Guide to Startup Advisors: Find Them, Reach Them & Secure Them
Getting a startup advisor can be a key factor for the success of your company. Nowadays, there are lots of techniques to choose one of them. Find out some of these strategies and the greatest tools that will allow you to get in contact with one.
The idea came and you went full force into the blunders of the startup scene. You were passionate. Motivated. Swallowed up by the good and the bad of starting of your own thing.
But you sat down at your laptop once again and opened another rejected proposal. Another lost investor. And just one more person saying, “It’s a good idea, you just need to sharpen things up.”
Finally, you said it out loud.
“I really don’t know where to go from here. I need a startup advisor”
The word guidance kept flashing between your eyes like a strobe light.
Oh, internet! Oh, Google Gods! Whisk us away into the depths of startup advice, business advisors, startup consulting, simply finding and securing the match made in heaven advisor for our startups.
Come to terms with the fact that you don’t know everything and that you need a startup advisor. You need someone with a little more drive, a lot more experience, and a heart to guide you to growth.
We’re here to help you find them, reach them, and secure them.
Google goes deep, so we wanted to make it a little easier for you.
Let’s get started.
Where Can You Find Startup Advisors?
We’re here to find a startup coach, consultant, and advisor all in one. You need that push of a coach. The business expertise of an advisor. And the depth of a consultant.
Find Them Online
There are hundreds of online tools out there to help find startup advisors. But we’ll start you off with 10 good ones.
GrowthMentor - This is a platform providing on-demand growth advice from vetted experts. You can start by booking a free onboarding call to discuss your needs after signing up. Then filter through experts and book Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype Calls right on the experts’ calendar.
How to sign up: Click the signup button, fill in your information, and make the one-time payment with a credit/debit card. You’ll have immediate access after signing up.
Things to consider: Flexibility. Filter experts by expertise and by the tools they use, like growth hacking, social media, content marketing, outbound marketing, advice on funding and more. Love they have a vetting process in place for experts and that they let us know what it is.
On their dashboard, you will find mentors specialized on different topics. There are over 30 mentors offering their sessions for free as a way to build their profiles!
Clarity - Another platform to get on-demand startup advice from experts. Browse the community of experts to find your fit. You then request a call with your chosen expert and connect via the conference line provided.
How to sign up: Sign up for free by clicking the signup button and filling in your first and last name, email, and password.
Price: Free to join Clarity. Then you’re charged for the calls based on the expert’s per minute rate.
Things to consider: There is potential to build a relationship with an expert that results in an advisor but it’s not the outright purpose of the site. And you’re pre-charged for an estimated call time at first, and then the charge is adjusted for the actual length after the call. But it could be a great thing to have a bunch of different calls with different experts, just make sure you can afford the rate.
CoFoundersLab - This platform gives you access to over 400,000 potential cofounders, team members, and advisors.
How to sign up: Sign up for the site for free with LinkedIn. You’ll fill out your profile completely for access.
Price: There is a free membership with limited benefits. Then there is a premium membership with everything the free membership has plus more. You can choose a 3-month option for 19.99/month (59.99 billed quarterly). A 6-month option for 16.99/month (102.00 billed semi-annually). And a 12-month option for 14.99 a month (180.00 billed annually).
Things to consider: There’s a 3 step process in place: sign up for free with LinkedIn, complete your profile to activate the matching algorithm, then search by skill, country, city, industry, business stage, or startup experience to find potential advisors, team members, and cofounders. It’s one of the largest startup platforms on the planet. But you’ll absolutely need to do those warm introductions after the algorithm starts the process.
MicroMentor - This is a free, nonprofit platform connecting entrepreneurs and volunteer business mentors.
How to sign up: You create your profile, highlighting what you do and what you hope to accomplish. You’re then able to reach out to others in the community with messages about your interest in starting a mentoring conversation with them. Start the mentorship with phone calls and getting to know each other, on to goal setting, problem-solving and so forth. Continue that mentorship with development tools provided by the site.
Things to consider: Love that it’s a free social network but the quality of mentors you’ll get and how much one on one help and for how long isn’t clear. That’s something you’ll need to discuss if you do get to the point of finding a mentor you like.
StartupWeekend - Now this is a different type of opportunity. It’s just a weekend, 54 hours of life at a startup.
Day 1: network/pitch/choose a project/build a team.
Day 2: Learn from mentors/Get to work on the chosen project and utilize resources and mentors to do everything from building your product or service to finding customers and so forth.
Day 3: Your team presents the product/service in front of the crowd and expert panel, and when that’s all done, celebrate all your hard work and success.
How to sign up: Every TechStars Startup Weekend event has a corresponding website (typically with the URL “[city].up.co”) with a registration page. Start by browsing events in your city here.
Price: Ticket prices vary by event, skill set, and purpose. For example, Startup Weekend New York - Limitless Edition 5/31 ticket availability is as follows:
Developer: $149 + 4.72 fee - This ticket type applies to software engineers, coders, developers. In short, anybody who can and will write code and want to learn how to build a validated product.
Designer: $149 + 4.72 fee - This ticket type applies to anyone with a background in design and is interested in learning how to work together in an interdisciplinary team.
Non-technical/Business: $149 + 4.72 fee - This ticket type applies to business, marketing & PR, and anyone looking to learn how to launch a product.
Friday Night (60 Second Pitch): $25 + 1.62 fee - This grants you access to Pitch Fire Night and dinner, starting at 6:30 pm on Friday.
Sunday Final Pitches: $25 + 1.62 fee - This grants you access to demo day and dinner, starting at 4 pm on Sunday.
Last Minute: $199 + 5.97 fee - This ticket type applies to anyone who is a subject matter expert in their area.
Things to consider: You’re expected to participate all 3 days. They send you off with next steps and hopefully, you’ve built a network and resources to carry with you to make your idea a success. Love that it gives you real-life experience and drops you right in the thick of things. But it’s just a weekend and more of an opportunity to network than anything.
Quora - This is a simple question and answer site widely used by entrepreneurs.
How to sign up: There’s a signup form on the home page. You can signup with Google, Facebook, or your email. If you choose email, you’ll need to confirm your email address. You’ll then complete your profile by answering simple questions to tailor your feed to you.
Things to consider: You can pose a question and answer questions already there. More of a coworking space and learning resource but you can still network and make connections that could lead to an advisor.
StartupsAnonymous - This is another platform for entrepreneurs to share stories, ask questions, and give advice on their successes and failures.
How to sign up: This site is primarily anonymous so you don’t have to sign up for anything with your information. On the right-hand side there’s a list of options to choose from: confess something, share your story, ask a question, answer a question. You can also subscribe to the site with your email address.
Things to consider: It gives you the option to be anonymous but you’re more than welcome to identify yourself. They say it’s like the AA for startups. A cool site for resources and information, but again, you’ll have to do some leg work to make connections and network to find your advisor.
FoundersNetwork - This one is geared toward tech startups. They offer peer mentorship to tech startups globally.
How to sign up: You’ll want to start by clicking the request an invitation button, go over the membership criteria, and then fill in your information. They’ll contact you if you pass the initial screening and you’ll continue from there.
Price: With passing the initial screening, you’ll then need to choose one of the four memberships based on your experience level.
Bootstrap: 41.62/month (billed annually) - For Founders with experience generating annual revenues or raising funding of less than $150,000.
Angel: 83.29/month (billed annually) - For Founders with experience generating annual revenues or raising funding of $150,000 - $1.5M.
Series A+: 208.83/month (billed annually) - For Founders with experience generating annual revenues or raising funding of $1.5M+.
Lifetime: 10,000 (one time fee) - For Serial Entrepreneurs. A one-time payment and never pay dues again.
Things to consider: Each month the Membership Committee admits a new group of full-time tech founders who are nominated by an existing member. If you get an opportunity for mentorship, there are added bonuses like startup discounts and free promotion to their newsletter readers. This is a great opportunity for tech startups but you’ll have to do some work to get accepted, but that’s not a bad thing.
Lyftoff - They provide entrepreneurial advising to startups, guiding entrepreneurs through many challenges and building strong foundations to avoid becoming a part of the 9 out of 10 startups fail statistic.
How to sign up: You’ll need to book an initial call with one of their specialists by clicking the Contact Sales button on the Monthly Plans page. Discuss your business and needs and choose the right option from there.
Price: 3 Monthly plans offered. There is also an onboarding cost with each plan. Prices in Canadian dollars.
Lyftoff One: 1995/month (1495/month US dollars) Onboarding Cost: 2,000
Lyftoff Mix: 3995/month (2995/month US dollars) Onboarding Cost: 3,000
Lyftoff Ultimate: 7995/month (5990/month US dollars) Onboarding Cost: FREE
Things to consider: They offer tailored services to all of their startups and even business utilities like business plans and company manuals. They really push to get you over the hurdle and into growth and success. Love that it’s so focused but it’s very expensive. You’ll need some cool cash to drop on these monthly plans. You’ll probably get what you pay for but it’s probably not the best option for those just starting out.
Pacific Community Ventures - Here’s another matchmaking type service that connects small business owners with expert advisors. They leverage technology to break that location barrier and volunteerism by enlisting the help of some highly skilled professionals, seasoned entrepreneurs, and senior leaders that want to forward their know how to you.
How to sign up: Click Get Started under Small Business Advice and Mentoring. Then fill in your information to create an account and click Sign Up.
Price: They’re nonprofit so signing up is fast, easy, and FREE.
Things to consider: Although you’ll never be asked to pay for their services, there are some criteria listed to be accepted that don’t fit the definition of a startup; like having an operating history of at least a year, annual revenues of $100,000 and up, 1+ employee (full or part-time), and located in the United States. BUT it does say even if you don’t meet these exact criteria, still contact them because they’re very flexible and ultimately want to help.
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Comparing These Online Tools
All of these offer an amazing opportunity to choose what you need. You can filter your choices and find advisors on different stages of startup and for different purposes like finance, marketing, operations, sales, IT, HR, etc. It’s wonderfully built right into the sites.
If you’re just starting out, go with Startupweekend, Micromentor, or Pacific Community Ventures for their ability to match you with great potentials. That’s the purpose of their sites and their free (excluding Startupweekend). So if you’re iffy on making those connections directly yourself, these are great choices to give you the push in the right direction. They do the legwork for you. And StartupWeekend’s push for networking and getting right into the nitty gritty of the startup life is a huge plus and fun idea.
GrowthMentor and Clarity are going to be your on-demand resources. If you’re not really sure about deciding on just one advisor, these give you an opportunity to try out quite a few before you’re ironclad on one. You can ask questions and get advice from people on different levels and that’s always a good thing. You get to soak in all the information and figure out your direction.
Quora and StartupAnonymous are honestly just great resources and provide an opportunity to pose your questions and provide advice to others. You get a chance to immerse yourself in a community of entrepreneurs, but there’s no real purpose to match you with an advisor. If you’re willing to do the work, it could turn out that way. But don’t go in expecting anything more than information.
And finally, if you’re ready to make some solid ground on your journey to finding a startup advisor, CoFoundersLab, FoundersNetwork, and Lyftoff are going to be your best choices. Remember that Lyftoff is going to cost you some good money, but you’ll more than likely get what you pay for. And FoundersNetwork and CoFoundersLab are very vetted and offer some great bonuses in addition to high-level advising.
You’ll make the right decision, don’t worry.
Oh, don’t forget social networks, forums, and peer groups as well. They’re strong contenders for finding startup growth advisors, startup funding advisors, business and fundraising advisors, and so forth.
Social Networks- The internet is amazing, but get more specific. The growing use of social networks among businesses makes it easy to connect with the right advisors in your industry and area.
Linkedin and Twitter seem to take the cake in connecting with professionals, but don’t be afraid to engage on many social platforms to find the right fit.
Revamp your online social presence and show what you and your business are all about to attract the perfect advisor.
Forums and Peer Groups- It’s powerful to immerse yourself in a community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Interact on a variety of small business and startup topics with national forums like Startup Nation. And check out Five Other Support Groups to sooth the lonely journey to the top.
Find Them Offline
Networking Events- Industry Centers, conferences, speaking events, book clubs and readings, volunteering and more. These events are designed to bring people together. And it’s not as scary as your heart flutters try to make it. Don’t be afraid to mingle and match. You can’t get your business out there if you don’t get out there.
Startup “Hotspots”- There are thriving startup scenes in every city. From coworking spaces for entrepreneurs to those frequent creative get-togethers at local libraries, to grand openings. Frequenting spots and events that gather those like you will put your business in a position for growth and with a little elbow grease, land you right in front of your startup advisor.
Friends and Family- Your very own circle could have the successful entrepreneur you’ve been looking for to help advise you in your startup journey. Scour your network and try to have a conversation or two a week about developing your business until you find the right advising relationship. These connections are easiest to build and can also help in securing a top-notch business mentor even if you’re tight on finances.
Online vs. Offline: Which is Better?
There isn’t a better. Just a best.
And that’s to take in the information and guidance from both sides when making your startup advisor decision.
A lot of entrepreneurs start online because of the web’s ability to reach a wide range of potential advisors. And possibly to help build that confidence to venture into those offline activities.
Connecting in person and supplementing those connections with online engagements will result in a lot of potential advisors.
If done right, it can also result in a long list of resources and connections in addition to finding your startup advisor.
So don’t be afraid to do both.
How To Reach Them
You’ve swiped, clicked, researched, and reigned King or Queen over Google’s endless pit of startup advisors and information. So how do you reach them?
The #1 thing?
If you don’t believe in your business, who else will?
Yes, there are apps and sites out there willing to be the matchmaker for you (we explored some above) and feel free to explore that option.
But you’ll need warm introductions. Sell yourself AND your business.
Send that Facebook message, Twitter DM, or Linkedin message. Dial that phone number on the contact page of the website and sift through secretaries and assistants until you get to the man in charge. Send a detailed email with your goals and why you think they’d be best to advise you. And when it’s time, set up a meeting. And smash the meetingwith the same warmness you reached out to them with.
How To Set Up An Agreement
Whatever agreement you come to, make sure it’s in writing.
A quick Google search and you’ll find some good resources for drafting a written advisor agreement. But start with Seedsummitto help streamline the process and formalize everyone’s expectations.
Some things to include in the written agreement are:
The advisor’s role and time commitment as well as the compensation package. And in as much detail as possible. It’s important to define the advisor’s role and responsibilities based on expertise so it's clear and concise what you’re expecting and what you’re paying for. The compensation package needs to be to a T as well, especially for legal certainty.
Also, consider adding a confidentiality clause as an advisor will become privy to much of the inner-workings and confidential information within your startup. And maybe something surrounding conflict of interest since an advisor is not an employee of yours and will more than likely be working with other businesses.
How To Set Up Compensation/Equity
You finally found the one and they found you too.
No, you probably won’t be paid by the guys willing to share their startup advisor goldmine, but THEY will definitely want something out of the deal. You’ll need to set up an agreement for compensation or equity or whatever is best for the parties involved.
We’ve all seen Shark Tank. It could be that you offer equity for their expertise, guidance, and possible financial contributions.
They could want to simply be paid for their efforts. Negotiate a price that you can afford but also negotiate what you’d like to gain from them.
You could even barter with goods and services. But do this carefully and honestly.
You’ll need to set up some sort of compensation with your advisor whether they’re short term or long term.
It’s recommended you pay advisors as much as you do your corporate directors (if you have them), but the average seems to be $1,000 to $4,000 per meeting, plus expenses, for an average of four meetings a year.
But always keep in mind that you get what you pay for.
Often times startups don’t have that cash to dole out upfront so they offer stock options for equity within the company. But they make it so those options can’t be exercised for 5, even 10 years.
But most advisors are paid on a per meeting basis and are seeking retainers, especially if you’re offering an equity option. Because they’re on-call majority of the time, a retainer makes perfect sense.
Go Get YOUR Startup Advisor
Hopefully, this article quieted that voice that says it’s not okay to not know what to do next.
Hopefully, it’s turned up the volume on the voice that says there’s someone out there who does.
That there’s someone out there that can skyrocket your startup to a dream-like level.
There are so many articles that urge young entrepreneurs to avoid the mistakes they made. But make your own and learn from theirs.
You’ve soaked up some game and now you’re ready to apply it to your search for a startup advisor.