During the first week of Excelerate, the alumni gather to share their sage words of wisdom to new companies. This year’s wisdom sharing was exceptional, with about twelve alumni from the last two classes sharing their successes and shortcomings frankly. Here’s what they advised (and what you can incorporate in your startup regardless of where you are):
1) Stay on Top of Relationship Building– The first month of Excelerate, companies meet with over 100 mentors. Some are potential investors, while others are industry experts and all of them offer their expertise openly. Justin Massa from Food Genius was infamously organized when dealing with so many relationships.
“I kept mentor month self contained. No matter how late I had to stay, I wrote every thank you note to that day’s mentors. It was imperative not to fall behind.”
This strategy can be applied to any new relationship you make. If you’re planning on writing a follow up, take notes during the meeting and follow up as quickly as you can.
2) Tap Into Your Community– Almost all alumni wished they had gotten to know each other sooner. I can attest to this: my Excelerate Class (’10) became exponentially closer AFTER the program than during it. There is always work to be done, but being close to so many amazing people is a short term phenomenon. Take advantage! If you work in a coworking or shared office space, are you friends with everyone around you? Make sure to reach out and make connections with the people you see every day…sometimes if we are not mindful of this, these relationships are the ones that are ignored.
“Make friends sooner. Take lunch away from the laptop and talk to someone new every day!” – Ethan Austin, GiveForward
3) Do Your Research– Before mentor meetings, alumni all agreed that doing research on each mentor truly optimized the interaction. It may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but it happens more frequently that one would imagine that entrepreneurs get caught up in work and forget to look up information on a contact before they meet. Avoid this by using Rapportive, or having a LinkedIn app on your phone.
“Mentors are exceptionally busy, accomplished people so assume they know nothing about you, but know everything you can about them.” -Seyi Fabode, Power2Switch
This summer’s teams are prepped and ready to take on whatever challenges this summer will bring. If you’re working on a startup, are you ready for Summer 2012?