Do You Need a Startup Advisor or a Mentor – and the Difference between the Two

By  Zainab Agha

January 17, 2022 11:05 pm EST

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.

Zainab Agha

Zainab started her career in advertising as a copywriter; which taught her how valuable moxie was in the boardroom and translates that in her campaigns. Building brands has led her to explore digital marketing, communication concepts, and what it takes to grow an idea from scratch. In her free time (let’s assume she is a badass with balancing work and play) she travels in heels then complains, experiments with innovative creative solutions that sell, and does stand-up comedy.

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