Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mentoring Startups For Accelerator Success

It's the time of year when my mentoring relationship with a very good national accelerator kicks off again.  Startups will flock to the Cleantech Open to prove they have the right stuff.  A few will become successful businesses.  Others become very expensive hobbies for their obsessed founders.  The ones that want my mentoring need to start off the right way.  Here's my announcement for the ones that take my involvement seriously.

Keep everything honest and legal.  I continue to shake my head at the number of would-be entrepreneurs who think dishonesty is a shortcut to success.  It is actually a shortcut to workplace injuries, product recalls, class action lawsuits, regulatory fines, and even prison terms.  I have a longtime habit of kicking dishonest people out of my life.  I terminated multiple friendships in 2014 when I discovered dishonesty in my social circle.  I will terminate business relationships that threaten my personal integrity.

Turn in your homework on time.  Mentors can help find resources that will complete a business plan and its supporting details.  They are not employees to be bossed around.  One entrepreneur demanded that I complete his worksheets for him, because he was too lazy to take notes in the workshops he attended.  His business idea has never succeeded.  If you own the idea, you do the work.

Take professional advice seriously.  If finance experts tell you to make realistic estimates of costs and revenues, then you need real industry data.  If marketing experts tell you that Customer Development builds use cases that improve your product, then that's something you need to do.  I do my own CustDev when I visit major conferences.  Asking companies' booth representatives about their biggest pain point is my way of finding problems for entrepreneurs to solve.

I am only scratching the surface.  The startups I used to meet outside of well-run accelerators like CTO made me want to run for the hills as fast as possible.  They invariably violated the above guidelines.  I now only deal with accelerators because I appreciate the discipline of entrepreneurs who subject themselves to rigorous development.  Alfidi Capital is serious about business, behind its veneer of humor.