Startup ecosystems are abuzz with terms like mentorship, assistance, and guidance. But for those who are new to the game, these words are just that: words. It’s easy to tweet and blog and publish content about how startup ecosystems need to help, guide, and empower startups, but it’s a much harder task to lead startups to success.

The bottom line: Startups need access to reliable, honest mentors. This is nothing new. In fact, it’s so well-known that “assistance” seems to pop up everywhere these days. Online courses, conferences, networking events: the social aspect of entrepreneurship is bigger than ever. Everywhere you look, seasoned and well-known entrepreneurs are telling us that we need to grow and scale. But how can we find the right mentors to help us take that next step?

All startups should have access to experts in a variety of subjects without having to sign up for a conference or course where they might leave empty-handed. Networking events are great, but growing your startup is better. Here are five reasons that you need reliable and honest mentors:

  1. Scaling a startup is hard.

Most people take their first step into entrepreneurship not fully realizing what they’re getting themselves into. No matter how much research you conduct, no one knows the journey of entrepreneurship better than someone who has experience walking through it.

Startup mentors don’t necessarily lighten the load, but they do ease the difficulty of making tough decisions. Their advice is often unbiased, which provides you with opportunities to look at both sides of the matter before jumping into something you are unprepared for.

Likewise, mentors often have experience with failure in ways a fresh startup might not have encountered yet. In an ecosystem that oftentimes functions like a minefield, it’s important to stay grounded and learn where to step from someone who has already made the journey.

  1. Building a brand takes time.

One of the most time-consuming aspects of entrepreneurship is building your brand. Between all the buzz of social media and website design, startup weekends and networking events, and even the influx of meetings you try your best to keep up with, it’s easy to lose track of what’s truly important, and that’s building a successful brand that puts customers first.

The right mentor will help you prioritize user experience as a means of brand-building. This means setting up your company with a foundation that lasts and not falling prey to entrepreneurial fads or trends. You don’t need a million followers. What you do need are early adopters and customers that love how your company solves their pain points.

  1. Startups are usually broke.

Reliable and honest mentors aren’t in the business of helping startups to get rich. If they were, they wouldn’t be helping startups. Most of us know and understand that the earliest stages of any company are some of toughest, especially when it comes to finances. Building a business from the ground up is expensive, so the last thing you need is a bill from some type of course, conference, webinar, or event that didn’t even answer the questions you had going into it.

Good mentors are in the business of helping startups because they believe in bettering the entrepreneurial ecosystem. They understand where you are and want to give back by guiding you through the toughest startup stages.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you can take advantage of the mentors who are willing to help you. Listen closely to their advice and make smart, calculated decisions that build your business, knowledge, and experience.

  1. Mentors know people that you don’t (yet).

Most mentors are well-connected. They’ve been in their industry, field, or community for a long time, so they know the movers and shakers. They also know other entrepreneurs who might be interested in your idea or business.

Good mentors don’t waste time trying to answer questions you might have that don’t line up with their personal experience. Instead, they connect you with others who might have more knowledge of how to help you with that specific aspect of your business. Not only does this grow your own personal network, but it also helps you build a list of early adopters or service providers to contact in later stages of growth.

  1. Because sometimes you just need some tough love.

Have I mentioned that starting a business is hard? Not only are we pouring our time and money into something that might or might not make it, but most of us also invest our hearts and souls into our companies. That’s why naming a business is so similar to naming a child. We want it to grow and succeed while we grow and succeed.

Honest mentors are necessary because sometimes you need to be told “no,” or at least “not yet.” There are times when your startup isn’t ready for that next step. There are times when your idea isn’t quite there, or your product-market fit doesn’t line up, or your solution isn’t actually solving anything despite your best efforts to pivot.

These are all moments where you desperately need someone to pump the brakes. Mentors often have the uncanny ability to see your efforts from the outside looking in. Listen when you can, even if it means holding off on a launch date or rethinking a feature of your product.

StartupApp connects startups with mentors and other resources on a platform. If you are an industry expert, community organizer, or thought leader who would like to give back to local startups, please contact us here.

Startup or entrepreneur looking for assistance? Visit StartupApp and get your questions answered today.


Sandile Shabangu

StartupGuy is the Founder of Startup Mzansi and is on a mission to build Africa's Startup Ecosystem thus laying the foundation by bringing the essential elements for anyone to start and stay started in business.

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