Paul Allen, of Infobase Ventures, has posted a gauntlet of eleven things that an entrepreneur must do before approaching him for mentorship. Allen states that he is “getting more requests for mentoring from entrepreneurs than [he] can handle.” So, to ensure that everyone’s time is time well spent, he has put together his list of requirements for anyone wishing to approach him for advice. His requirements are:
- You must be using LinkedIn.com and have at least 10 connections and 2 endorsements. That way there is a good chance that I will know someone who knows you. It will be easier for us to gain mutual trust this way.
- If you have a management team or key employees, each of them must be on LinkedIn.com with at least 5 connections.
- You must have an advisory board of 3 or more successful business people (preferrably 6-10) who believe in you and are willing to meet with you monthly or bi-monthly to dispense advice and help you with your challenges.
- If your company is at revenue stage, you must be using Quickbooks Online Edition so that I can review your financials with you as needed. This costs only $19.95 per month and gives 3 users access to your data. I need to see the real picture and not just hear about the big ideas.
- I need to see a simple cap table (showing the ownership of your company, including options and warrants)
- You must know your company’s SIC code and have a list of any publicly traded competitors that you might have. I want you to be familiar with SEC reports and gaining competitive intelligence. Too often entrepreneurs have an idea, think they are the only one doing it, and they are unaware that there are large well-funded competitiors doing the same thing. This doesn’t mean you can’t succeed by being faster and smarter than the larger company (in business, often large=slow), but I don’t want you to be unaware of your competition.
- If you do have publicly traded competitors, you must have a My Yahoo portfolio listing all their stock symbols, so you can stay current with their news and financial status.
- For your privately held competitors, I need to know the Alexa rankings of their web sites and how many employees they have. (The best way to get this info is to download the Alexa toolbar.)
- You must have set up Google Alerts so that whenever any of your competitors are in the news, you will hear about it and know what they are all up to. I want to see a complete list of your Google Alerts keywords.
- Finally: don’t dare ask me for advice or help if you haven’t read Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start. I think it’s the best book ever written on startups. I expect you to have marked up every passage that struck you as important, and I expect you to have followed his formula for startups, including the MAT approach, the 10/20/30 rule for Powerpoints, and the bottoms-up business model and forecast.
- I don’t need to read a business plan, but if you have a 1-2 page executive summary that’s okay, but certainly not required.
Let’s break this down. Out of the eleven items:
- Four are spent on the importance of competitive intelligence.
- Three are spent on the importance of social networking.
- Two are spent on current finances and capitalization.
- Only one is spent on preparation.
- Only the final one is spent on the need for a “formal” business plan.
I would tend to agree with the breakdown of these items. Have a solid knowledge of the marketplace and who you are going up against. Have a solid network of advisors who will not only support, but also challenge. Pay attention to the numbers, but don’t be slavishly beholden to them.
The thing that surprised me, though, was the lack of ANY mention of customers. No mention of who the entrepreneur is trying to serve; no mention of the problems being solved. Perhaps the belief is that if there is a market (and therefore competitors) and a group of advisors, the answer to the question of “who is the customer” is intuitively obvious?