Correct me if I’m wrong but you need a mentor that is passionate about your space, invested (personally not financially) in your vision and the opportunity, and all but on your team.
The least effective mentors are those that are assigned by Universities or Incubators as though just anyone who knows more than you do will work. These days, everyone wants to be a startup mentor. Whether they have ever done a startup or not, whether they have ever raised money or not, they are ready to advise entrepreneurs. After all, who doesn’t want the CMO of Airbnb as their mentor?! You don’t, even if you have a marketing gap, if your venture is designing smartwatches for babies.
You need to communicate with potential mentors just as you should be communicating with potential team members, partners, and investors: 1. why, 2. the market, and 3. how you define success. Only then can you find those who not just ideally suit your needs but those who WANT to support your success.
From there… network network network. Not much advice to give in that regard. Mine AngelList and LinkedIn for the people that might be ideal and start the conversation. Trust me when I tell you it’s easier than trying to get a response from a cold email to investors; people who truly mentor are open and receptive to hearing from you as long as you’ve done the homework to make sure that THEY are ideal for you.
The real question is what message you send. How do you get potential mentors excited, engaged, and on board? the answer lies in communication and I’d encourage you to consider that your approach lies in these three simple steps:
- Be clear about your why. Not your Product-Market fit nor Problem-Solution statement. Ideal mentors only even care about what you are building and how AFTER being compelled by your why –
- Then flip the idea of Product-Market fit. You want to communicate your Market Product fit; that is: who cares and what’s the opportunity therein. The Market. Then, why your product is right for them –
- Finally, know your definition of success. The answer is not some generic startup reply such as “getting acquired.” What specifically does success look like? Keep in mind, mentors are not investors so you should NOT be trying to convey an answer they want to hear. What does success look like to you? To what end are you working?
That’s it. Simple right? Keep in mind the point conveyed before we even explored those three steps: Do your homework to make sure those to whom you reach out are ideal for you. It’s not hard, if you email me asking for help with your Yoga studio, I’m probably not going to reply. No offense, it’s just not my thing; make sure you answer those 3 questions about your venture and then do your homework to identify those who are ideal.
One final thought. Are you seeking mentors or advisors? Take some time to think about what you need and be clear in your approach to them. In spite of many organizations mincing words, there is a difference and you want to build your team with the appropriate mix of mentors and advisors. More on that here.