Techstars Cofounder and Managing Partner David Cohen, with the help of Jon Bradford and Brad Feld, wrote Techstars Mentor Manifesto in order to articulate the values and characteristics of mentorship in the Techstars community.
Mentors are individuals with deep industry, investment, or entrepreneurship experience. They work with the companies pro bono, without expectation of reward or compensation, will share of their knowledge and guidance freely, and will open their networks when appropriate. Mentors are what make Techstars unique and each Techstars program unique. The success of the companies are a direct result of the generous contributions of mentors.
Based on our experience of mentoring and being mentored, and in order to help guide the many mentors who volunteer their time to help entrepreneurs and startups succeed, we composed this Mentor Manifesto.
Expect nothing in return (you’ll be delighted with what you do get back).
Be authentic / practice what you preach.
Be direct. Tell the truth, however hard.
The best mentor relationships eventually become two way.
Adopt at least one company every single year. Experience counts.
Clearly separate opinion from fact.
Hold information in confidence.
Clearly commit to mentor or do not. Either is fine.
Know what you don’t know. Say I don’t know when you don’t know. “I don’t know” is preferable to bravado.
Guide, don’t control. Teams must make their own decisions. Guide but never tell them what to do. Understand that it’s their company, not yours.
Accept and communicate with other mentors that get involved.
Provide specific actionable advice, don’t be vague.
Be challenging/robust but never destructive.
Have empathy. Remember that startups are hard.
There's so much more we could say about each of these points. Fortunately, Brad Feld, assisted by Jay Batson, has already done this work, writing individual blog posts about each element. Read them here.
If these values describe you, and you're interested in becoming a Techstars mentor, read on.
Although there are a million ways to mentor — something that we realize and fully support — we divide Techstars mentors into two main groups: lead mentors and mentors. The difference here is time commitment, not ability to help. Lead mentors spend more time with companies while mentors help out where they can.
Attend a Mentor-to-Mentor Training Session. The local Managing Director can give you more details on where and when.
Attend at least two events in the first month of the program and interact with the companies and the founders that you are interested in.
As the program progresses, your interaction with the companies will be self-driven, driven by company interest, or directed through the Managing Director.
Stay in touch! We only know as much as you tell us about your interest, your availability, and your ability. Keep the Managing Director in the loop in regards to all things Techstars.
There are many reasons to mentor. Know what your reasons are and make sure they are the right reasons. Mentors in this community are not financially compensated throughout the program and should expect nothing in return. If a mentor has this mindset, they always end up getting the most of the program.
Remember that much of what you’ll be exposed to is highly confidential, sometimes including the company’s participation in Techstars. Please do not discuss the company outside the Techstars walls without the company’s permission.
Interested in becoming a Techstars mentor? Apply today.