How to get FREE startup advice
The OSAM was designed to help advisors engage with founders
Over the course of my entrepreneurial career I can’t tell you how many people selflessly gave me the benefit of their experience and wisdom. I would bet that every successful entrepreneur has been the beneficiary of countless hours of free advice and counsel. This simple fact is the primary reason that most of us feel a strong obligation to provide similar advice and counsel to aspiring entrepreneurs. The problem most of us face is that fact that there are only twenty four hours in a day. I’ve struggled with balancing time with my family, friends, and the startup community for years. Recently I created the Open Source Advisory Model (OSAM) to create balance. The goal of the OSAM is to maximize the availability of advisors for the entrepreneurial community while respecting their time.
The standard way most of us work with startups is to schedule either in-person or telephone meetings. The problem with scheduled meetings is that they tend to consume all of our time. I figured there could be a better way to support entrepreneurs and as a result I created the Open Source Advisory Model that I’ll share with you here.
First, explain to entrepreneurs interested in your advice that you use the OSA Model. Share your timeframe with them — typically two days per week between specific hours. My OSAM hours are Monday and Friday between 9AM and 2PM. In general I advise scheduling a call before meeting in-person — the majority of the time there is someone we could refer to the entrepreneur who would be a far better resource in just a few minutes. Since I wrote a book on raising venture capital I also recommend that entrepreneurs take 30 minutes or so to read my no-nonsense guide called the Startup Muse before reaching out.
Next explain to the entrepreneur that they should text you during your OSAM hours using the following script:
“My name is [insert name], I’d like your advice. My startup is [insert company name] and I’d like some help with [insert ask]. I’ll be around for the next 30 minutes if you’ve got some time to talk. Thank you!”
Let them know that if you’re available you’ll “step out and give them a call”. If you’re not available and able to respond you’ll let them know you’re busy. If you’re not able to respond they shouldn’t expect a response, but they should wait until the following week to text again. This might seem rude, but entrepreneurs need to realize that they’re asking advisor for FREE advice — the only cost to the entrepreneur is being flexible regarding the timing of the advice.
Finally, suggest to the entrepreneur that they should prepare for the call by emailing a one-page overview around the same time they text you. An effective overview should include:
- Detailed Contact Information
- Company Overview (one paragraph)
- Product Status (Idea, MVP, Revenue)
- Number of FT Employees (Technical vs Business)
- Funding History (Include names of investors)
- Last Post-Money Valuation (if raising capital) + Proposed Valuation and Amount Being Raised
- Specific Ask (i.e. what do you need from the advisor)
The goal of the OSAM is to provide a simple to execute non-technical tool for advisors to use in their effort to advise startups and entrepreneurs. I’ve tried all sorts of scheduling tools — some better than others — but at the end of the day this simple model seems to work best for me. To be sure, the model puts some entrepreneurs off — especially the hyper-organized founders — but I’ve found that it maximizes my ability to engage the community with actionable advice and counsel.
Update: Please don’t call or email explaining that this model doesn’t work for you or your schedule. The whole point of the OSAM is to maximize my ability to engage with the maximum number of entrepreneurs.
About The Author
Alexander Muse is a serial entrepreneur, author of the StartupMuse, contributor to Forbes and managing partner of Sumo. Check out his podcast on iTunes. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.