We are huge believers of the power of mentoring at Real Ventures and Founderfuel. One of our core beliefs as a fund is that the best entrepreneurs can raise capital anywhere, which means investors need to bring more than $. And solid, engaged mentoring based on operating experience is one of the first value propositions that great investors should be serving up.
When founders think about what types of skills to surround themselves with they often think of areas where they are not strong personally. As an example, many of the founders I back or advise love my background in finance and metrics since it complements their strengths.
That’s all good, but I actually think the most powerful mentoring collaborations come from working with people that share your expertise.
If you think of professional athletes, they are highly specialized. They are not coached to become well rounded. They are coached to excel in their specific area. The well roundedness comes from the team as a whole, not the individual.
As founder, you need some grounding in all the core areas of your business so that you can manage and hire for them. But I would also encourage you to seek outside collaborators or mentors on the areas where you are strongest.
Startups usually succeed by doing one thing really well (gross oversimplification). And for the startups we back that thing tends to be reflected in the product / user experience. For this reason we tend to back product-centric founders.
But imagine the possibilities in terms of clarity of focus, time to product / market fit, etc that could come from enhancing your strong product skills with outside mentors?
Many founders I know keep in contact with other experts in their core area, but few have taken these relationships to the point of structured mentoring. I think that’s leaving value on the table.
Finally, I think it’s a great idea for founders to be mentors themselves. Teaching and sharing our knowledge is an amazing way to learn. Sometimes we don’t realize how much we know till we start sharing that knowledge.