How to find the best #advisors for your #startup?

Amy Chang former head of Google Analytics and founder of data-driven networking startup Accompany spent years building her network methodically, and has now the best Board of Directors and Advisory Board any startup would dream of.

This article published on firstround.com goes through her technics to identify the right persons to ask for help for developing your startup.

Key take-aways are:

create categories: light touch advisors vs board advisors (although not necessarily sitting at your board), so you can adapt advisors involvement with their commitment

  • light touch advisors are a circle of area experts you can tap in for solving specific problems ; you can grant them a small equity share as compensation; if their involvement grows, especially at pivotal moments in the startup life don’t hesitate to upgrad them to board advisor
  • board advisors are the point of contact for big decisions, they have a more regular contact with the company and the more context about what is happening; their style of delivery should never make you feel judged; they should receive a more commensurated equity share

maximize potential connections: aiming to meet 100 people every single year (i.e 2 persons a week), so chemistry can happen with 10% of them and you can follow-up with them (i.e allocate time to support them towards their goals) – tip to get started: ask people who you know already who they know and build outward in concetric circles

be ambitious and dont assume someone won’t talk to you: obviously look for meaningful connections and start with small amount of their time at first

– when attending networking events, select carefully so you know at least 10% of attendees, it will give you a strong base to start from to break the ice and establish credibility

define your expectations of “chemistry” – does not need to mean feeling total sync or agreement. Look for someone who can push you intellectually and is not afraid of challenging and making controversial statements about you or your startup

– a good indication of a great advisor is that every time you walk away or hang up the phone, you feel like you need to spend more time with them – tip: test the depth of knowledge of the person over a couple of meetings before officially asking

– when asking for the first meeting/call be clear about what value you are looking to get from them – i.e. don’t ask just for a chat. -> one call is enough to see if there is enough mutual interest and content to keep talking

making it clear you are about mutual benefit: you are asking for help but are also dedicated to helping them as well

– turning a contact into an advisory relationship is where the trick is and can be quite unsettling emotionally; tip: follow this five steps process:

  • start with a question: do you advise companies currently? And if so, is it informal? If the answer is no, no harm done.
  • when you ask, be clear: i think you would be a terrific advisor for my startup
  • discuss scope of commitment and time investment
  • be patient and wait for their answer, without countering any objection
  • respond with enthusiasm, showing gratitute if it’s a yes and empathy to their reasoning if it’s a no

– only propose if you really feel that the person wants you and your startup to be successful; if you can’t tell, then it’s too early to ask, go back and do more ground work communicating the passion

keep the relationships strong – clear indicators of the strenght is how responsive your advisor is and how much of a quantum-leap you feel whenever you speak to them

– boosting advisory relationships requires dedication ; follow those few tips:

  • follow-up on advice given: how it was applied, what happened as result
  • send regular updates (to stay on top of mind) to solidy contact
  • circulate low-lift tasks to keep advisors engaged
  • make asks that match the person (and respect their communication channel)
  • bring advisors into the team (and even mentor a star player)
  • don’t hold back and let advisors help you with your psychology around the issue
  • express constant and continual gratitude and let them know their time is put to good use

be proactive: meet enough people, follow up fast, take enough meetings to make sure it’s a true match ; with time and experience, you will develop the pattern matching and the instincts will follow

Read full article here.

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