Advisors · Startups

What should I look for in an advisor?

Farhad Faqiri

March 24th, 2015

I am almost ready to launch my web application and after speaking to several people (and reading a few articles about startup teams), I've come to the conclusion that it would be good for me to have one (or more) advisors to help me decide what steps I have to take next.

However, after browsing the advisors section of Founderdating I realized that I am not sure what to look for in an advisor.

I know this is a very general question but I'd appreciate some feedback.



Chris Saad Product Manager, API at Uber

March 24th, 2015

Some things to look out for off the top of my head.. 

 1. Someone who's done it before (successfully) 
 2. Someone who, on the initial conversation, helps you with concrete advice/assistance for free 
 3. Someone who has expertise in the right problem domain 
 4. Someone who doesn't expect to get paid 
 5. Someone who doesn't expect more than 0.5% equity AFTER having provided real initial value 
 6. Someone who has a network/influence 
 7. Someone you like

Gretchen Consultant Big Data Program Consultant Agile Coach & Rally Version-One Tools Admin

March 24th, 2015

Find your local Techstars organization  http://www.techstars.com

Lawrence Lerner Digitalization and Transformation Coach

March 24th, 2015

Good question!  Work backwards

  • What problem does your application solve for your customers?
    • Which advisors align with your industry segment (e.g., healthcare)
    • Which advisors align with the way/means (e.g., process, technology) your application solves the problem
  • What's the white space around you? Where can advisors fill in there (E.g., Finance)
My $.02 is keep it simple and have a conversation with a few who have expertise in the areas you identify above

Sylvain Carle Partner @RealVentures. General Manager @FounderFuel.

March 24th, 2015

Here is another way to look at it: what are the challenges you expect for the next 6, 12, 18 months?

So work backward (as mentioned before) from an ideal roadmap, project yourself one year out. Where do you need help? If you know what you are good at, what about all these other things you are "not so good at"?

A really simple answer might be: talk to other entrepreneurs that have been thru this process. It's much easier to start with peers.

Also: check out http://techcrunch.com/2011/09/22/free-startup-docs-how-much-equity-should-advisors-get/ for a good overview of the process of working with advisors. Don't pay consultants, find entrepreneur friendly terms.

Stephen Lynch Head of Strategy & Consulting at RESULTS.com, Award Winning Author, Speaker, Strategic Planning Facilitator

March 24th, 2015


Expertise in working with companies at your stage of evolution
A structured, replicable methodology that they are willing to share with you prior (one that explains how they deliver value consistently)
References from clients who faced similar challenges to you - a proven track record of success
Cultural fit - their working style fits well with your management team

Chris Hoffmann Chief Executive Officer/ Entrepreneur/ Vehicle Design

March 24th, 2015

An advisor shouldn't be asked to know the details of your technology. They should be a front line filter on incoming deals, financing offeres, what might be a fair percentage to offer in options for a particular role. Advisors are good for setting industry standard expectations. I'd make sure they are the type that will read every word of a document and tell you what to do. You don't have time for that. 

Shawn H. Yang

March 24th, 2015

1) Industry expertise (for strategy, GTM, business model, etc)
2) Experience scaling a startup (for helping with operational issues, user acquisition, etc) 
3) Has a strong network of contacts (for business development & partnerships, fundraising, hiring, etc) 
4) Willing to commit time and effort to help
5) Someone you get along with

They do not have to hit all 5. You can have 3 advisors, for each of 1-3 above. 

Saurabh Gupta

March 24th, 2015

If I were you, I would be dating a lot of them through local startup community. Co-working spaces and incubators make a lot of mentors available for free.

From my experience, every adviser is different. In fact, their path of success may have been very different. A biz dev guy might have very different opinion in starting a start-up than a finance guy. A coder might have completely different opinion than a designer. So path of success varies.

You have to find out who resonates with your line of thinking. You may also find a lot of advisers who are expecting equity from the day 1 and there are others who believe in community  but will never accept any formal advisory role. There are pros and cons to both. Once you start working with them, you will know who cares for your company in the long term and who doesn't.

Dominic Luzi CEO at RightSide Labs, Slayer of Sacred Cows

March 24th, 2015

Farhad,

I think that everyone so far has provided valuable answers to your questions and after taking a very quick look at your website it appears to me that the real value add in your startup is the premium services that you are offering.

I would ask myself "Do I have the capabilities and connections to provide the services?" . If the answer is no, then that is where I may seek advisors. For example you offer "introductions to Investors" as one of your services and if you do not have those types of connections in your rolodex I would seek someone who is connected to that community. Keep in mind that that particular offering may just be geographically sensitive. You get the idea.

Not knowing where you are technically on scaling business from both a people and process point of view this might be another area I might seek an advisor.

With all that being said I also think that the advice from Sylvain, Gretchen is especially useful in the area of connecting to the local Founder community as that may be one of your best learning and GTM opportunities.

Best,

Dom

Gil Allouche Founder @ Metadata

March 24th, 2015

I recommend looking for advisors inside and outside FD network. Your criteria for selecting advisors can depend on a few components: - a person with domain expertise (same domain as your startup) - a person you respect / aspire to become - someone who has network for potential customers - someone who has expertise in an area you lack - someone who started a company and sold it that is similar to yours in one fashion or another Best is if the advisor also invests / even a tiny amount Places to look for advisors include FD, angel list , gust, crunchbase You can connect with them using sellhack, LinkedIn or hunt them at events Gil / founder @ metadata.io