What do founders need in a mentor?

The startup ecosystem has allowed FunnelAI to find the best talent, believers, and investors. The advisors, and a tech community willing to collaborate became our recipe for our success.

As companies evolve from ideation to growth, mentors can add a lot of value. For example, in FunnelAI’s early days, we shifted exclusively to AI-driven prospecting based upon the advice of a mentor. That mentor, Michael Girdley, board chair of the RealCo long term accelerator, played an important role in catalyzing our new focus.

However, founders can find incredible advice from sources outside of their investors. In our experience, customers have provided a significant degree of the validation and technical suggestions for our product. Speaking to car dealerships and realtors helped to steer FunnelAI toward the right data sources to grow.

Regardless of where a company finds mentors, it is clear that mentorship makes a difference. Micromentor, a nonprofit that connects entrepreneurs to mentors, discovered that businesses that were mentored increased their revenue by 67 percent over those that were not.

Another specific form of mentorship is via a startup accelerator program, which is often a big commitment. Just as every investor, advisor, and accelerator look for committed founders for positive and long-term growth, founders also require time from mentors. Through our startup journey, we have realized the most value from mentors who helped us in the following areas.

  1. Challenging the Founders. Passionate and dedicated founders are committed to creating a vibrant culture of innovation that fosters diversity of thought. We’re also wary of the dangers that could come from groupthink. As a result, we see the importance of talking with mentors that can push us to think differently. Companies open to constructive criticism as much as mentors are willing to provide it will create a great synergy to propel innovation.
  2. Teaching accountability through action. Accountability between mentors and founders is bi-directional. Mentors and founders can be accountable through simple and challenging tasks, such as showing up to a commitment and being engaged. Asking the tough questions about the product, market fit, and understanding a company’s key challenges is critical. Finally, mentors should help founders set deadlines and actionable goals.
  3. Informing us with your unique perspective. We are a team with a very specific set of skills, are excited to connect with people from industries and with expertise different from our own. Most startups are the same. Founders are often interested in speaking with new people who have experiences that they can apply to their new venture. While most technical processes won’t translate, companies appreciate mentors who listen and teach the universal lessons they have learned throughout their careers.

Our team has learned and achieved a lot when there’s a solid commitment from both sides of mentorship. We are grateful for our mentors and the lessons we can pass on to any new founder taking on the tough journey of starting a company. When you are looking for a mentor, as yourself two questions. First, does this person have the skills and knowledge your company needs? And second, will they have the time to ask you the tough questions that can help you grow?

To learn more about the company we are creating, please visit our website.