in Using mentors

Mentor Match Is Overrated

Sometimes You Don’t Need To Be Understood

Storm 4

I find fashion startups hard to work with because there are so many ways to fail. Do everything right and somehow something bad always seems to trip you up. They also attract hard-to-work-with personalities. Burned fingers make me wary.

This goes part way to explaining why one of my favorite startups spent the first four weeks of an accelerator learning to tell me – and eventually themselves – that they weren’t a fashion startup. They’re an e-commerce logistics startup, a sector I like.

Four years later they’re doing quite well. Their customers are happy. Their investors are happy. They’re happy, and so am I. They’re not a fashion startup.

Avoid startup huggers, unless a hug is what you need

Your time is painfully short and you need to cover ground as quickly as possible. A lot of mentors are in the game because it’s exciting and fun and that’s fine – as long as they add value. Their support needs to help you move forward.

Some days are harder than others and a pat on the back or thumbs up can really help. Accept a hug when you need a hug, but don’t be needy. If they want to hear your pitch just to hear your pitch, consider moving on. Get stuff done. It’ll make you feel better.

Resistance can be good

Sometimes what you need is a grumpy, old mentor who doesn’t get you or your idea. Maybe you’re like the sensor company I worked with recently, that couldn’t understand the pushback to their contactless payment technology.

I told them what others wouldn’t. The common perception is that the breakthrough for their technology has been ‘right around the corner’ for twenty years. We don’t care that it’s big in Japan. Now they start their conversations by addressing the elephant on the table. It seems to be working for them.

Not everyone will get you – and that’s good

I’ve pitched a concept for the last year that people either get or don’t get. Buy-in seems to be immediate and intuitive – or not at all. Convincing people who don’t get it right away is hard, but I’m closer than I was three months ago. My message is sharper now.

Sometimes you need to be forced to explain yourself until the person across the table understands. People who’ve drunk the Kool-Aid aren’t always the ones who can help most. Sometimes you need to be misunderstood, if only because resistance can make you stronger.

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