So we’ve got a funny story for you guys…Two cohorts ago, on the eve of Mentor Day (when the teams meet over 90 mentors and have 10 sessions of 30 minutes each with a group of 10 Mentors… in one day), a young FounderFuel company decided to pivot. And we’re not talking changing their name (in fact, their name still hasn’t changed to date)–we’re talking a complete flip in their business. ooomf‘s team spent all night at Notman House working and reworking their new idea, angle and presentation. Let’s just say that at the end of their introductory talk on the morning of Mentor Day, they weren’t the only ones with their heads spinning.
Good thing they got their ducks in a row and figured things out fast–so fast that they even saw awesome traction before Demo Day…and have been successfully changing the way apps are developed, designed and discovered ever since that one time they burned the midnight oil. Mikael says that Mentor Day was rock bottom and that pitching to people when they had no real idea what they were pitching forced them to be as honest as they could be–which meant that they asked for the help they really needed. They had nothing to defend, nothing to uphold, they were just plain ooomf.
From the alumni with the wackiest Mentor Day story out there, here are Mikael Cho’s tips on how to successfully survive and get the most out of Mentor Day:
1. Be iron, not stone
When you look at the list of mentors you’ll be meeting with, it will probably be intimidating. You’ll be getting input on your business from 100+ mentors, many of whom are highly influential and have strong opinions. It’s important to accept criticism in a calm manner, rather than being defensive. At the same time, don’t be afraid to standup for your vision and what you believe as a founder.
The challenge is to distill all the advice you get and take the good stuff (there will be some gold nuggets, you just need to find them).
After participating in FounderFuel, I’ve learned that the best way to avoid making rash decisions based on feedback about your business is to wait at least 3 days before making the decision.
This doesn’t mean stop working on your company for 3 days. It means that it’s important to let opinions and input marinate to help you gain an objective perspective about the feedback, rather than emotional, putting you in a better position to make a better choice.
This will also allow you to look at what your data and customers are telling you.
2. Don’t be a know it all, but know your shit
Depending on what stage your business is at (pre-product-market fit, product in market, etc.) there are a few things you should know cold before going into Mentor Day.
When we went in to Mentor Day last year, we came in at a pretty big disadvantage compared to the other teams. We changed our product and model the night before Mentor Day and it was hard to properly pitch the business.
Even though we had pretty much nothing going in to Mentor Day, we were honest and objective about the stage we were at and as a result, we got a ton of quality input from mentors.
3. Know your key metrics for success
This could be something that you measure or plan on measuring that represents what makes your business unique.
For example, ooomf has a goal of connecting quality mobile & web projects with exceptional talent.
Our key metrics for success are:
- Average budget value and timeframe per project – we aim to keep this value between $60-$100/hour so it is respectable and attracts quality.
- Percent of projects finding the talent they’re looking for within 48 hours – Our goal is to maintain a percentage over 95 percent to help project owners find world class talent faster than any other system available today.
4. Have a strong vision
How you frame or present your vision will evolve as you go through the program, but it’s important as a founder to have a solid foundation and be the keeper of the vision that you see for the company.
Why are you doing what you’re doing and where do you see your business in 5-10 years from now? That’s for you as a founder to know and fight for.
I’d recommend drafting a lean canvas (http://leancanvas.com/) before Mentor Day. It will help you identify 90 percent of the questions people will have about your business. It takes 15 minutes. Do it now.
People want to work with people who are fun, confident (not arrogant) and passionate. When you communicate, make sure this comes across in your tone and body language.
5. Make sure they remember you
Once, you’re sitting at your table with your mentors, you need to make it clear what your company does right off the bat and set the stage for the challenges you have and how the mentors can help.
The best format would be to say this in the first 2 minutes of your conversation with the mentors:
Start with an intro – this should be background about your team. How you guys met and try to think of something memorable about your background that will stick with your mentors after the event. At our Mentor Day, we mentioned that one of our team members was in Cirque Du Soleil.
Elevator pitch - “Your <company name> is a <website, mobile app, etc.> that <solves x problem> for <your target customer> with <your secret sauce>.”
Social proof – Mention any early traction you have: lead customers, or media mentions to add credibility to what you’re doing.
What you need help with – Tell mentors how they can help. Do you need partnerships with agencies, introductions to certain people, help with hiring, etc.
Don’t rush this but try to keep it around 2 minutes to keep people engaged. Stay calm and focus on framing the discussion properly with the mentors so they know how they can help you and so they remember who you are when you follow up in the future.
6. Follow up
It’s better to have a few strong relationships than many weak ones. Your goal on Mentor Day should be to identify the following types of people: – Potential future investors – Potential long-term mentors/advisors
When you do followup don’t do so with a mass bcc email thanking all the mentors. Take the time to craft individual messages and followup with the mentors you see a long-term future getting to know.
Keep the relationship human. It will take time. Go for coffee at Pikolo or lunch.
Think of Mentor Day as the first day of high school. You want to make friends (mentors/advisor) and maybe even find a potential girlfriend/boyfriend (investor).
Above all the most important thing is to be respectful of everyone’s opinions. Remember, the mentors took time out of their schedule to come and help you figure out your business.
This is your opportunity to connect with the most influential people in tech in Canada. Make a strong impression. Kill it.