As Shawn Carolan, a VC with Menlo Partners says, “Startups don’t starve, they drown.” This is in respect to the often overwhelming amount of help, advice, and mentorship startups are graced with by friends, family, investors, and people who simply want them to succeed. It all comes from a good place, there is no denying that. People always want to help startups because startups are cool. They are often conceived and run by cool people who other people want to see succeed.
Kevin Dewalt, an EIR at the NSF wrote a great blog post on the topic of mentorship in start ups, and more specifically, the dos and don’ts of this type of relationship. He goes over many of the common types of “help” mentors provide to startups that are not that helpful at all. Brainstorming and distraction being among the most common things that can hinder an entrepreneur. This is because the vast majority of startups have all of the ideas that they could possibly ever come up with and their task is to trim their long list down to a few that they can do very very well. Another common area of misguided mentorship comes in the form of mentors raising potential problems and interactions rooted in potential success. This manifests itself in the form of mentors asking how a company will interact with Facebook, or Twitter, or any other big name service before the little company even has its idea halfway thought out. These questions will be answered when, and if a company makes it, but in the meantime they just freak the fledgling company out. There’s no use freaking out over something that doesn’t exist yet.