The Secret Sauce of Entrepreneurship & the Myths of Mentorship

August 25, 2016

Today's post is written by Anand Thaker, Atlanta Tech Village's Mentor Lead and Advocate, and an all around solid dude. We are proud to have him as a part of the Village.For much of my early career out of Georgia Tech, I tried to learn things from the school of hard knocks.  It was how I was taught as a kid through college as well as after a few bad experiences with ‘mentors.’ Thirteen years ago, I wanted to switch directions in my career by blending marketing with technology. To do that, I needed help.  

Mentors have helped me personally and professionally from building companies and developing investment strategies to insights on how to advise firms. It’s a cornerstone of my life.  

Mentoring is the secret sauce of entrepreneurship.

Every unicorn entrepreneur has had one throughout his or her career. Seeing this in other notable startup ecosystems, I want to build the culture of mentorship in Atlanta to help level up the ecosystem. The Village seems to be a great place to start.Our Mission is for every Villager entrepreneur to have a mentor. We want to arm them with guidance and resources to find one. While these relationships should develop organically, we do have a group of well-vetted, top-notch folks to start.  

Mentor Myths

We’ll share our game-plan at the end, but first, let’s dispel a few myths commonly surrounding mentorship:Myth #1 - Only good mentors are famous and wildly successful. Yes, you do want to have someone with a track record of some success, but failures are just as important to provide a more complete perspective.Myth #2 - I'm too early in my startup to get a mentor. It’s never too early to develop a relationship to help you accelerate leveling-up.Myth #3 - There’s only one perfect mentor for me.  Life is complex. Many successful people have more than one mentor.  Usually one is more holistic, but then others help you tackle how you need to shape up professionally, personally, spiritually, etc.Myth #4 – I can learn everything from failing fast. Fail fast, and fail cheap is an awesome mindset from Lean Startup.  It’s great for product development but not so much for everything else. Mentors and advisors can help you fail smarter and internalize failures or recoveries.Myth #5 - Mentorship is a one-way street. Mentors get as much as they give. Aside from the satisfaction of elevating others, mentors can learn interesting things from their mentees. Also, there’s no better way for mentors to expand their insights into a variety of perspectives.Myth #6 - Mentorship is a 5-minute conversation. It’s a relationship - not a meeting. Both sides carefully invest a great deal of time and energy to help a mentee level up.Myth #7 - Mentors are here to connect my company to capital. While mentors do have access to many resources, mentees need to build the relationship and earn the right to continue the relationship.Myth #8 - Mentors are advisors. Yes, but there is so much more to it; a sounding board, coach, sherpa, friend, etc… A good mentor’s role is let you drive, but be in the passenger seat next to you.

Game Plan for Connecting Villagers with Mentors

So, here’s our game plan broken down into three critical components:

  1. Curate. We vet and constantly evaluate the best characteristics of mentors. We’ve made them a part of the community and support them well.
  2. Facilitate. While mentoring relationships develop organically, we have Raleigh who’s gotten to know the mentors and advisors well and can help start you in the best first step.
  3. Educate. The Village will begin to have a series of mentorship education sessions to help us all embed mentoring into our lives. Also, our mentors and advisors are regularly holding sessions at the Village on specialized topics.

The program, like mentoring, will grow organically and adapt to the needs of the community.  If you have questions, comments or are looking for a mentor, contact Village Mentor Coordinator, Raleigh Rose to start -[caption id="attachment_11458" align="alignright" width="356"]

Anand Thaker, Atlanta Tech Village's Mentor Committee Chair

Anand Thaker, Atlanta Tech Village's Mentor Committee Chair[/caption]Few other great resources on finding and being a mentor:

August 25, 2016
Karen Houghton