A Complete Guide to Startup Advisors and Mentors

Josiah Humphrey
Aug 21, 2017 · 7 min read
Originally published on http://www.appsterhq.com

Knowledgeable, experienced, and well-connected mentors/advisors are crucial to a startup’s success.

According to Startup Genome Report, startups that don’t explicitly seek out the advice and assistance of advisors in their industries fail to raise the funding necessary to scale.

Whilst entrepreneurs know that mentors/advisors are vital to the growth of their companies, much confusion persists regarding what an advisory board is, which roles advisors can be expected to play, and how startups should secure mentors in the first place.

In this article I’ll provide answers to some of the most common questions concerning the role and benefits of advisors/mentors.

1. What Is an “Advisory Board”?

An advisory board:

  • Is a formal collection of talented individuals, usually 3–6 people, who provide your startup with professional advice and guidance intended to help you grow your venture into a thriving company;

2. Why Should You Assemble an Advisory Board?

Contemporary startups should assemble advisory boards because:

  • Advisory boards statistically increase startups’ chances of success: “Startups that have helpful mentors, track metrics effectively, and learn from startup thought leaders raise 7x more money and have 3.5x better user growth” than startups that do not explicitly seek out the assistance of advisors (source).
(image source)
  • Advisory boards boost startup credibility: first-time entrepreneurs in particular often lack credibility and startup founders can increase their legitimacy and reputation by building an advisory team that comprises veteran entrepreneurs who bring with them lots of social proof and authenticity (source).

Sean Parker, co-founder of Facebook, was an advisor to Spotify from 2009–2017:

(image source)

3. What Is the Difference Between “Mentors” and “Advisors”?

Although mentors and advisors are commonly mentioned in the same breath, we can differentiate between the two:

Mentors are:

  • typically, close friends who help you grow as an individual; their focus is altruistic (i.e., they genuinely want to see you do well and they care about your progress and wellbeing) rather than financial (i.e., wanting a piece of your company);

Advisors are:

  • professionals who focus overwhelmingly on helping your company (rather than supporting your developments as a person);

4. What Steps Should You Take Before Trying to Recruit Advisors or Mentors?

Before reaching out to one or more people whom you believe might make excellent advisors or mentors, here are some important steps you should take:

  • Determine the specific skills, kinds of expertise, and experiences that you need in a mentor and that your startup needs in an advisor. Be careful not to assemble members for an advisory board (or to recruit mentors) who are too similar either to you and your startup team (i.e., possessing the same strengths and weakness of you and your co-founders) or to each other (i.e., functioning as a deeply homogeneous group that lacks diversity in abilities, knowledge, and connections).

5. How Can You Recruit Advisors/Mentors?

Here are some helpful tips for ways to effectively locate potential mentors/advisors:

  • Start with whom you know: it may sound obvious but the truth is that one of the best ways to locate and interact with experienced and skilled people who can advise your company is to exploit your current networks. Using your online and offline connections, ask people for introductions, seek out recommendations, and build up your social capital. Connect with folks on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter; take an active interest in what your potential mentors/advisors are doing these days and use that knowledge as leverage to contact them (even “cold” emails can sometimes work if done properly).

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Originally published at http://www.appsterhq.com

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