Being a mentor at Startup Drive:
So you want to be a mentor? Here’s what you need to know…
What is a mentor?
A mentor is an experienced individual, who drops in over the weekend to help teams with their business model, MVP, and otherwise guide them to success.
How long does it take?
We encourage a minimum of two hours either on Saturday or Sunday… That said, many choose to stick around for a lot longer.
Who should be a mentor?
Whilst mentors can take many forms, there’s a few key questions we ask ourselves when evaluating mentor candidates for a Startup Drive event:
- Has this person built a company before?
- Does this person have relevant technical experience?
- What’s motivating this person to consider this role?
We’ve found (almost) a direct correlation between leadership experience in startups, and the likelihood of someone having a great experience as a mentor… it is POSSIBLE to add value without founder experience, but we try to have these mentors focus more on technical or industry related questions, rather than as guides for the company direction overall… this means we regularly miss out on incredibly experienced, high-performing, senior people… but it also ensures that these incredibly influential roles are saved for those with an intimate understanding of what it’s like to start a company.
(Exceptions: Highly relevant technical/industry experience, such as a PHD in battery engineering, a community leadership role at an incubator/accelerator, or a track record of multiple investments in similar stage companies)
Who shouldn’t be a mentor? People who…
- Are always right. Pretty much always. Ask anyone. They’ll tell you.
- See hackathons as an opportunity to schmooze with other mentors, and source potential clients for their startup consultancy.
- See the problems with everything. If it was a good idea, someone would have done it already right?
Things great mentors do:
- Listen well.
- Speak from experience.
- Lead the team by asking questions, rather than giving answers.
- Recognize when a team is overly focused on a single detail, and would benefit from ‘stepping back to look at the big picture.’
- Recognize when a team is so busy looking at ‘the big picture’ they’re not particularly sure as to what it is they’re trying to do.
- Speak to an entire room simultaneously.
- Identify leaders and communicators within the team, and determine whether they’re treating other team members fairly / respectfully.
- Recognize if a team member is feeling under-valued, out-of-place, or otherwise not-so-great, and engage them privately to ‘check in.’
- Be okay with not-knowing-the-answer!
- Be okay when team members outright disagree with your advice. Let them make their own mistakes! (You can always ask another mentor to speak to them if you think it’s actively hurting the team dynamic.)
- As cheesy as it sounds — Have fun! Statistically, it’s unlikely anyone will remember a word you say…but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.