following things (not all) while choosing a mentor for you. 
 
  • The mentor should have prior experience of running a startup. 
  • The mentor should have experience in your startup domain. 
  • A mentor from just corporate job background may not help an early stage startup because what works in the corporate world does not work in a startup.
  • The mentor should have clear expectations from you (and vice versa) like equity/cash, position/title and number of hours per month. 
 
Once you get your first mentor, try to understand how to take maximum benefit before reaching out to the second mentor. Yes, you may need multiple mentors and need a different level of support as you grow. 
 
I was extremely lucky to find my first mentor just before shutting down my first business and second mentor just before getting into my second venture. 
 
I got mentorship from Rajul Garg (Founder of Sunstone Business School and GlobalLogic) who helped me understand basics of entrepreneurship. He helped me to take tough decision of closing my first company, and of course time to time guidance whenever I needed. 
 
Later, I got an introduction with Sameer Guglani (Founder of The Morpheus) who connected me with his portfolio companies, and I joined PocketScience as a co-founder. 
 
My mentors transformed my business ethics and thought process. Sometimes I think that how stupid I was when I left my job to earn millions by selling ERP software to schools. 
 
My mentors helped me to bear the pain of failure of two startups and coming up with a blog, CashOverflow on Personal Finance. 
 
Long story short, let’s see how mentors can benefit a startup
 
  • Mentors bring their startup experience; they can see things that you tend to ignore. They are not GOD, but they put you on the right track, again and again. 
  • When things go wrong, you cry with your co-founder. Mentors console you and help you bring your confidence back. 
  • They protect you from Hanuman-Phobia. They help you unlock your hidden potential like Jambavan did for Hanuman in Ramayana. 
  • They allow you to take the benefit of their network – you can find your co-founder, employees, customers, partners, vendors and investors by using their links. 
  • Their feedback on your product and marketing will save a lot of your time & money. 
  • If you are part of their startup program (The Morpheus in my case), then you can also get benefits & perks from companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. That will save a lot of money on your development and marketing. 
  • Their introduction & recommendation can help you get into global startup programs like Y-Combinator, 500-Startups & Startup-Chile. 
 
They work best like the Morpheus of the Matrix movie who believed in Neo (You) and helped him to break the illusion of the Matrix. 
 
Leaving you with a message from the Morpheus – “I can show you the path, you have to walk on it.” Looking for your thoughts in the comments.
 
 
About Author:
Pardeep is ex-founder of two startups before his current venture CashOverflow. He spends most of his time on writing, marketing & reading finance. He loves to help startups.
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