By Stephanie Rich
This month, I am mentoring for the Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator - it will be the 15th time I've gone through Techstars mentor madness. Having met with many founders over the years, I wanted to share my top tips to founders for getting the most out of the mentors you meet.
Typically, these quick mentor meetings are all about yes, knowledge sharing, but really establishing a relationship, feeling out whom you want to work with more closely for a longer period of time. The number one thing you can do to figure out who that ongoing mentor should be is to be yourself, be transparent and be engaged. Morgan Hewett and Kyle Pierce, Cofounders of Options MD (United Healthcare Powered by Techstars Accelerator) are great examples of doing this well!
In a mentor meeting, all of your mentors will share a ton of advice. Remember that your mentors’ insights, ideas, and shared stories should be taken as data points that you can apply and evaluate based on your own company. Mentors are definitely not always right.
Do some homework on who you're meeting (i.e. some LinkedIn research) to be ready with questions that would be helpful to you and that the mentor you're meeting with may have special insight on. Valtteri Salomaki, CEO of Edge Sound Research (The Minnesota Twins Accelerator by Techstars) came to our first meeting with questions on standing up a hardware brand, the role a community plays in launching a new product and more. Even if you don't have a chance to do much prep, have a few backup questions lined up and ready to go that work with anyone! Ex. "Did our value proposition make sense to you?" "How do you typically like to engage with early-stage companies?" "What are your favorite ways to help entrepreneurs?"
As a founder, you should be sending updates to your investors and stakeholders (including mentors!) At the end of your meeting, ask if you can include your mentor in updates and follow up by actually sending an update.
Stephanie Rich is Head of Platform at Bread and Butter Ventures where she works to add continuous value to portfolio companies and founders. She was formerly Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator in partnership with Cargill and Ecolab. Steph has worked with numerous early-stage startups as a mentor and advisor, and has received the Techstars #GiveFirst Award three separate times. She has hands-on expertise in bringing products and companies to market while building, cultivating and sustaining customer bases online and off.