Saving private startups

One of the most interesting phenomenon I observe in the startup ecosystem is that everyone assumes startups need help – a lot of help.

Therefore everyone is offering mentorship, training, advising, sharing (paid or pro bono), and of course a lot of grants too…

Is this right?

I am speaking from my own experience.

When I first got in touch with the startup world, immediately I thought to myself I should be some type of an independent consultant or advisor. Surely they will need someone with 20 years of business experience right?

Yet, the more I have worked with startups (yes, I have acted as ‘advisor’ too), the more I feel like this advisor title is more self proclaimed, rather than well justified.

Sure, we all need a bit of help – one way or the other. So do startups. And sometimes a little ‘advice’ here and there is ok. But the bigger problem here is the underlying assumption, which is to believe most startups are more like a lost sheep than a brave soldier fighting (rather alone) for his own life.

We need to start off on the right foot. We need to have a sense of fighting the battle together. Offering command is one thing, doing whatever it takes to save another soldier in the field is another.

Also, advising startups on strategy or any high level type discussion is actually a bad idea (generally speaking). This is because startups simply don’t (and shouldn’t) have a clear strategy yet. Anything too theoretical is only going to confuse them from focusing on the real thing – which is to make the next necessary move.

And all these necessary moves – such as hiring the next trustworthy employee, finding the ‘next’ customer or fighting through emotional ups and downs – are not things that can be advised! They can only be achieved and experienced through actions – most of the time simply by trying in whatever the existing situation presents.

There is never a textbook answer in the world of entrepreneurship (best selling author will sure to tell you otherwise).

So for me, as an ‘advisor’, it’s all about learning how to shut my big mouth and listen more. The world needs more actions, not advices. And by ‘advising’ startups on being quiet, that could very well be the best way to move things forward.

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