I see a lot of founders requesting 15min time from me for quick advice. They are clear that it is not a funding pitch, but, more to get my opinion on some of their questions – is this a right market, whether idea has legs, customer size, product feedback, etc. Based on who is requesting, I tend to allocate time for few and discuss, which usually goes for 30min+. I know that 30min is not sufficient to give deep/quality actionable items, other than some calculated guesses based on what I would have heard. My worry with such meetings is that I am guessing and my comments may not be based on a lot of input data/context and may not be right for the startup. So, I usually put caveat to founders to validate and test before taking my ideas as it is. I also know that most of the founders ignore all the comments that were contracting to their current thoughts and move on to the next mentor.
I say the whole mentoring, where, mentors are spending less than few hours with founders is completely bogus. I am being on the board of many young startups, it takes lots of meetings to understand the contours of the idea, market, team, capability, and strategy. At most one can help is bit tactical, but, doesn’t change the outcome for the startup. If it is the case what should founders do?
Founders have two important things to do before they get into startup-mode: a) Deep understanding and building their point of view of the startup-model and b) Executing the startup with their understanding of the model.
I see that most of the founders don’t do (a) at all. They want to take as many shortcuts as possible by talking to other friends, founders, and not spend time required to dig deep and build their opinion and model of “what it takes to build a world-class startup/company”.
Knowing what I know, I would ignore every mentor, event, startup pitch session, hackathons. Instead, I will get an internet connection, a decent laptop, personal notebook and sit at a quiet coffee shop. Start researching on web on all the topics that matter. I would first figure out the most insightful writers of the topics that one has to research and read. The goal is to build a Point of View about your product/market/idea/hiring/pitching/scaling etc. that you are an expert and you are better than any average mentor.
Once the rules of the game/knowledge is gained, you would have built a framework of thinking about your startup. Then, get into execution mode. During this phase, you try to interact with mentors, pitch sessions, hackathons, and investors so that these interactions are meaningful and actionable.