Match Game: 3 Tips for Selecting Tech Startup Advisers

August 22, 2016

9:00 pm

When you’re in the startup stage, everybody has advice: Do this, don’t do that, look out! Knowing which voices to listen to and which to block out can make or break a young tech company.

Knowledgeable, experienced tech startup advisers can help in that process. These counselors hold firsthand knowledge of the startup landscape, can pick which investors to target, and show you how to scale the business.

They’ve seen every tech startup situation imaginable. They’re armed with the contacts, the war stories, and — most importantly — the experience to help a young company come out of any situation successfully.

How Tech Advisers Keep You Alert

Think of your advisory board as your company’s eyes and ears. For a wet-behind-the-ears tech startup, advisers show you who to know, where to go, and how to pitch to investors.

Choosing tech-fluent mentors is even better. Not only do you receive vital feedback during the development phase, but you also gain access to the valuable partnerships they’ve built with vendors and service providers.

No pressure, but choosing the right startup advisers is one of the most important hiring decisions you will make. Keep these three things in mind when assembling this group:

1. Focus on Filling Gaps

Recently, I worked with a company on the verge of launching a financial tech app. The founders excelled in developing functionality and user experience, but they still needed guidance in getting the tech to the consumer. So our suggestion was to bring in counsel with the go-to-market experience necessary to complement the founders’ strengths and navigate the startup minefield.

Take an honest look at your competencies, and build out your advisory team from there. If you’re a sales and marketing guru, you may very well need help with financial planning and manufacturing.

If you’re an app developer, you likely need help thinking through the target market versus the attainable market. In other words, identify your blind spots, and choose advisers to see you through those deficiencies.

2. Keep It Compatible

A CB Insights post-mortem survey of 135 startups attributed arrogance — 85 percent — as the top reason young companies fail. That overconfidence led to eight percent of those startups not utilizing a network or adviser. Your startup advisers should become your closest corporate confidantes. Ensure from the outset that there’s trust and shared ideals. Without a strong foundation, things can get messy in a hurry.

Don’t let them “phone it in” without providing any real value, or make unilateral decisions. I’ve seen both instances. Needless to say, friction was the end result.

It isn’t just important for mentors to guide your tech development; they need to develop the right rapport with a founder and his staff, too.

3. Stay Flexible

As your company’s philosophy and tech changes, so will your advisory needs. CB Insights notes inflexibility (17 percent) as the seventh-most frequent contributor to startup failure. Of that number, 10 percent had a bad product pivot, while 7 percent didn’t shift at all.

Early on, you may need startup advisers to help you perfect your pitch or be a conduit to an introduction with a potential investor. In your later funding rounds, you may need people with manufacturing backgrounds and good vendor contacts.

Whatever you do, stay open to advice, and bring in the best people to lead you every step of the way.

In the end, advisory experience and expertise are important for any tech startup. Invest time in building strong, trusted relationships with these consultants in order to see your product reach its full potential.

Image: Flickr / Reynermedia

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Gadiel Morantes is the chief revenue officer at Early Growth Financial Services, which addresses the lack of on-demand financial support available to startups. With more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, and operations, Morantes helps founders streamline the relationship between the sales and business departments and coaches early-stage companies on setting up an optimal infrastructure for success.

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