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Finding the Right Mentor Amid the Noise

Mariel Grazella - 18 May 2015

The startup space is getting more packed each day as people launch their digital businesses. Besides funding, these startups are on an active hunt for mentors, which might not always be easy to find.

“There’s already a lot of noise in the startup space,” Wilson Cuaca, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at East Ventures, said.

And the noise means that startups have to put in extra work to sift through the crowd and find just the right mentor who would act as the perfect guide to success. Here are what the pros say on finding the right mentor amid the clamor:

Be good to find good

The "birds of a feather flock together" rule applies to startups and mentors too. Takeshi Ebihara, Co-Founder and General Partner at Batavia Incubator, said that “to find a good mentor, you have to be a good founder first of all”.

“To be honest, mentors tend to help those who have potential,” he said.

Wilson Cuaca, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at East Ventures, added that it is often the case that mentors were the ones who pick their mentees. “But the process has to be done naturally,” he pointed out.

The right chemistry

Next up, founders and mentors must be on the same page of they are to write history. Shinta Dhanuwardoyo, CEO of Bubu, said that founders should lean on mentors who share the same passion with them. “Mentors should have expertise in the product or platform you are making,” she said.

Ebihara added that finding the right mentor meant cutting off as much noise as possible to focus on the voice that matters. According to him, founders now have greater opportunities to talk with high profile entrepreneurs as the number of tech events go up. However, listening to too many people can breed confusion instead.

“It is better to pick one or two serial mentors you can trust and feel close to,” he said.

Critical credentials

Serial entrepreneur. That is one of the crucial credential a mentor should have. Dhanuwardoyo said that mentors should be serial entrepreneurs who have worked on successful startups. “I am uncertain on how someone who has just built a company could be a mentor,” she said.

Ebihara likened having the right mentor with finding a good home doctor. “Startups is a tough game to play, especially emotionally and mentally, in the long run because you have to deal with investors and sometimes, even co-founders,” he said.

“Having a mentor is kind of like having a home doctor who will provide comfort in tough times,” he added.

Trial and error

The whole endeavour of finding the right mentor, like startup the startup business, will be filled with hits and misses. “It is a trial and error process,” Cuaca said.

“That’s why it is best that a mentor invest in the startup also,” he added, saying that the mentor’s stake would up the person’s seriousness in guiding a startup.

Hanifa Ambadar, Co-Founder of Female Daily Network, added that her startup’s process in finding mentors was ”filled with a lot of trials and errors” because there is not yet plenty of experts in digital in Indonesia.

“We were looking for smart money. We wanted someone who would not only invest in the startup, but also help us in networking and provide us with knowledge,” she said. Female Daily Network has been part of the Endeavor Network, an organization which provides mentorship and access to capital to promising entrepreneurs.

Due Diligence

Ambadar added that startups have to research on their potential mentors as well to measure suitability. Finding out about a potential mentor can be as simple as going on social media. “Through social media, we can find out more about the businesses we admire. And it is through social media that we can follow the movement of the businesses’ founders,” she said.

After following these inspiring entrepreneurs, it is time to actually reach out to them. “Reach out to them through Twitter or LinkedIn to invite them for coffee,” she said.

“Most are actually willing to give an hour of their time,” she noted.

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