I attended a start-up cup a few days ago representing ProperGaanda. The competition had about a dozen sponsors from different incubators and partner networks, and a main sponsor of the U.S Embassy. They even sent a “gora” to make it look legit. But in all fairness, that “Gora” was qualified, he had been a marketing director at TGIF and has his own successful restaurant. I have not been to many start-up competitions so I really can’t generalize but this I say in the most politest way: it was a Sunday Bazar more than anything else.
Yup Uncle Sam and his mighty pockets, right?
A Game of Cat and Mouse
Why couldn’t these mentors simply walk to every selected start-up stall and give them 5 minutes each to pitch their idea in a dignified way rather than start-up founders playing a game of cat and mouse with the mentors. What skills were they really testing? Though that too can be forgivable but who exactly were these mentors. Indeed some of them were extremely learned and had a plethora of experience to share and that was helpful to many start-ups there but they by no way represented the majority.
The Patrons of Mediocrity
The problem with having inexperienced people as mentors is that they can have a negative effect on the start-up ecosystem. For example there will be a massive difference if Bill gates gave start-ups advice or the owner of a social media agency gave you advice. Please note that business advice and how to run a start-up are two different things. Start-ups are about aiming for the impossible rather than looking at the practicalities of things. A man from a purely business establishment will probably think eco-friendly socks are a load of crap though someone who has gone through the start-up grind and made it, will probably tell you how to make them even if there is no demand. And that difference sometimes is crucial for start-ups.