Do any research on Techstars and you quickly come across the term “Mentor Madness”. In the space of 4 weeks1 you have around 80 twenty minute meetings with potential mentors. It’s not a pitch – that much has been drummed into us – it’s presenting your team and your business and seeing if there is a match with the mentor. Think of it a bit like speed dating.
Sit through that many meetings with that many people and you’re bound to get differing advice. This even has a name: Mentor Whiplash. Sounds painful. So far, it’s not as bad as it seems. While we’re seeing polar opposite advice from some mentors, we’re viewing this as A Good Thing™.
The mentor whiplash we’re seeing is on parts of the business we’re not sure about yet. If everyone turned round and said “oh, you just want to do X” then you really need to just go do X – and possibly ask yourself why you didn’t spot that in the first place. If half the mentors are saying “do X” with the other half saying “do Y”, or even “wow, that’s a really hard problem, I don’t know” then you can at least take solace in the fact it probably is a really hard problem – and maybe one with no right answer.
You’ve also got to bear in mind that these guys are getting a 20 minute window onto a company which may not have been explained in the best of terms2 and are then having to think on their feet. It’s only really the easy questions that can get answered in these session. All you can hope for the hard questions is confirmation of the fact they’re hard and a selection of viewpoints on how best to tackle the issue.
So, day 1. We’re feeling positive. We’ve identified some great people who we’d be thrilled to have as mentors. We spent the evening debriefing and prepping for tomorrow, and then it’s just same again. Sadly I probably won’t get to go to all 80 odd meetings, although we’re early doors yet and that could end up being a blessing in disguise.
1 Well, 3 technically as week 2 is “time off” to regroup ready for the full on onslaught of weeks 3 and 4.
2 This is only day 1 of these after all.