7 steps to remember while mentoring startups

By Kulin Shah|28th Aug 2020
Mentors help entrepreneurs strategise, steer partnerships, help with negotiations, hire the right talent, and a lot more. Hence it is important for them to ensure their mentorship is valuable and effective for the startup.
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startup mentors

The world is brimming with entrepreneurs who are bringing in their innovative solutions to solve problems and create value. They are on the trajectory to make lives of the consumers better, smoother or opulent.


Due to the pandemic, startups have been badly hit, and they are trying really hard to stay afloat. With this, startups are looking at taking the help of mentors who can guide them to get back on track.


Right mentors are very crucial for a startup. They help entrepreneurs strategise, steer partnerships, help with negotiations, hiring the right talent, how to raise and utilise the capital, and a lot more.


One wrong consultation can break the wheel of the startup. So, it is imperative for the mentor to make sure whatever leaves their lips are valuable and effective for the startup.


Mentors need to keep in mind certain points when guiding startups, which will help them to effectively bring a wave of change in the startup world.




1. Mentor - Startup Fit

Just like a product needs to have a market fitment, so does a mentor and a startup. It is imperative to understand the founder, the culture, and the business model and product before making any commitment. Having mentored multiple businesses in the past does not qualify you to mentor every business. Hence, before making a commitment, make you sure:


i) You understand the expectations of the founder


ii) Have amply clarified the areas where you can provide help and expertise


iii) If there is any expectation of compensation – equity or fees

2. Honesty is the best policy

As a mentor, your advice is valuable to the founders, and many a times this is incorporated to chart out the future roadmap. Please don’t mince your words and make sure you provide a candid viewpoint.


As a mentor, you are not expected to know everything, hence saying so is more valuable than giving the wrong advice. Its ok to say, “I don’t know”. It is always appreciated if you can connect them with people who can help them in areas where you cannot.

3. Good things take time

When you start mentoring, entrepreneurs might not be able to see drastic changes immediately. It will take time and a lot of patience and faith to lead the plan to fruition. You need to convey this to the entrepreneurs and make sure they are on the same page when it comes to the timelines.


It is very important to meet at frequent intervals and keep discussing regularly to achieve the common goals, as miracles don’t happen in a day but with patience and lots of dedication you can help the startups reach their goals.

4. Be all ears

As much as we enjoy speaking, it is very crucial to listen to what your mentees have to say. To make something great happen, it is important to have a two-way communication and intently listen to the ideas and suggestions a founder discusses.


To solve a problem, you need to listen to the problems so that you can give the right solution. Sometimes, as mentor a founder is only looking to vent their problems and frustrations. You don’t always need to be in advising / problem solving mode.




5. Don’t be shy to ask – Just ask away

Ask the right questions to get to the bottom of the problem, because the right questions will lead you to the problem, and by discovering the problem you can deliver the right plan of action.


Apart from asking questions about the business, you should also ask questions about the person and understand him/her well. This will help in giving the right kind of advice.

6. Ctrl C+ Ctrl V does not always work

You could be a mentor to several businesses or have worked at / founded many organisations. This exposes you to various experiences and outcomes. An outcome at one startup will not necessary replicate the results at the other. Share your experiences and best practices followed by others and ask the entrepreneur to contextualise them for their startup.


As every business has its uniqueness, it might need a completely different strategy altogether. So, you need to be in full-on drive mode to make sure the solution that you are providing is unique to each and everyone.

7. Do your deed and keep an open mind

You might give all the great suggestions and advice to your mentees, but it is up to them to use it or not. So, you need to keep an open mind and let them make the end decision and respect it as well. Don’t get offended and feel that your advice was not viable.


Probably the founder(s) thinks it can go the other way round. So, just let it go and approach it in a nice and gentle manner. Do not be attached to your advice. Make sure you have provided all the viewpoints.


Edited by Megha Reddy

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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