Let's start at with the basics.
What is a startup mentor? A master in the art of entrepreneurship, someone that can guide a newcomer to the field and help them to become a high performer. Of course, there are several types of mentors; some will help you design your business; some will help you grow it, some will connect you to other companies that can help you along the way. In all cases, these people are, as the Italians would say “old sea wolves." Experts in their field that tend to be expensive for startups; by definition, they are unaffordable.
Given that these mentors are so expensive mentor-led venture building programs rely on pro-bono mentors that are keen to help in exchange for kudos. Others go down the route of rewarding mentors with vested equity, but again, the equity offered is minimal, so mentors work with several startups, which makes their time even more scarce. The bottom line is that the reward is just not enough.
This, of course, makes finding the right mentor for each stage, challenge and venture incredibly tricky. Most importantly, keeping mentors accountable and ensuring that they impact the business as intended is virtually impossible.
Now, let's say I take all of that away, and by some miracle, you managed to get access to the best mentors, you can match them to the startups, you can reward them accordingly, and you can keep them accountable…
You are still using a labour-intensive process that cannot scale. There is no way for you to get more startups through the program without compromising either quality or speed. It is clear, at least in my mind that the mentor-led approach to startup building is unequivocally broken by the simple economics of it.
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