There are a ton of people who have written about lack of quality mentorship as one of the main problems in the early stages at Indian startups. In fact, many accelerators and incubators are primarily focused on space and mentorship as the primary offerings as part of their portfolio of services.
Personally over the last 4 years in India, I have helped (I am going to avoid using the word mentor) over 50 entrepreneurs at a superficial level (day long or 2 days of my time) and 6-8 of them to a greater degree with monthly sessions on sales and go to market. Of those entrepreneurs, I financial backed only 6 of them, meaning I funded only 6 companies who needed my money and mentorship. The others I only provided my guidance.
All along, I have heard from the entrepreneurs that I was adding value and addressing their top 3 areas of concern – How to build a go to market plan, how to build a strong sales discipline at their company and helping them by opening doors to key people they wanted connections to. Turns out they were possibly being nice, to me at best.
So I generated a false sense of confidence in being good at something I was not.
I got a hard reality check a few days ago.
Over the last few months I have been helping many entrepreneurs on these exact areas, but without actually putting money in their company.
For most of them, I invested an enormous amount of time (many of them weekly) to help them understand their customers, go to market strategy and for some I helped with a complete re-positioning toward a large adjacent market. For others it was guiding them through funding options, calling a few investors who could be interested etc.
Turns out most of them (not all) only valued advice if they got funded. Else it was “gyan”.
In fact one of them mentioned that they whole point of working with me was to gain access to funding alone. Everything else was gravy.
I have written about this before based on my experience a few weeks ago.
You think you are good at something, only to find out, maybe you were wrong all along.
So, I called and asked a few entrepreneurs who they consider as high quality mentors in India. Surprisingly, only those folks that wrote checks figured on the list for many (again, not all) of them.
Rest were considered as folks who did not have “skin in the game” to help mentor, so they were detached from the outcome or the results of their advice.
There still is a need for high quality mentorship in India is my belief. I am not sure I belong in the high quality category though.