Introductions are often better than advice
”Don’t touch that!”
”It’s hot. You’ll burn yourself”
”How do you know?”
Giving advice is usually rather straight forward. Explaining why the advice is valid and should be followed is often the bigger task. Sometimes the best advice a mentor can give a startup is an introduction.
Why should I listen to you?
It’s a good question, and frequently, my answer is ”Don’t”. My network is big enough that I almost always know someone who knows more about what you just asked than me. The same goes for most good mentors.
You want to start a business tracking boxes for moving firms? I know a handful of companies that do that for the retail and delivery industries. Ask them for advice. You want to talk about raising money from Investor X? Let me introduce you to these three companies that have them as investors.
Is your question about legal, accounting or IPR?
Math ain’t just adding and subtracting. There are lots of accountants, but only some of them understand startup accounting, let alone startup investments. IPR is about way more than filing patents. Your copyright may be filed correctly, but making the competition care is another matter.
Lawyers come by the dozen, but only some of them understand startup term sheets. It’s sad to see lawyers aggressively trying to gain every advantage possible for investor clients. They don’t seem realize that an unequal deal does their client no good when it removes the startup’s motivation to work hard.
Some startups are hard to reach
Sometimes it’s not worth the fight to beat knowledge into someone’s head. Sometimes they need time to let the wisdom seep in. Sometimes the best way to get someone to see something is to change the messenger. And sometimes, someone else’s answer is not only better phrased, but just plain better.
Make the introduction instead of the argument.