Real, value-added mentors are professionals who have learned from their own 'personal' genuine experience. I think purely academically-learned entrepreneurship is an oxymoron. They tend to be older, wiser and are not professional consultants or advisors because they have experienced most of the good and evil in founding and starting businesses, as well as learning from their mistakes not their successes. Albert Einstein advises us that "The only source of learning is experience." And, Bill Gates suggests "Its fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure." Value-added mentors have decade of experience and mistakes, mixed with successes. They have seen almost everything. They tend to have learned that, among other infinite details:
1. Creating a startup is like running a business but ten times more difficult. Existing businesses know where they are strong and weak because they have some history. New businesses do not. Existing businesses have had time to tweak their marketing strategies based on successes and failures. New businesses have not. Existing businesses have supplier and distribution networks in place. New businesses do not. Existing businesses know which products and services to offer, bundle, or eliminate. New businesses do not. And perhaps most importantly, existing businesses have positive cash flow based on product sales. New businesses do not. (Tony Robinson, The Value of an Education in Entrepreneurship,StartupAugusta.com(article) athttps://startupaugusta.com/value-education-entrepreneurship/accessed on February 20, 2015)
2. Founders, builders and leaders of new businesses do not experience their professional, personal, ethical, creative and spiritual lives as separate worlds; their worlds become enduringly intertwined and holistic, and the coalescing is inexorable and has no clear end point.They are not prepared for the extraordinarily difficult, sometimes impossible and hard-ball, job of continually being asked to know more, do more, be more, and be mentally and emotionally prepared in all aspects of life -- a complex, multidimensional balancing act. Success depends on holistic life disciplines. (author)
3. Founders of start-ups need to how learn how to learn how to not sign founding agreements/covenants that set them up to be terminated and/or fail, and developing a precognition about their holistic surroundings.
4. Most of all real mentors will tell you truth. Real mentors are under agreement with specificdeliverablesand paid, generally on an annual retailer, by the founder not the company or by the company as an contracted employee benefit - being sure there is no incorporation clause in your employment agreement Most investors want to be your mentor but they have conflicting objectives. If the company pays, then the Mentor's "duty" is to the company and not the founder/ceo. Almost half of founder/ceos are terminated by the company's Board before the 3rdround of financing. A large number of them just quit from the holistic stress. (These are researched facts)
Under very select circumstances I serve as a mentor - only if I think (I can help you. We live in a world of pitches and sound bites. You must dig into the details, meet, have detailed dialogue and meet with a potential mentor before engaging her/him.
I could go on and on - you need a pro. I had great success and great failure. I wish I knew then what I know now. "What they neverteachyou at Wharton."
Good luck, David
PS Board Members have a legal duty to the company and not you, so they may have good intentions to be mentors but when things get tough you come after the company.
PPS: "A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on."Samuel Goldwyn.