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Mentoring is an integral part of the startup ecosystem, particularly during the early stages of entrepreneurship, as startups face numerous challenges and obstacles on their journey to success — and this is where mentors play a crucial role in guiding and supporting them. For instance, TechCrunch revealed that 33% of startups that became top performers, including Shutterstock and Tumblr, had mentorship from founders of other top-performing companies.
One of the main reasons why startups need mentors is the invaluable experience they bring to the table. Mentors have typically been through the ups and downs of building a business and have gained industry-specific knowledge. By sharing their own mistakes, lessons learned and achievements, mentors help startups avoid making similar costly errors. Their experience acts as a compass, guiding startups in the right direction and enabling them to make informed decisions. The results speak for themselves — according to Sage, 93% of startups globally suggest that mentorship plays a significant role in entrepreneurial success.
Additionally, mentors offer an extensive network of contacts that are able to significantly benefit startups, including potential partners, clients and investors who can provide valuable resources and opportunities. By leveraging their network, mentors assist startups in establishing pivotal relationships that can contribute to the growth and success of the project.
The mentorship process also involves close collaboration between the mentor and the startup team. Initially, the startup team shares their challenges, goals and questions with the mentor. Drawing on their expertise, mentors provide valuable consultation on various aspects, such as product management, business development and sales strategies. They offer problem-solving insights and perspectives while working with the startup team to develop effective strategies and roadmaps. In some cases, mentors may also seek advice from industry specialists to provide more targeted guidance.
In addition to all of that, the mentor carries out the monitoring progress which allows for a watchful eye on the startup’s development to ensure their guidance is practical. This can be achieved through data-driven metrics, benchmarks and roadmaps tailored to the specific product or project, which can evaluate progress and identify improvement areas.
Related: 7 Reasons You Need a Mentor for Entrepreneurial Success
Real-life examples of how mentors can help startups succeed
To illustrate the value of mentors in real-life situations, here are the examples from my mentor experience:
Learning from mistakes: My experience in the advertising market has been shaped by successes and setbacks. For instance, while working on an attribution model for sellers on marketplaces like Amazon, I encountered challenges in accurately attributing conversion value across multiple touchpoints. This taught me the importance of analysis, rigorous testing and continuous refinement models. Now, I guide teams in complex interactions with agencies and buying teams, highlighting the role of effective communication, negotiation skills and understanding of industry dynamics.
Access to investors: I have a proven track record of helping startups secure funding by leveraging the network of investors and industry partners and connecting startups with funding sources. For example, I recently helped one of my mentees secure $200K in funding at a valuation of $3M, which was crucial for the company’s growth. I believe entrepreneurship creates a positive change, supported by the Endeavor Insight study, highlighting that startups with mentors were 1.7 times more likely to raise funding and 3.5 times more likely to grow significantly.
Guidance in decision-making: During a specific period, evaluating the possibilities of expanding into foreign markets is crucial when scaling. For one of our projects, we selected the Latam region as the target market for scaling. We utilized the appropriate approach to assess market potential, score opportunities and identify potential clients. Overall, we have achieved excellent results and are expanding this success story. Therefore, I adopt a similar approach for most projects, focusing on local and foreign markets.
Industry insights: The mentor-mentee relationship is a mutual exchange where both parties can learn from each other. As a mentor, you have valuable knowledge, experience and connections that can be utilized for your projects. It is vital to help the team and product grow based on measurable metrics while also digitizing everything and providing recommendations and assistance that the team can apply. Only some projects or teams will effectively use your knowledge, so it’s crucial to maintain an open mindset. It’s best to provide information in small doses and only intervene when necessary. Of course, if the mentor sees the team making gross mistakes, then they can fix it — otherwise, observing from a distance is best unless the mentor is asked specific action questions.
Related: 5 Ways a Mentor Helps Your Startup Scale
How mentors and mentees benefit each other in the startup journey
Mentors and founders can learn from each other in the startup journey in several ways. Firstly, the mentorship relationship is a two-way process where both parties can learn and grow from each other’s experiences and perspectives. While mentors possess specific knowledge and skills, they also gain fresh insights and ideas from mentees by engaging in open and collaborative discussions, allowing mentors to gain new perspectives and broaden their horizons.
Secondly, effective mentors require a certain level of experience and age, but equally important is their desire to help others. While a completely inexperienced person may not be an effective mentor, willingness to help requires experience. The combination of experience and a genuine desire to assist and guide mentees in their personal and professional development makes mentors successful. This ongoing learning process allows mentors to refine their methods, adapt to market changes and enhance their communication and leadership skills.
In addition, mentorship provides mentors with a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. Witnessing mentees succeed, whether it’s through achieving their goals, developing innovative products or receiving recognition in the marketplace, can be incredibly rewarding. Mentors take pride in knowing they have played a part in their mentees’ achievements and growth.
Related: Business Mentorship: Why It’s Great And How To Find The Perfect Mentor
Where to find a mentor and how to build a quality mentor relationship
Finding a mentor and establishing a quality mentor relationship is crucial for personal and professional development. Here are some effective strategies for finding a mentor and building a strong mentor-mentee connection that I use:
Participate in industry events: Attend conferences, seminars and workshops related to your field. These events provide opportunities to meet experienced professionals who can become mentors. Plus, engaging in conversations and networking with industry experts can help establish mentor relationships.
Build virtual networking: Use online platforms, such as LinkedIn, to connect with professionals in your industry. Join relevant groups, participate in discussions, and proactively reach out to individuals who can offer guidance and support. Many people approach me for mentorship through LinkedIn, as it is the best platform for mentors and mentees to connect.
Explore specific mentorship platforms: Specialized mentorship platforms facilitate mentor-mentee connections. For instance, Growthmentor, Mentorpass, and 100mentors provide a structured framework for finding mentors who align with your needs and goals. As for me, I provide mentorship only in related industries, such as AdTech and MarTech.
Mentoring is crucial in empowering businesses by stimulating innovation, providing support, fostering creative ideas and solutions, boosting entrepreneurs’ development and facilitating startups’ rapid growth. Through mentorship, companies can unlock their full potential, tap into new ideas and perspectives, as well as receive guidance from experienced mentors. By leveraging mentorship, businesses can thrive in a dynamic and competitive market, driving innovation and achieving sustainable growth.