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The Startup Mentor


On this episode of Establishing Your Empire I host Maia Donohue. Maia is the author of: The Startup Mentor – How brilliant mentors can help you launch your company. 

Over the last decade with the organization, 3 Day Startup, Maia has been working with early stage founders and brilliant mentors around the world. He realized that getting the most out of mentorship isn’t something that comes naturally, it’s a skill that must be practiced and fine-tuned.

A great mentor can make the difference in getting your company launched. They can help you learn from their mistakes, raise money, hire the right people, and so much more. But as a founder, it is up to you to make it happen. This episode will show you how.

Listen on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | YouTube | Pandora

If you’re going to go and get money, you need traction first. You know, you need to be like, nobody’s going to give you money unless it’s your parents, unless you have traction and traction is measurable proof that, that the market wants what you have. There’s a lot of ways that that can be done. You know, like the traction doesn’t always have to be like super amazing numbers so much as just proving that you can do something, you know, in what a lot of teams do.

If they’re able, is that they’ll build some type of prototype, but then you can go and talk to, you know, an accelerator or an angel network and say, This is the stuff we’ve got with just the two of us. If we get, you know, a $2 million round, we can hire the developers to build out the backend and to really go crazy on getting customers in, but they’re not going to do it unless you have that traction. The traction also proves that you actually get things done, which is huge.


All right. I got Maia here on the Establishing your Empire podcast. Thank you for so much for coming out. We’re outside in this beautiful November weather down. Yeah, this is great. This is gonna be a lot of fun. Hope we don’t have any sound issues, but if we do, we’ll try our best to edit those out. So why don’t you do, why don’t you, we start with just tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do and who you are.

So so I’ve been working in the field of entrepreneurship for close to a decade right now right on with three-day startup. And so we’re a global nonprofit that helps students phone companies all around the world. And so the impetus for the book, the thing that really launched the book was that I saw continually over time working with students that mentorship was this kind of normal thing that always happened.

Like, you’d just go find a mentor right away, but the sort of understanding what you actually do and what you need to do part was completely lacking everything from really high level stuff. Like. How to, you know, build a network around these people. And, and, you know, just, just like, Create really positive social capital with them all the way down to the littlest things.

Like sending a thank you email, like just top to bottom. It just wasn’t working the right way. And what I realized is that it’s not something you learn naturally. You have to kind of, you have to figure it out. Like, like you just don’t figure it out over time, I guess is what I’m saying. So so yeah, having, having traveled and facilitated, and when I facilitate, what we’re talking about is roughly like three straight days of working with entrepreneurs in a really in-depth environment.

That’s been all over like. England Scotland all over Europe, South America, Africa, every continent, except I would say Australia, so it’s been a really big group of people and it was just kind of compiling all these thoughts and stuff like that into the book. So you got funded in like four days.

Yeah. Tell us about that experience of launching, preparing to launch, getting excited to launch a product and doing it. Definitely. Yeah. So and the cool thing is that I had done a lot of research on. Launching a crowdfunding campaign through work, just because it is something that for so many of our students, it’s something that they are interested in doing, you know?

So when I did it, I was ready to go. And the big thing with launching a crowd funding, the campaign is you want to have your network figured out how to time, like who you’re going to reach out to the pledges. Like, and you want them to know about it ahead of time. So it’s not like they get an email.

They’re like, what’s this, like, they’re they know about it. You’ve talked to them about it. They’re excited about it. So I had this pretty big group of people through my network. You know, that, that I’d interviewed for the book that knew about the book. So when I put it out there, yeah, it got funded really quickly.

So we hit our 10, I like 10 grand basically. And just a matter of days. And that was really awesome. Fantastic. And did you already pre-write the book or before at that point? Yeah. And then, so did you also use that as just a, Hey, I need Monday money to, to that marketing costs and stuff like this, or. Was it also kind of a proof of concept.

Do you think people will like this book? No, I think I’d done that stuff ahead of time. Like, I’d done a lot of research on, on is this book necessary when people need, this are these skills people need in both from the mentor and mentee side, it was pretty clear they did. And that was kind of an ongoing process.

So I think when I started the book, I wasn’t really a hundred percent confident in a lot of these principles and ideas, but one of the nice things about, about writing it and doing all the interviews is you talk to so many people and you get to try out. Theories you have in the book, ideas are these things that people generally agree on and et cetera, et cetera.

So there are a lot of things that I would actually put it in front of somebody I was interviewing. To try to get them to punch holes in it. Does this make sense? You know, and they would tell me like, you know, waiting for them to say, like, I don’t agree with that or something like that. And and that didn’t happen.

And there were several people who I think really tried, you know, like they pride themselves on giving critical feedback. So there is that process all along the line. And then, yeah, the Kickstarter was just to get it funded, get some publicity, all that that’s so much fun. So let’s talk about startups. I think w w a good place to start is I think there’s so many people who want to create a company, a business, a startup name, it what’s one of the first steps they should do.

They have an idea. They want to move forward with something. Yeah, there’s a lot here. And I’ll preface this by saying, I think that as a society, as a world early, we’ve gotten really good at like the, if you think of it as like a bell curve, you know, and the up end of it, like the beginning of it, like the coming up with ideas like figuring out your competitors, we’ve gotten really good at that stuff, but I think you take the bell curve and you break it open because there’s this huge gap where they don’t know what to do.

And I’m copying the book crossing the chasm. It’s the same image they use on that book. And, and once you get past that, you don’t know what to do. So I think the first things you need to do are just. Run your idea by as many people and have them poke holes in it as possible. What people do is with their startup idea, they want to be told that it’s awesome.

They’re theirs. And we understand that, right? Like there’s something nice about like, sharing your idea with somebody. That’s like, dude, that is so cool. Like, I can’t believe you thought this up, you know, like, wow, how amazing you’re a genius. You know, people love that stuff. That’s actually not what you want to hear.

You want to hear people like put in front of people and say like, What about this, or I don’t think this is going to work because of this, or, you know, maybe like your competitors would just eat you alive the moment they see this, or just, you know, all that kinda stuff. So really punch it full of holes as much as possible.

I would be one of the first things I would say. And then doing something like like, like some type of event, like a three-day startup a startup weekend. Pitch competitions, the more of that kind of stuff you can do and get it out there. I think the better. So those are the first things I think let’s say that you ran it by a bunch of friends, you know, you’ve kind of as well as other people, you know, people at Starbucks, whatever, and what, what should somebody do before they start pitching?

Like what’s some tips or tricks to get their pitch down? Yeah, I would say the first thing is talk to as many customers, quote, unquote, as you possibly can. And yet, like the thing that nobody does that you should do is talk to random people. Like, so you have your idea. And then just like, yeah, just go to like Starbucks and just chat with people and be like, Hey, can I, you know, and you could say like, Hey, I’m a student at, or I’m doing some research for or something like that.

So they know you’re not like. Part of a cult or asking for money or anything like that, you know, the moment, like you say, I’m doing research or I’m a student, people like relax a little bit and then just say, you know, I’m doing research on this idea and, and really focused on the problem, solving, not like how cool your startup is about the problem and really get into that stuff.

You know, as much as possible, that’s gonna help inform your pitch. You’re gonna realize like, Th th the problem that people have or something like that. And it is oftentimes very different than you think, which is really fascinating. How often you think like, Oh, it’s simple, it’s this, but then you talk to people in your eyes.

It’s not quite that it’s a little bit different from that, actually. So I think that’s a really critical thing is, is your pitch has to be something where you start with a problem and you illustrate that problem in a way that the moment you start talking to somebody about it, they’re like, Oh, Yes.

Like, I know I it’s, it drives me crazy, you know? Like where like they immediately get that. They’re like, yeah, yeah, yeah. Let’s how are you gonna solve this? You know? And like, well, we have a solution. This is it. And they’re like, that’s awesome. You know too many people don’t start with a problem. They just launch into their and their idea.

And nobody knows why. Like, what’s the point of this? What’s what’s this, this, what is this for? So really understanding that problem, I think is huge. You have a chapter, I think it’s called. Prepare for deal killing questions or something to that effect. And how does one actually do that? Right. So I think you gave a really good example of someone doing this, but how do you get yourself positioned correctly?

So that way you don’t say something are our answers. Do you have an answer that’s really going to kill the deal, right? I mean, I think it depends on the deal. And one thing I guess I would say is I think that’s something that’s really necessary. Evolution for entrepreneurs to make is to actually don’t worry about, and this is like if you’re pitching to founders or customers or whomever, to be really honest about what you’re actually doing.

And one of the things that I think has been really troubling about. Society’s got really good at those pitch competitions, you know, $5,000 for the winner. And what that trains you to do is answer all the questions perfectly, like tell them what they want to hear all the time. And if you have a question where they say like, well, how are you going to defend the and such against your competitors?

And you say, honestly, that’s our weakness. You know, like we hope to go into stealth mode and build up enough users to where we could, you know, defend against that. But that’s a real weakness we have being honest about that is so huge, but we don’t live in a world that values that. So people will go into those.

Whether it’s a pitch competition meeting, meeting with investors. Ready to sort of tell them everything they want to hear. And this is what I call like, it’s like the fire festival effect where those guys started with a belief and then it turned out to be complete garbage, and then they just lied rather than just tell people that the thing they thought they could do.

Wasn’t true. You getting yourself into a huge problem. I think with that. So it’s more about, it’s not, it’s not as much about like avoiding or like answering those questions correctly so much as I think being really honest about those things, because it’s going to catch up to you sooner or later, you cannot hide from Everett forever from that stuff.

Talk to me the difference between like a. Incubator versus a Sellerator versus even doing it on your own. Like w w w w which ones do you recommend? What do you like? What’s the differences it’s different. I think for everybody, I think an incubator is ready as a team. That’s, you know, they’re ready to go right now.

It’s a three-month program, generally speaking, and they give you some, some money. So that you can survive during that time. And then it takes some equity incubator. I think it was being a little bit more like a, like an office space type of thing. But there’s a lot of similarities there as well.

As opposed to going on, on your own. It’s a tough one. I think it’s different for everybody. I think accelerators can be useful for most people. And I see a lot of teams that are like, they’ve got to this point where like, They’ve sort of done what they can do right now. They’ve made a lot of progress and they just need, like, we need that next step, you know, and that’s, and they’re going to go in and they’re going to be like go on all in during the time to really launch.

So okay. And then I think I kind of I don’t know, it’s a similar question, but I think there’s a question that’s important is what about seeking money? Or funding or whatever it would be versus just traction or gaining customers. You need the first part you need traction first. Yeah. That’s the, that’s the big thing that nobody knows is like, if you’re going to go and get money, you need traction first.

You know, you need to be like, nobody’s going to give you money unless it’s your parents. Unless you have traction and traction is it’s, it’s measurable proof of like that, that the market wants what you have invasively. And there’s a lot of ways that that can be done. You know, like the traction doesn’t always have to be like super amazing numbers so much as just proving that you can do something, you know, and what a lot of teams do, if they’re able, is that they’ll build some type of prototype.

And oftentimes it doesn’t have to be, I think that’s not a thing that’s scalable, even. It’s just something where, you know, my co-founder and I get text messages when somebody fills in a form and then we go do the thing on the back end, which would at some point be this really you know, sophisticated you know, database or something like that.

They’re just doing that stuff by themselves. Totally not scalable, but then you can go and talk to, you know, an accelerator or an angel network and say, This is the stuff we’ve got with just the two of us, you know, just like getting text messages, whenever anybody fills out a form, like it’s going pretty well.

If we get, you know, a $2 million round, we can hire the developers to build out the backend and to really go crazy on getting customers in, but they’re not going to do it unless you have that traction, the traction also proves that you can actually get things done, which is huge. Yeah. So it sounded to me like cause I think one thing that somebody might think about a lot is.

All right. I got this idea. I want to build this perfect prototype. Right. And it sounds like to me that perhaps an okay. Prototype and then go get feedback, get some talk to some people changed some things, all that stuff about the book, right? You, you, you were able to fund it. Cause I think you had this you know, social capital how’s.

How does. What’s some tips and tricks to grow your community, meet with people, whatever you want to call it. What’s some thoughts there. Yeah, absolutely. And I think that nobody can really launch a company without that community. Like it’s a huge, huge part of it. Everybody needs it. And you have to approach the community in a standpoint, that’s not about what do I get out of this, but what can I also give forward, which is sort of counterintuitive as you think, like, if I’m going out there and going to a bunch of events and stuff like that.

I need some ROI. I need some something back. But you’re gonna find pretty quickly that people aren’t super antsy to help you out. If you have this, I gotta watch out for her. Number one, attitude, you know, like nobody wants to help that person out. So you really have to approach it from a standpoint of helping other people.

And, and that’s what I get into with, with social capital. It’s about building social capital and social capital is it’s your network plus your reputation. So it’s like, who do you know and what they say about you? And we’ve all been around where. Some people are talking about another person who wasn’t there.

Right. And sometimes you hear them saying like, this guy not good, you know, like, like just super dodgy, like people in the back, it doesn’t look good. And then you hear the opposite where people say, yeah, have you heard of, so-and-so like, Oh man, this person is doing amazing stuff. Like, you know, every time I meet with her, she’s doing like, things are moving her.

Company’s really cool. Like that those are different, like element it’s a social capital. One person was very bad because they’re doing all the wrong things. And one person is very good and. You know, in order to really launch and do well with your company, you need your social capital doing work for you when you’re not there.

Like people are talking about you in positive ways. So like when you meet people, like I’ve already heard of you, you know, like in a really good way. So the way I kind of map out building social capital is. Listening, helping and building and the, and the easiest thing you can do that sort of foundation of the pyramid is just being a great listener.

So you go to a networking event, you talk to some people, and you’re not the one who’s just like, okay, enough about you. Let’s talk about me. You love talking to them and whatever they want to talk about, you just keep asking more questions about that and, and whatnot. So that’s listening and that’s where that’s a really big thing.

And it’s really the foundation because he can’t do the other stuff without being a great listener. The next thing is building, I’m sorry. The next thing is helping. And that’s where, you know, you go out and meet people and you want to find ways to help them. It’s not just about you, but I could introduce you to somebody or you know, Let me run through your prototype with you and give you some feedback or, you know, volunteer for an event you’re doing or something like that, whatever that might be like you give that impression that you’d like to help people out.

People find a way to pay that back to you to say, like, you’re just a person who likes to help. I want to help you too. And then I think the final thing, the building is really important in that. You can talk a great game and be helpful and be, and all that kind of stuff. But at some point people expect you to actually accomplish something.

I mean like just a podcast is an example of that. Like the fact that you’re doing a podcast, people see that from a social capital standpoint is Darren can get stuff done. Like if he talks about a podcast, the podcast happens, you know it can be your startup, like your startup actually launched even a prototype of your startup.

You’re proven that you can do something. And, and, you know, like another, like I talked to like Mark Nathan here in Austin, he, and he mentioned how just starting a, like a meetup group, you built something. And, and he loves to talk about how, like the first couple of meetings, two people showed up, did it suck?

It kinda sucked. It was sort of a bummer, you know, like you, you thought like hundreds of people would show up, but you keep at it. And things happen and you prove that you can, you can do that. So a lot of people like you might move to a new community and say, I’m going to start a startup meetup group for the certain type of founder that I fed that just, I feel like isn’t getting a lot of love right now, you know?

And and that can really help you get some, some really positive social capital where people are talking about you in a positive way. So that’s something that’s really essential for your community. Got to get out there and talk to people. But don’t miss those opportunities by not generating positive social capital.

And you already gave some great examples, but let’s talk about COVID with that, right? How to do, how to get some social capital, how to network anything that’s worked for you over these last, like, I don’t know. It feels like eight, nine months now. It has been about that. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think in some ways the connection apparatus still takes place from the standpoint that people are still making connections.

People, you know, are still saying, Oh yeah, yeah, let me introduce you to you to so-and-so or something like that. So those things are still happening. It may have sort of put more emphasis on, on online, just cold outreach to people, you know, like via LinkedIn and stuff like that. But that’s also dangerous because, well, not dangerous, but like, you still need a reason why, you know, like, have you reached out to somebody that should be like something very specific.

Cause I sort of avoid the networking attempts where somebody doesn’t have any reason. I get like five a day and I just, I don’t look at it. You know, why like gonna be talking about what do you need? You know, like so th those two, I think those things are really important to be able to say very specifically and the people who do well with this stuff are the people who say I’d love to learn about such and such.

You know, like one person I interviewed in the book is Jan Ryan here in Austin. And she’s just this really amazing person she gets. Buckets of, of like requests and stuff like that. But the ones that stand out to her are, I would love to hear more about how you founded women at Austin or something like that.

Somebody says that, and you set yourself apart from the other a hundred people. Who asked for your attention? So I think that’s a really big thing is get super specific about why you want to meet somebody. And that’s, that’s something I talk about in the book quite a bit. Let’s talk about mentors and mentorship.

I think a great place to start is how to find mentors. And a little background is I have a buddy right now is thinking about changing careers. Been kind of in the physical world where he’s actually working with his hands, stuff like that, and wanting to get more into something completely different, you know, maybe the tech industry or something.

And my first thing was, Hey, you got to get around. Some people find some mentors. How would like somebody like that start to find some mentors? Yeah. There’s a lot of different things. I think one, one thing is just check your personal connections. People are surprised how often somebody they already know.

Is, it could be really helpful, you know going to events as much as possible. That’s a tough thing to do right now, you know, as we are right now in November, we’re hoping that we’re kind of emerging from this to hopefully, and people, a lot of people watch this, this will be old news. But you know, going to as many events as you possibly can, I think can be a really good thing.

Finding connectors, you know, people who just love to help you meet other people, it can be really good. I’m trying to think of the other ones. I’ve got a whole list of areas of how to find mentors for people that are already customers are already entrepreneurs. Like your customers can be great mentors.

No, that’s another one. And then, like I mentioned earlier, just creating your own like group, whatever that might be, can be a great place to sort of find mentors. You know, I mean, one thing I did offhand that I even like expect to go anywhere is I just started They can see my Lambo had, I just started a Packers group on social media for, for, for like Packers fans like like for me, punk rockers who love the Packers and like just hundreds of people suddenly just like thrust in.

And it’s like this big group that watches the game every, every single Sunday. So like, Who knew. Right. But you just, you can start a group in the weirdest way and, and reach out to people. And if it’s entrepreneurship related or related to your market or whatever your interests are, there’s a decent chance that you’re gonna start to find people that would be good mentors for you.

Some of the, you mentioned customers could be great mentors. I think that’s really interesting. Yeah. You tell it that. Yeah, that was one that I mentioned Jan, Ryan and Lucas, Basemore both brought that up and I had never thought of that before, but You know, you, you could be a company that has just a handful of early adopters or something like that.

And those people in some senses know your product better than you do, because you’ve had your product from the ground up, but they see it for the first time, as some, as a newcomer. And oftentimes, you know, they can help you with all kinds of things about like what your customer acquisition channels look like.

You know, things like that and, and, and kind of point you pointed out like how it works for them and how it could work for you. And because they’re early customers, they care about you already, you know, they have that in there and they’re really excited to kind of help the CEO out or something like that with some feedback.

So that was just something I’d never thought about before started reading, writing the book is how customers can actually be really good mentors for you as well. And I’ve talked to quite a few people who ended up hiring. Customers turned mentors into like people in that, like they actually hired them for the company as well.

Yeah. That’s really interesting. I think that’s a great approach also any, and even just establishing that dialogue could make you at the very least be more in tune with your customer and maybe a stronger, stronger connection there. Yeah. Let’s talk about the three-day startup a little bit more you know, you’ve been, you know, 70 plus different programs, startup programs around the world, been all over the place.

Yep. Maybe go back and how you got involved, how you first, how it first began and then, and then just kind of take it from there. Yeah. So, so my philosophy was always. Just help other people, indiscriminately, you know, like that’s what I always believed in this world. Just help other people out. And it’s going to come back to you somehow.

You don’t know how it’s going to happen. So when I was a student at university of Wisconsin I participated in a three-day startup back in 2011 is when that started. And I came around and from there I just joined the organizing team locally, you know, so I would just, we’d just come together and work on organizing these, this program, you know, and it was fun.

It was exciting and all that. And then when I graduated. I actually joined the team and then got married, my wife and I moved down to Austin back in 2013. So we’ve been here since then. And so that’s kind of how I began. But then yeah, you know, you, you facilitate these programs and it’s a ton of fun and you just get to meet people.

And the, and the travel part is great. Like you travel someplace around the world. And you already have like connections there and all that kind of stuff. It’s just really, that’s really cool. And who’s the, what’s a common, like, I guess, quote, unquote, customer that you guys serve right. For the three day startup, generally universities.

So we have a university and they will, and they will have you know, like say an entrepreneurship center or something like that. But they’re looking for a little something to sort of bump up student participation, you know, like they get a lot of students that don’t really have an idea yet, or they have this idea and they don’t know how to develop it.

They’re having a hard time getting students to work together. And our program does all that stuff. People come in with a little bit of an idea, no idea whatsoever, something they’ve been working on for two years and we throw them together with some people and they form teams that have like their little co-founder groups and they just spend the next three days.

Working through the land lean canvas, which is a tool developed by Ash Moria here in Austin. Doing customer discovery, prototyping, learning to pitch, all that kind of stuff. So they just go crazy on this stuff and make a ton of progress in just a few days, any big success stories that can come from it or any interesting stories.

Yeah. One of the interesting stories if you go to the wall at three-day startup.org, there is a list of like the companies that have been launched out of the program. Ton of stories. I’m trying to think of some good ones. Well, one of them I love is like we had this company called called offline labs and they told the story at our global Roundup conference a couple of years ago.

And it was a funny story because they came out of Cornell and it was a video editing software. And so the usual startup journey where, you know, you get out of college and you’ve got your co-founder team and then some people leave. Other people come in and all that kind of stuff, and they had a product, but they weren’t making any money.

You know, so they were like running out of money. The co-founders are ready to bail ship and go find real, real jobs, quote, unquote. But then tell Tim Novikoff the founder, the CEO there were, so there Cornell, so the New York based and he’s, he goes to this Startup slash networking party somewhere in New York city and who shows up, but mayor Bloomberg, Michael Bloomberg, you know, so he shows up and and Tim manages the chat with them for a few minutes, just, you know, just whatever, like, Oh yeah.

You know, tell me about your company, blah, blah, blah. Oh, cool. That sounds great. You know, like talk for a few minutes, you know, and then as he was on his way out the door, some news. You know, camera people, you know, like news organizations came and interviewed the mayor, you know, they got the same setup as we have lights, all that, you know, tell us what you’re doing here.

You know, what’s this all about? And the first thing the mayor does is his name drops, fly labs, and Mike and Tim Novikoff. And of course the mayor is talking to them up, but highlight this amazing product and they’re gonna do great things and all kinds of stuff. So next thing you know, he’s getting like all these calls from angel investors who want to fund the company and all that kind of stuff and that succeeded, and he ended up selling the company to Google.

Wow. So that was kind of a funny, and what I like about the story is like, it involves like the The community element of it, of like in this case, what saved them? Wasn’t just writing better software, but just getting out in the public and talking to people, you never know who you’re going to meet. And then just being really resilient, you know, just, just like being able to kind of keep fighting and, and all that kind of stuff.

So that was one, I think that’s one story that I liked. I’ve always thought motivation’s very powerful. Excuse me. Not motivation, but momentum is very powerful. Just getting the ball rolling and pushing it forward. And you mentioned fundraising, and I know that’s a crazy story, but what’s some other ways that somebody that could get, you know, to get fundraising with some, some thoughts around that and things that have worked for people or just even recommendations or advice.

Right. And I think fundraising is one of the most missing, misunderstood topics out there, you know, like it’s, it’s, I feel like. The public’s idea of fundraising is still stuck in the pre.com bubble era of you have a cool URL. And like somebody gives you $5 million. So like that people still think like that investors just want to give you money because you have a great idea.

Not that those times are long gone, you know? So I mentioned the traction thing a little bit already. Let’s see. So how to get fundraising. I think first of all, I, one important thing is that investors don’t care that you need money. And everybody seems to think like, Oh, we need, we need money. So we should go raise money.

And nobody cares about that. That does not enter any investors, prism of like, why actually care about this. Like everything else. And that’s why it is actually a pretty important topic in the book. It’s all about networking and getting out there and talking to people because if investors invest in you, especially angels, they’re going to want to know you and like you as a person, they want to know that you show vulnerability that you’re coachable.

That you’re easy to work with. That you’re fun to be with, you know, that like, if we w we grab coffee and talk about the company, and it’s like, I love hanging out with you. It’s like the best part of my week. You know, I’ve never heard an angel investor say. I got this company total dickheads, super dishonest, but man, they’ve got a great idea.

So I’m finding these guys like no, nobody ever says that, you know? So I think like the, the relationship element of that is really is really important in many ways. It’s like dating, you know, you get up there and once you’ve got that traction and you’ve proven that customers like your product, and now you have this argument that we just need more money and we can do more stuff with this.

It’s the dating process. You’re just getting out there and talking to as many people as you can, as many touch points as you possibly can. And in a place like Austin, they want to get to know you super well. You know, so it’s a lot, it’s a lot of getting dinner, coffee hanging out and before they get really comfortable doing it.

And then from there, usually an angel investor is going to be part of a network. So they’re not going to invest in you by themselves. They’re going to act as a lead investor and they’re going to bring on several other people and they sort of act as social proof. Like, Hey, I’d like you to meet Darren. And they’re like, well, if this investor likes Darren, he must be pretty cool.

You know, he must know what he’s doing. And then they kind of come together as a big group of angels and fund you together. That’s usually what happens, but what about common myths of. I dunno if mentorship, right? I’m sure there’s some stuff that you hear all the time that it’s not even completely true or, or that you just kind of cringe yet.

Yeah. There’s a lot of stuff. First of all, I’m your mentor is not an official title. You know, there’s a lot of instances where your mentor doesn’t even know they are your mentor, you know, and that’s okay. I’m like so I think that’s one thing is like, it’s, it’s very, very unofficial, so to speak, you know you can have several different mentors if you want.

But I think one of the, if there’s one really big misconception that I think fuels the book, it’s that it’s the sense that I need something. Therefore I’m going to go meet with a mentor and therefore this relationship quote, unquote, is all about that mentor giving me something, whether that’s great advice.

Introductions to people and I don’t need to give anything back. They’re just going to give me the thing and that’s great. It truly is a relationship. And I think that if there’s one big misconception, it’s that you just get a half hour meeting with a mentor and that’s awesome. Like you’re good to go.

Usually you’re not going to get everything you want in that first meeting. You know, it’s going to take time to sort of build that up in any kind of conception that you’re going to have that meeting with a mentor, and they’re going to like. Give you the answer you’re like, Oh my God, we’ve been like, just treading water this whole time.

And now that we met with a mentor, like, it’s so clear to us, we just need to do this thing. And we’re, and we’re just, we’re rocking now. You know, it doesn’t usually work that way. The good stuff that comes out of mentorship comes over time. It’s building up a relationship with that person and you, you know, you meet with them for coffee, then you see them all different kinds of places.

And every time you see them, you keep building up more trust, more social capital, all that kind of stuff. To the point where that person is willing to really help you out with something, you know, help you out with like bigger things, so to speak introductions, trusting you more with the kind of stories and feedback they give you and things like that, that stuff all really factors in.

What about, so now that the book’s been out and it’s been funded and it’s, you know, you’re, you, you have it’s physical as well as digital and you get it on Kindle version. What’s your been your approach to marketing? How do you get more sales? Right. We’re in the process right now. So of got pushed back with the, with the pandemic, with parenting and all that kind of stuff.

But for a not right now, it’s just doing as many kind of book talks and and podcasts and stuff like that as possible. And then once enough people have read the book, getting it on Amazon, it’s actually not on Amazon yet. Cause I want to make sure that. I know people have read it, that I can get some reviews right away and then get their views going and hopefully get more traffic and whatnot to the book.

And then just keep building stuff up more and more, I think is what it is. Yeah. And then what about mentorship for you? Like who is it written, any mentors around in your life or, and also, I always ask that question in case somebody hasn’t had a lot of mentors, but books as well, but any stories or any people that you want to talk about?

Yeah. One of the, one of the best mentors I had was Amos. Who’s the managing director of Techstars here in Austin. And that was a really good one because I wanted to talk to him about mentorship and, and he, and, you know, Jason seeds from Techstars have some of the best in input. That’s in the book.

But, but Amos is interesting because he had also just written his own book. So in addition to giving me feedback, he was also mentoring me about just being, you know, writing a book as well. And that was really great. And some of the good feedback that he gave us is the fact that as a book author, you don’t look at like scalable the way you do with like a high tech startup where like, we just need to get thousands of new users.

And like, but any person you can get to read your book as positive, even if they just read one chapter, that’s really good. And that was one of the best bits of advice that I got that I think helped a lot is when I finished the first go around to the book and I wanted to get as much feedback as I could.

I reached out to a lot of students and early, early, early startup founders, the, the, the kind of audience for the book. And my ask, according to what Amos had mentioned is can you just read one chapter that is so much easier than can you read the whole book? It’s really easy to say one chapter. I got that, you know, it’s six pages or whatever.

I got that. So they would read that chapter and they’d be filling it up with comments, you know, said Chariton like docs and they’d have all these comments and all that. So it’s a great way to get some of that feedback. So that was one bit of advice. That was really helpful. Luiz from who wrote the book of venture venture girls was another person that helped out a lot.

So yeah, I had my own mentors who helped with kind of getting the book out as well. So why did you write the book? The biggest thing was that I was looking to help people in the three-day syrup network with the mentorship thing, because I had so many meetings with people where we would meet up. And like I said, it would be like, we’d meet for half hour, hour, we grab coffee and then.

Nothing would come out of it. I’d get the sense, like they didn’t take notes. Do they remember any of this stuff? Did anything good come out of that? And so that was kind of frustrating. And then when I started talking. To people more broadly. And I talked to like, like mentors at Techstars. I talked to university faculty staff about their own mentorship programs and they said, yeah, we have the same problem.

It’s the same for us. You know? So started realizing that this is a widespread thing. And also I was the dumb ass who was doing that myself at one point, you know, early founder, you know, I met with a mentor and didn’t do any of this stuff. Right. And so just realizing that like, This resource is becoming kind of a waste of everybody’s time because the mentees don’t know what they’re supposed to do with it.

So I started looking for a good book. I could share with people about like, this is the thing you need to read to be a great mentee. It didn’t exist. There was literally not a book on it. There are plenty of books for mentors, but nothing for the founder of how to really be a great mentee. So that’s why I decided to write the book.

It’s a fantastic name. It’s a very obvious name, but how did you come up with it? Why does something that was easy to the point? Man, I came up with some super convoluted things to shut it down. Like I was trying to think of like mentor and mentee are like two animals, like a whale and a monkey. And my wife’s just like, that’s crazy.

Like, don’t do that. Like, nobody’s gonna know what the book is about. Like, all right. You know, so in the end it was just a really straight direct to the point. People understand it. They don’t have to like go through somersaults to figure it out. Well, I was going to say is a lot of times people use a book, right.

To help their personal story or to sell something else. But I, I figured you guys are more probably just using that for them is just probably more for your personal brand. Yeah. I think, I think in a lot of ways of book has sorta like almost like a career supplement type of thing, you know?

Like it helps you yeah. Just with like your own career ambitions and stuff like that. I think that’s part of it. That was definitely like a motivator. Also like the fact that a book is much more permanent, you know, it’s, it’s there. And I, and I kind of liked that part of it as well. So there’s a lot of reasons to pick a book instead of just like writing a blog or, or doing videos or something like that.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I agree. And I think it’s a little bit more legit, right? Like, you know, it’s and I, I, it’s gotta be great to sit there and say, Oh, and by the way, I’m an author as well, right? Yeah. It’s it’s, it does help. I think it definitely, it definitely does help. The perception element of that I think is really good for sure.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Oh, man. I think wanting to ride several more, you know, get those out there and then just, and just out, I don’t know, see where that goes. And part of it is that like, there is an unknown component of it of just saying like, I don’t know where that’s going to take me, but I’m, I’m assuming it’s going to be someplace good.

You know, that’s kind of part of it. What about, what advice would you give your 16 year old self? Right. As far as being a writer, five minutes, anything, anything. Okay. Well, I always wanted to be a writer and I think the one mistake I made that I wish I would’ve done differently is I had this, this muse complex where I sorta felt like, Oh, you know, like if you’re going to create something amazing, like it’ll be a sudden burst of inspiration.

And then it’ll just happen. And that’s also kind of like a, that’s also kind of like a backdoor to laziness. Like, well, I’m not having my burst right now, so I’m just going to kind of do it, you know? So for me it was all about just write it consistently and, and, and using the software I used, I could see, like every day I wrote.

And it was generally six days a week. Like I usually took one day off. And for me being a new father I was able to do it every morning before my son woke up. And once he woke up, that’s it that’s like the day, you know? So like you have an amount of time. So there was like a, like a weird like gamblers element to it of like, you never know how much time you’re going to get.

You could have five minutes, you can have an hour and 20 minutes. You never know. But you just get crank at every morning and really stay. Super super strict about that, you know, so you don’t take days off just because you don’t want to, you always stay really straight. So I think that was the biggest thing.

Whether you’re writing fiction, nonfiction, doing a podcast, a video series, just be consistent with it. I think that’s the big, any other routines besides getting up and riding right away. Was there any other routines that got you to complete this big project of writing a book? I think the other thing was just doing a lot of interviews.

Just getting as many interviews as possible was always really good. We talked about like the vice for your 16 year old self. What about any regrets along the way of your whole career? Oh, man. Let’s see. I’m trying to think of it. That I don’t have a ton of regrets, I think from my recent career I don’t think, I can’t think of another way to put it.

Is there, is there anything that you wish you would have done differently along the way? You know, there had been times in the past where I felt that way and I can’t even remember what they are right now, because right now I’m at, I feel like I’m at a really good place. And I can’t think of what those are.

I mean, I think when you’re super young, Like you have so many avenues in front of you and that can be distracting. Cause you feel like you want to do 20 things all at once. And you, and you feel like every one of them deserves your time. So again, it gets spread thin. So I think in some sense, just pick one thing and just really go at it, you know?

And, and the more things you try to focus on, the more you’re going to be distracted. What’s something that when you were writing the book like that, you wish you would have known that you probably know now right before you started out or why you’re going. Yeah, I think let’s see. Doing a good outline, I think was important.

You know, so I, there there’s too many things where I just kind of like dove right in. And then I really like, quite a bit of the book was editing stuff where I would have like a chapter that just. It didn’t make sense where it was, or it’d be taking too much of this part over here. There were just things that were really messy and they didn’t like fit together very nicely.

So had to do a lot of that kind of stuff. So there were parts of where I would say, like this whole chapter, I can eliminate like 95% of it and then just move this part over to chapter 17. Cause that’s where it fits normally. Anyways. I guess another thing I think is interesting is as far as mistakes is that there are a lot of things in the book that I just sort of thought were super clever.

But they’re only in there because I thought they were clever, you know, not because they’re necessarily like useful or even interesting. And a lot of times, like my editors would say, that’s not actually as clever as you think it is. And it’s like, yeah, you’re probably right about that. So there are a lot of things I cut, you know, same thing about a business.

A lot of times people put stuff in there cause they, they like it, but it doesn’t really make sense to the customer or the client. Right. Exactly. Customers don’t need this, so just get rid of it. And so th the, the, so the editors ad for the book were Shana and cam both from three-day startup Lucas Baysmore I mentioned.

And and then Carina where the people that edit it as well as my wife. So I had five editors at all, you know, know a lot about startups and whatnot. And they were able to put a ton of help into making the book happen. So really grateful for that. But they were the ones who were like, Why is this here?

You know? And they did that kind of work. If I couldn’t defend why I was there, it was time to just get rid of it. I love that you had that feedback process because at the end of the day, that just makes a better book. Right. Which is what I think a lot of people have a lot of pride in whether it’s a book or like we said, a company or even just a project, or I worked with a lot of, with a lot of photographers and videographers and they, you know, you kind of make it for yourself sometimes when you should be making it for the end user.

Right, right. And what about like, and this doesn’t have to be pretending to book or anything like that, just in any way, shape or form, but what does success look like for you? What a success look like? Oh, man. I think in some ways, successes, just if you’re always learning new things, That’s I think a good way to measure success.

Like if you put your, if you position position yourself in such a way that whatever you’re doing, you feel like you’re learning new things all the time. I think that’s really good because I feel like it’s kind of antithetical to the human nature to just get static. And you’re just doing the same thing every day and never changes.

That can be pretty dull. So I think that if you’re learning new things, you’re doing well, you’re successful some way or another. I love it. And just, this is kind of a funny question. I don’t really ask, but since you’re you just got this book and all this. What would you title this chapter in your life right now?

Yeah. Ooh boy. That’s a good question. It’s kind of interesting one. Yeah, no question. It’s like so many thoughts on like where we’re at right now with like the pandemic and everything like that. Yeah. Yeah. It’s kind of like a weird time of like waiting, but also charging ahead faster than ever.

Before, you know, because I feel like a lot of people are like in many ways they’re busier than they’ve ever been. But yes, we also, we all feel like we’re kind of waiting. Like, it’s kind of like the hurry up and go time, you know, like, like not like hurry up and stop. I don’t know what, but like yeah. I feel like we’re waiting and charging ahead all at the same time, basically right now.

So this is my last question is that is how I end every podcast podcast is how would you like to be remembered? I would like to be remembered as a person who helped as many people as I possibly can throughout a community where everybody’s seen where people have stories of, yeah. This person did this thing for me.

And that was really amazing, you know, that’s kind of what it is all about for me. I feel like I’m going to helping enough people. That’s gonna be a really good thing. Well, I appreciate you so much to be on the establishing your empire podcast was great to be outside. And just great to have a podcast in person.

I know it’s been awesome. Yeah, I appreciate it. Thanks. Thanks a lot. Yep. Cheers.

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