While a startup founder’s vision and ability can make or break a company, no entrepreneur has achieved monumental success alone. 

The startup advisor job is one that keeps founders from learning via trial and error. Before you run the risk of running a brilliant idea to the ground, take some help from those who have already been there, done that. 

An advisor for app startups is someone who has industry experience and expertise and can work with and provide guidance to the founder of a startup. They have either helped build an existing company or have run their own. Advisors offer important connections and most even have a stake in the company. This often incentivizes the advisory board to be more active in the progress of the business. 

What do Advisors Really Do?

While most founders assume that an advisor is someone you get coffee with once a month or send an email to when you find yourself in a tough spot, that is not entirely accurate. 

Provide Credibility in the Market

The biggest thing an advisor does from a startup still looking for funding is backing them up by their reputation. Influential and prospective investors will want to know who will be behind the wheels of your operations. Seeing your advisors on the roster will boost their confidence in your project. 

Help Scale Operations

Working in the industry, advisors can help you make adjustments that will make your operations more productive. 

Offer Networking Opportunities 

Advisors have amassed a myriad of useful contacts throughout the duration of their careers. These contacts can be super beneficial to you. Whether it is regarding expertise, collaborations, or finding funding for your app. Advisors can also direct you to the right PR professionals while vouching for you, which gets the word out about your product in the market. 

Help you Find Legal Advice

You definitely need to be on top of the latest happenings in the app regulation world and for that an advisor can point you to a professional they know you can rely on. 

Help You Install Financial Management

Financial management is one the most crucial parts of any app startup on a budget. A good advisor would know that. If this is your first time heading a company, you cannot spend all your effort and time doing the books, you need someone who can sort that and make realistic projections that will serve as goals for you to work towards. 

Advisors do not really have a set timeline on how long they should be attached to a company In fact, you can dismiss and recruit members of the advisory board as you please. 

While Advisors offer feedback on your decisions regarding the startup, founders must also remember that they too can give them feedback on their contribution to the company. If you feel that an advisor has let you down, it would be a productive step of you let them know that you expect them to deliver in the future.

A board of advisors can not only help you avoid common mistakes, they can also fill in the critical gaps you may be looking to cover in your teams’ expertise. Advisors are invaluable when it comes to making connections in a market with a lot of competition, and entering a stage of your startup where you are forming partnerships. Here is how to go about hiring an advisory board you can be proud of. 

Where to Look

You can actually reach out to as many prospective advisors as you like via email. It is helpful to add in these emails whether they know anyone else who would be perfect for the position. Advisors also actively seek startups to work with. It is important to socialise in mobile app events such as demo days and conferences. You can also sign up with various online communities. 

What’s More Important

When interviewing and shortlisting advisors, it helps if you look at their experience in the industry before where they went to school. You want someone with the intuition that can only come with building companies. Professionals who have already been through where you stand today will see obstacles before you do and will prepare you for them as well. 

The Difference between Advisors and Mentors

Mentors bring value by tidbits of information and wisdom that they share with you when you are embarking on your startup journey. They may or may not be available to impart this wisdom when you are in a rut. Advisors on the other hand share your vision and understand your priorities. 

Offering Equity

Most sought-after advisors will obviously be involved in several things at the same time. This means their time is limited. In order to get the best out of them, offer them equity in your startup. This serves as an incentive for them to help you reach your goals. 

There Could be Conflict of Interest

Treat getting advisors on board the same way you would do with building your management team. You want to screen whether they are working for other businesses in the same industry, in which case they might not be the best choice for you. 

When making things official, you should clearly state what is expected of the advisor. You may need advisors for marketing your product, you may need them for helping you find funding, or you may simply want them to help you establish an organizational model that is super-efficient. 

Signing the Dotted Line

Some of the factors that should definitely make it to the agreement include responsibilities, compensation, time duration of the role, and an NDA clause. 

Always Listen but Don’t Always Follow

It is a skill to listen to your advisory board and respect the wisdom they have, but as an entrepreneur, you should not blindly do as they tell you to, nor are you contractually obligated to. It’s your app startup and it will at the end of the day fall on you to decide what goes. 

If you are building your startup from scratch you may still be in the process of creating a network of people you can trust and rely on in your early-stage organization. This is the perfect time for you to also find a place for an advisor or a mentor. 

In order to figure out whether you should have a mentor or an advisory board depends on what expertise you are seeking, and what responsibilities you would like this person to have. 

An Advisor

Unlike mentors advisors do not just offer advice via emails and board meetings, they can take up responsibilities as well. A startup founder ideally picks the members of their advisory board by their expertise in an industry. 

You can share your goals and problems with an advisor and even ask them to be a part of important events related to your app startup such as demo days and creating a pitch deck for prospective investors. An advisor may also have a stake in your company, which motivates them to find ways to achieve your vision. 

Advisors will offer you ways to solve problems, how to manage your startup, where to seek funding, and even introduce you to the contacts they have amassed over the course of their careers. Having a full-time advisory board is also helpful when seeking funding, as investors are equally interested in the people who will be managing and working in your startup. 

It is crucial that when you are interviewing professionals for advisors you tell them what you are trying to achieve, what you expect from the board, and then ask them how they can help.

A Mentor

Mentors can help you with specific facets of your problem. These are people you already look up to and people who can empathize with your particular journey. Because of this even if they are well versed in one thing they often help you in your personal development as well. 

Unlike startup advisors, mentors are not enlisted in any digital community or forum. In fact, most people who have been called mentors by others would not call themselves that at all. It is entirely up to you to find a mentor. 

Mentors are not the people who will take on routine tasks and work with you to achieve certain targets in certain time frames. You cannot instruct them to execute roles in your startup. Mentors will however have conversations with you, and that is the most value they bring to you as an entrepreneur. You can reach out to your mentor every time you have a problem with your startup and they will give you advice based on their experience. They may even guide you on how to go about a solution with their contacts. 

Mentors do not have contracts with your startup, therefore their credibility is not attached to the name of your company. In fact, really good mentors would rarely have time to spare and therefore may only interact with you a handful of times.

If you have already decided you will hire your very own startup advisory that is the first step in making sure that you avoid common pitfalls most first-time entrepreneurs are subjected to. However, you cannot just hire anyone or the first person with an impressive resume. In order, to get the most from your advisory board you need to know where the best candidates are.

Startup Events and Demo Days

Events, meetups, and conferences are an excellent way to make connections for both advisors and potential investors. These events are perfect for scouring people known for delivering results even if they are not the most popular people in the room with the highest volume of following on social media. By participating in demo days you may even attract the right advisors to approach you. 

Cold Emails

You have nothing to lose when it comes to reaching out to people you would ideally have in your app startup’s advisory board. However, if you are thinking that, other founders are too. The best way to stand out of the crowd and not have your email sent directly into the spam folder, follow some of the following tried and tested pointers:

  • Make the conversation personal and engaging.
  • Make the subject line interesting.
  • Talk about their project and what impressed you about them.

The People with a Stake

People who have a stake in your business might just be the ones to offer productive advice to you. It can be someone who bought equity in your app startup, a supplier who knows his way around the industry, or similar. If you are not sure about getting them on board officially, you do not have to. You can test the arrangement out by asking this person out for a cup of coffee and asking for advice. 

Online Forums and Communities

The good thing about online communities is that the members there want to be approached. You may also find a lot of people looking to fill in positions in an advisory board. You can also judge the influence and knowledge that these advisors will bring into your company by the way they interact with others in these communities. 

An Accelerator or Incubator

Signing up with an incubator may include that you get a panel of advisors as well. Either you will have a pool to pick from or the venture studio assigns you an advisor the first day you start collaborating with them. These are professionals that work closely with you and will be at least initially involved in the day to day progression of your startup. 

Mentoring Programs

Even though mentorship and advisory are two separate things, you can have a mentor who may fit into the role of your startup’s advisor. Also, it is worth looking into websites that offer a directory of advisors. Some of these platforms advertise their advisors as startup mentors so yo may have to do some digging. 

An advisory board is critical when it comes to first-time app startups. As an entrepreneur, you may have a brilliant idea and maybe even a working prototype, but that is not all that it takes to build a startup geared to scale. Here are some of the top reasons why you should be interviewing for your very own advisory board today. 

Their Experience

If you find yourself with a challenge that you did not see coming, chances are your advisor has already tackled such obstacles and can offer you the wisdom on how to solve the problem. A good idea would be to hire advisors who know more about things that you are the least proficient in. 

Helps in Pitches

When seeking funding your prospective investors are not only looking at your product and your plan but also the people who will be executing this plan. Having advisors that know what they are doing with a history of working for impressive companies is a great way to build confidence in your investors. 

Expand your Network

Advisors bring with them a myriad of connections that can be useful in the success of your business. It is important that you are explicit with your advisors that you would like certain introductions in the industry. When advisors vouch for you with a contact it becomes more than just setting up a meeting, but something that might prove to be fruitful for your app startup.

Personal Growth

Great advisors have worked with a lot of entrepreneurs and that means they can teach you things you need to know when it comes to growing as a leader. 

A Different Perspective

An advisory board may just be the only thing to break through to entrepreneurs who are not used to listening to anyone but their gut when it comes to making critical business decisions. Sometimes the board can keep you from making bad decisions, or help you see the repercussions of potential actions that you may not be aware of. 

Make you Credible

With a reputable advisory board working for your startup, you automatically appear more credible in the marketplace. Oftentimes, this is all the buzz you need to get things started. 

When hiring advisors you have to ask yourself the important questions. So you have narrowed down candidates that check all the technical boxes, now you need someone who brings value beyond their resume. 

You want to be asking if the person you are hiring brings anything other than what you know and what the other advisory board members already know. You don’t want multiple advisors who will tell you the same thing. You want someone with a different approach of doing things. 

You also want to know whether an advisor fits with your values, whether they are cultural, moral etc. You want someone with integrity so that you may be able to allow them to help you grow personally as well as professionally.

Having an advisory board is one of the most important steps first-time founders can do for their app startup. Before you embark on a journey of trial and error, advisors can impart the wisdom and connections they have amassed that give you an advantage in the market. Here are a few ways on how to pick the right advisors for your business. 

Their Influence

In the tech industry you will find a ton of people who are popular but have no experience in producing results. You don’t want someone who has a ton of followers on Twitter but someone who has actually made critical decisions in big organizations. Some of the best mentors are people who are known well only in within certain circles of the industry. 

Their Story 

A good advisor is one who has faced the same challenges as an entrepreneur is going to face. You want someone who will guide you through the obstacles that you do not see coming. Sometimes there is nothing better than intuition, and you want someone who does not just tell you what would be a solution but also empathizes with you, and tells what would be the right solution for you. 

Their Investment

When advisors actually decide to put their money in exchange for equity in your app startup, that is a good sign. They will be less laid back and more hands-on with how to take on opportunities for the company. 

They Cannot All be the Same

If you already have an advisor on board you now want someone who offers something different than your existing advisor. A good startup advisory is one that brings in different people with different perspectives on how to approach things. You want as much relevant expertise as you can find, just not the identical one. 

Are they Ready to Work?

You do not want someone who sits by with equity in your business and that is it. They need to be the ones who roll up their sleeves and offer results. An advisor’s role is not merely meeting for discussions and answering your questions via email. 

Their Connections

Advisors with a useful network can make your startup. It is more important that they are willing to introduce you to this network so you can make use of these connections too. This will be useful from raising funding to getting the traction you need when releasing the product. 

Remember, do not hire the first advisor you meet. You may be impressed by them, but you have to be picky about who gets to guide you and be the person you go to for solutions. An advisor who checks all the boxes on paper may not necessarily be the one for you. You have to pick the person with an attitude, work ethic, and vision that matches yours, so they can work with you.

A lot of startup founders find the best advisors to fill their advisory board but struggle when it comes to collaborating with them. Advisors do not just help you get in touch with important contacts but can be very helpful in actually making your company more productive. There is not a part of your app startup that you cannot find an advisor for. In order to take full advantage of your board, here are some of the tactics you can employ. 

Select Advisors Suited to You 

It is very tempting to hire people who have worked in the most prominent places, but that should not be the only factor driving your decision. The best advisors are the ones who can boost your strengths and fill in the gaps where your weaknesses lie. And this should be your focus when interviewing for fitting candidates. 

Before you commit to them make sure you ask for references to get a better understanding how they work with founders and other managers in a startup. 

Use their Perspective

As an entrepreneur, you should always be confident. The moment you find yourself hesitating is when you need the optics of your advisor. Even if you think you do not need help, you do. The best advisors will know that you are being too patient with a decision and offer help. They might even reframe the question so you arrive at the answer yourself. It may turn into a learning moment. 

Ask

Most founders just look to advisors to nod for approval. They will sit in on your board meetings be briefed about what has happened so far, and you feel like them patting you on the back is all you need to know that your startup is headed for unicorn level. After all, it is your company, you should be making all the critical decisions. 

Your advisors will not proactively help you unless you ask. And you should not just start doing that when you feel things are going downhill. You have to have a discussion in how much you would appreciate the advisors to be engaged in the day-to-day of your app startup. If you make a decision ask your advisor how they would tweak it. If your advisor has equity, they will be more inclined to help and see the company make money. 

Set Meeting Agendas

Most of the time founders will email advisors for a coffee or brunch. Don’t! Be clear about what you want to discuss. Otherwise, the person on the other end will not treat it as a priority, and may even move your meeting, the tonality of which sounds purely social. 

It also helps if you know the kind of meeting you are having with your advisor. You want to walk in knowing if you just want to have a discussion, need to walk out with a decision, or a debate. 

Remember, you too can give your advisor feedback. You can always express disappointment and that they were not able to deliver on a commitment.

There is more to be gained from esteemed demo days than just waiting for your presentation spot in front of influential investors and VCs. Here are some of the ways you can take advantage of the demo day opportunity. 

Walk in Knowing What You Want

You cannot just expect to run into people or strategize to talk about your app in a way that impresses them. You have to do your homework on who will be attending, how you will introduce yourself to them, and what you should be posting on social media before the end of the day. 

Steal the Thunder

If your app startup just achieved a major milestone, managed to sign with an impressive collaborator, or just got a big investor on board, announce it on the day. Any big reveal you may have, make it news on demo day so that the right industry professionals get to hear about your business. 

Have a PR Strategy

Upcoming demo days should always be part of your PR calendar. The best way to go about it is to pick out key reporters from reputable publications. Talk about what you offer, your progress so far and what you aim to achieve in the near future. Have social media posts and tweets prepared before hand and have a call to action in each of them where you are asking your followers to amplify your communication. You can do this whether you are just working to get more customers or if you are seeking funding. 

Get Everyone to Work

Demo days should not be reserved for the founder or the top tier people in your app startup. Put everyone to work. Make sure that you have some people scheduling meetings, some taking care of the press, and some networking for new connections that can benefit your company. No matter who it is everyone should be well versed in an elevator pitch for your product. 

It’s Crawling with Angel Investors

Not all investors will be relevant to you. Remember, you want someone on board who you can work with. If you know ahead of time who might be attending, make sure you contact them beforehand and book a short meeting with them. Also, do not forget to tell them how to contact you at the end. 

Be the First in Line When it is Over

Send out all your meeting requests with important prospective investors right after. Since everyone else will be doing the same, you want the first spot in line and that is why you should not be waiting to send out those emails. 

Make sure that you take advantage of the leads mentioned by investors or influential people you met with. Follow them all, something may definitely come up. You must also prioritize who you should be meeting with first. No matter how big a VC is, if you feel an angel investor is ready to close, you meet with them first. Get the momentum your startup needs, and then focus on the tougher investors, knowing that you have something in the bag already. 

Demo Days are fast becoming the most looked forward to events for founders to showcase their projects and investors to find the next big thing they can back up. 

In order to make a greater impact with your pitch here are some tried and tested tips on how to go about preparing your presentation. 

Make Two Decks

The first deck should have a concise presentation that you want exclusively be seen by prospective investors. The second deck should have a marketing presentation that you can present to a larger audience and which can also help you create buzz regarding your app startup. A good idea would be to record you giving out this presentation. 

Learn Your Lines

While many founders may look like they just got on stage and started talking about their product and the charisma just flowed simply because the product was so interesting. That is not true. Everyone, even the most celebrated presenters practice. 

You want to make sure that you get all your points across so it makes a lot of sense that you practice your presentation in a sequence. Of course there is room for flexibility, but while you are looking at your investor audience you will remember everything that you want to relay. 

Time Your Presentation

Edit your pitch to make it concise and interesting. You cannot hold your audience’s attention for too long, so catch their attention as soon as you begin. Start with the most impressive thing about your startup. You can even start with a big reveal or a milestone that you have just achieved. 

Keep it Simple

Don’t make it too complicated. Filling your presentation with buzzwords is not helping anyone. If your app serves as a marketplace for IT services, say that you “help IT professionals find jobs, and employers find suitable candidates.” instead of saying, “we are a next-gen app company empowering individuals with niche skills to populate a unique digital market”. You can make impact with numbers and the functionality of your product, not with complexity. 

Don’t Forget your Team 

While you do not have the time to fit in every little detail in your presentation you must talk about the people who are a part of your app startup. Your investors may like the idea but they also want to know if your team has the skills and experience to pull it off. Talk briefly about the people and their specialized backgrounds to give an idea of what they bring to the table. 

Don’t Make the Slides the Star

You have to be the point of focus in the pitch presentation. The slides can have numbers and facts and images but you must be leading the pitch. You cannot depend on the audience to just read the slides while you switch to the next one. They will be ignoring one thing or the other. You have a better chance of holding their attention than a screen with a bunch of words and numbers.

A realistic budget can serve to be an excellent tool for startups to stay on track. Entrepreneurs can be tempted to delay making an official budget and see how they spend in the first year of the startup, but that is a mistake. Sure, you do not have a cash flow history to take cues from, but without a budget plan you may end up ignoring problems with over-expenditure, areas of inefficiency, and ways to save your working capital and invest it elsewhere.

Its a Roadmap

A budget has to be synced with your strategic plan. Think about it, you have to know what you need before you start a project, why should your app startup be any different. The budget can help you monitor milestones, see how accurately you predicted the expenses, or help you spend within the limits you have set. 

You Don’t Run Out of Funds the First Month

By leaving your expenditure to chance you do not run the risk of running out of funds in your first month. Funding can make your business, and that is why you must treat it like the precious commodity that it is no matter how much you have managed to secure from your investors. 

You may have a brilliant idea but it would be a shame if you were unable to see it through to fruition. Your competition will prevail while you may be left wondering “what if”.

Avoid Debt

An unlimited startup budget is not you doing your company any favors. It is a trap that will only lead you to be debt at the end as you scale. Your profitability may even plummet when you calculate how much you have to settle under debts. And if your startup has already kicked off, you do not want that point to be a pitstop of reassessing your financial strategy. 

Making Decisions+ 

The best thing a budget can do for an app entrepreneur is teach them to make complex decisions and introduce innovation and creative thinking. Creating a budget will have you reassessing what you need and what you can do without, and how you can find better substitutes for the most obvious solution so your funds are not spread thin. 

If you think about it, budgeting adds to your intuition as a business person and is a crucial part of your journey. 

You should follow your budget but remember that it is perfectly fine if you wish to make small changes to it. Your expenditure will fluctuate every month. That is a fact, but a budget will help you reign it in and stay in control. Every time you make changes to your budget it will be because you want to include a very talented resource, or want to invest in a state-of-the-art tech that your startup can finally afford. Knowing this will allow you to recognize the milestones you have crossed and be more appreciative of them as well.