Mentoring Gone Wrong Can Create Long-Lasting Damage*

Subtitle: Wannabe.

If you want to make a point that is controversy, it is sometimes handy to use the words of somebody else, a credible person, to underline your own point of view. “Mentoring gone wrong is common and the damage inflicted could last a lifetime.”, including the title above comes from Glen Llopis* in Forbes. The article link is here. I could not define it better, to be honest. The more as it is based on my own experiences working with startups and would-be startups. When I look at the surveys after a Startup Weekend, Hackathon or Ideathon this remark keeps coming back, lack of good mentoring. On the last day we also do our round and visit each team and many times wonder, what did the mentors do the day before. The same story with the startups who are too easily overwhelmed with older, specifically men, who also might be an investor, may be linked to a cool coworking space or a successful company. Most startups are too young to stand firm and often just listen and execute.

The new cool is mentors asking for equity to barter for knowledge and network. Startups have no idea how much 3 or 5% is in the starting year so they distribute percentages like 100% is 1000%. They forget that in next rounds, and a company is 100% only, this mentor percentage can be a liability if he or she obstructs, or becomes way too high in value for maybe 3 months of advice. In my opinion, mentorship is limited in time, if not, you should join at execution level or board level. I will never claim I am a good mentor, but I do recognize bullshit advise from other so-called mentors sickening the young startup mind. That often hurts to hear and see and therefore I like very much the claim of Glen “Mentoring Gone Wrong Can Create Long-Lasting Damage”. How can you as a startup, make the mentor accountable? Too many mentors see him or herself as know it all. What are the tools for startups to tell the mentor, you f**cked up, give us back “a value”? I do not doubt about the good intentions of mentors but it is not because your face is on a website with mentor next to it that you are a good mentor and can add value to a startup.

Suddenly mentorship in Turkiye became an organised business, something I have not seen at this scale yet in Europe and the US. I could have used a mentor at the beginning of my business career, but I didn’t and learned from my mistakes. Let’s not overvalue the importance, but use it wisely and with no strings attached. Agile also means that as a startup you should be able to change quickly and without liabilities.

Before I forget, Wannabe is from the Spice Girls, the video clip is hilarious, one of the best things they did. This brings me back to the proverb: ‘Cobbler, stick to thy last.’. Stick to what you’re good at. Too much everything becomes nothing. Here are the music and the clip, Enjoy!

Kolay Gelsin, Iyi Bayramlar,

Patrick Bosteels

patrick@stage-co.com