Alberto Escarlate is a Techstars mentor as well as an investor, designer, professor, entrepreneur and advisor. He’s the founder of Playful Data as well as a Venture Partner at Collaborative Fund. Before becoming a VC, he co-founded Sojo Studios and TigerTag; the first free lost & found service for consumer electronics – an early precursor of the Internet of Things. He also served as CTO for startups such as Entertainment Media Works and YellowPin.
What do you love most about mentoring startups? Why do you do it?
The startup thrill is about the fast pace and growth. It’s also about the many obstacles that will make you stop for a moment and take a deep breath before sprinting to climb them.
When mentoring a startup, you’re not super close to that crazy ride, but it’s the closest you can be without being a founder or investor. At every check point there’s something unexpected: a new possible deal, a new finding about the business model or a product. These are reasons to love mentoring. And, frankly, I do it because I love to help people.
As entrepreneurs, we make a lot of mistakes. To have someone who will open your eyes and help overcome them is extremely valuable to founders and rewarding to mentors.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?
I was fortunate to have received great advice during my career. The best advice is the one that comes at the right time. Just when you need it. It doesn’t matter if it’s about fundraising or solving a co-founder’s conflict.
I’ve also received a lot of bad advice that usually comes from people with no, “skin in the game.” Founders should always consider the context that the advice is given in. Who’s giving it and what is their agenda?
How do you prefer that founders follow up with you?
I have no preference. Email is pretty common, but I’ve had conversations with founders over messaging apps, text, etc.
What is the most common mistake you see startup founders make?
It’s like cooking…a common mistake is adding too much or too little of an ingredient. Early stage startups need a lot of experimentation and I see founders too shy of trying something different. It’s also very common to scatter the focus on things that won’t bring much in return. There’s a fine line on prioritizing where to focus.
What is your favorite quality in a founder?
Being a founder is already a pretty awesome quality. The fact that you made a decision to create something that could impact the world is notable. I think curiosity, willingness to learn and to admit that you don’t have the solution for everything is a great quality.