Sunday, October 21, 2012

startup advising

One of my favorite career experiences is mentoring. It is so exciting to catch people in liminal moments, whether they are considering a career move, learning a new technology, or starting to build and run a team. Since I started Quantopian, I've connected with more startups, and I'm starting to meet more people who want entrepreneurship and startup advice. Learning how to make product, build a team, and open a market is hard won experience, which makes it all the sweeter to share with new entrepreneurs. It takes me back to the first time I made a pitch deck, or (less fondly) to my first sales pitch. I utterly bombed. My boss at the time asked me if I could sell a thirsty man a glass of water in the desert (answer: most likely not).

With sales, I had mentors over the years who let me keep trying, who gave me advice on how to be better, and pointed out the rare times when I did something right (actually the hardest part of improving I think).  After years of coaching and practice, I still have loads to learn, but just this year I've started to think of myself as a competent salesman. So much of the early days of a startup is selling to employees, investors, users, and partners - the last year has been intense practice selling.

And that's why I'd like to mentor more people. Not just because it is fun to recount the stories where I learned, but because I'd like to pay forward the encouragement I received from the people I worked with and for over the years. To make any headway, people have to bet on you and trust you to deliver. I developed the confidence to ask people to trust me because of heaps of coaching and encouragement.

If you're starting a company, feel like you need a little of those two things, let me know. I'd love to help!

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