Startup Mentors

how to find a startup mentor

How To Find A Startup Mentor

Whether you are a seasoned entrepreneur or creating your first startup, connecting with a mentor can be one of the most impactful parts of your journey. The potential behind a solid mentor relationship is boundless. They can open doors to opportunities you never thought possible, lead to new connections, and be an incredible support system. While I hope I’ve already convinced you that mentorship is important, you may still be asking yourself questions like: I’m pretty sure I know what I’m doing, do I really need a mentor? Or, maybe I do need a mentor, but where/how do I find one? 

how to find a startup mentor

Why are mentors so important? 

Let’s be honest: you probably aren’t an expert in everything. Having range, also known as being a generalist, is a common quality of entrepreneurs. But it also means that your knowledge of each topic is a little bit limited. Cue the mentors! Leave behind your pride and find a mentor who is a true expert in marketing, business models, or pricing. Hit up that IP attorney or leverage a VC veteran to provide deep industry insight. 

Someone who has “been there, done that” will provide immense value to your own process of building a company. By utilizing the help of a mentor with a specific skill set, you’ll be able to take a deep dive into the specific problem you need to solve. Entrepreneurs like to talk about innovation, but some forget that the key to innovation is utilizing diverse perspectives. Sitting down with an expert who can provide a unique perspective from their own years-long journey is priceless. They will fill in the gaps between what you already know and what you need to know. 

How do I find a startup mentor? 

There are many places to look, so here’s a quick guide: 

  1. Try your local network. Start here first and reach out to someone you know, whether they are friends, family, or acquaintances. Maybe your friend works in a marketing firm, and you know they have a legal department. Ask to get connected with their corporate attorney! Getting a warm introduction to someone is a lot easier than a cold one, and you may get hands-on experiences with a mentor you’re already familiar with. 
  2. IncubateNV through StartUpNV. Our online incubator is hosted on a comprehensive platform with a free curriculum that leads you through the basics of starting and scaling your business. To support that process, we have a community of mentors available to you, which can be narrowed by industry. Available for free, IncubateNV’s online platform is targeted towards Nevada-based entrepreneurs, but open to anyone. Join here today:
  3. IncubateVegas. This 5-week bootcamp runs twice a year for Las Vegas locals. You will be part of a small group, led by a mentor who will meet with you weekly to support your group through the program. Being hands-on means putting in work – and that’s what this bootcamp is meant to do, with a tight curriculum and strong support system. Learn more here:
  4. Online networking. While warm introductions yield higher results, there is still so much power in finding someone who fits the exact qualifications you’re looking for. Often used for job hunting or employee-finding, you can repurpose LinkedIn to scout for a mentor! It does help that mutual connections are visible, so perhaps use that to your advantage. Sort people by location, expertise, past jobs (someone who worked at the same company as you will be a good connection point), etc. 

How to set yourself up for success: 

  1. Identify your specific needs. Are you looking for general accountability, help around a specific subject matter, or some industry insight? Knowing the answer to this first will help you find the right mentor, and may even help you develop the right questions to ask once you get connected. 
  2. Cross reference your needs with a mentors’ expertise. If you’re able to, check out a mentors’ experience prior to reaching out to them. You can do this on the IncubateNV platform, where each mentor’s profile will display their expertise and bio. Maybe even search through their LinkedIn where you can review their previous jobs, industries, and interests. The main goal is to make an informed choice of which mentors you connect with. (Pro tip: Choosing a mentor with entrepreneurial experience can be especially helpful, as they’ll understand the unique circumstances of a startup founder.) 
  3. Think about your preferred mentoring style. Light communication may work for some while regularly scheduled meetings are better for others. It’s okay to have a one-time meeting, where you get the information you need and move on. Additionally, how hands-on do you want them in your mentoring sessions? Some mentors are willing to roll up their sleeves more than others, but what would be most beneficial to you? 
  4. Be diligent in your meetings. It’s up to you to lead the relationship. Make the first move, suggest a time and date, and be on time! “Come prepared with questions, asks, and successes,” says Christina Del Villar, a long-time startup mentor and marketing expert. Setting the expectation upfront is very important to developing a trusting relationship, and proves that you are serious about your startup.

How many meetings should I have? 

An effective mentoring relationship can be long term, or consist of just two meetings! Quality over quantity definitely applies here, and if you’re connecting on a specific topic, it’s not always necessary to have a prolonged meeting schedule.

If you’re going for a multiple meeting relationship, make sure to set yourself up well. We often suggest having an initial meeting as an intro, where you might clarify your needs, expectations, and background of yourself and the company. You may even bring up your preferred mentorship style. Coming to the meeting prepared with your tasks will show your mentor that you are serious. 

How to have a good relationship with your mentor: 

  1. Make sure you’re compatible! The mentor and mentee need to “click.” Irina Tsetsura, one of our product operation mentors, says that “both [people] should be excited about each other’s work, experience, and what you are working on.” Developing a positive relationship from the beginning will be rewarding and allow you to have more productive rapport with your mentor. 
  2. Follow-up and be reliable. Irina also stresses the importance of “respond[ing] and diligently follow[ing] through on the goals and commitments established during mentorship sessions” as a mentee. By doing the homework your mentor gave you, it proves that you value their time and will continue to uphold your end of things. The relationship works both ways: your mentor supports you, and you do the work. 
  3. Be a beginner. One of StartUpNV’s marketing mentors, Stephanie Jiroch, adds this about mentor relationships:

When it comes to building a good relationship with a new mentor, don’t be afraid to be a beginner. The reason you joined forces with a mentor is to gain access to resources and knowledge to support your growth and evolution – both in business and as an entrepreneur. Too often, I see entrepreneurs who are afraid of looking ‘dumb’ and do not ask the questions that will help them grow, launch, or scale. To get the most out of your mentor/mentee relationship, lean into the learning process, ask the questions, and be open to what could be done differently so that you can succeed.” 

  1. Don’t turn a conversation into a debate. Peter Ciulla, another StartUpNV mentor who specializes in hardware tech and cleantech, leaves founders with this nugget of information regarding successful conversations: 

“It’s important not to make a mentor session too much of a debate. Remember that they’re volunteers and they’ve developed expertise in a specific area. As an entrepreneur, it’s best to take note of their advice and input, process it offline, and then decide what is right for your specific business.” 

  1. Keep your mentor in the loop, even if you’re no longer meeting. It’s so rewarding to hear the positive outcomes of the work you put in together. Even a quick email letting your mentor know that you implemented their advice and it led to results, will make their day!

Should I pay for a mentor? 

While searching for mentors, you may find some who charge for their time. While some people may view that as a valuable investment, it’s not always feasible for founders on a lean budget. In my opinion, don’t pay for a mentor. There are plenty of qualified professionals who are willing to support founders for free out of their own desire to give back to the community, or who want to get/stay involved in the startup world. 

Regardless of whether you pay for a mentor or not, the value is in the support and time savings they can provide you. Make sure to keep tabs on whether you work well together, if you’re making progress on your goals, and that you’re being true to yourself in the process. These will be telling signs that you’re on the right track. 

StartUpNV always has free programs and free mentors, so start with us if you need a boost! Whether you choose a self paced program like IncubateNV, a year-long program such as FounderNV, or an IncubateVegas bootcamp, we will ensure that you have access to mentors that fit your needs to get you on your path to success. Visit our programs page to get started: 


Are you interested in being a mentor for StartUpNV? We are primarily in need of mentors for ideation and early stage startups. This may look like: 

  • Leading small groups of founders through a bootcamp 
  • Throwing a hands-on workshop in your area of expertise 
  • Being available for founders to reach out on our incubator platform 

If any of that sounds interesting, please submit a mentorship interest form today!

About the author, Audrey Randazzo: 

Mentor Audrey Randazzo startup las vegas 2

Audrey Randazzo earned her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology with a minor in Art from the University of Nevada, Reno in May 2021. While in school, she had internships at the American Chemical Society for Community Management, the Nevada Small Business Development Center for Marketing, and held a long term position at the UNR Career Center where she utilized her unique blend of analytical thinking and creative problem-solving skills.

Over the past three years, Audrey has made significant contributions to StartupNV, where she started as an intern and quickly progressed to the role of Program Manager. In her current position as Mentor Manager, Audrey plays a pivotal role in the growth and success of the accelerator programs by sourcing experienced Mentors with skills across the board. She works closely with a diverse network of professionals, guiding and facilitating their engagement with aspiring entrepreneurs.

In addition to her work with the Accelerator Mentor Program, Audrey actively contributes to the development and enhancement of other vital programs within StartupNV. She has played a key role in shaping the vision and execution of Founder University Nevada, IncubateNV, and IncubateVegas. With strategic insights and collaborative approach, Audrey ensures these programs provide valuable resources, mentorship, and support to startup founders at various stages of their journey.

Outside of her professional pursuits, Audrey enjoys rock climbing, traveling, and visiting every coffee shop in Reno. She dislikes spending over $8 for an oat milk latte, but still supports the local ecosystem.

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man discussing in front of the woman startup accelerator vs incubator 1

Why Every Startup Founder Needs a Mentor

Do you dream of starting your own business but find yourself needing help with the challenges? Do you worry about making costly mistakes or missing out on valuable opportunities? If so, then it’s time to consider finding a mentor. Every successful startup founder has had someone in their corner to guide them through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

In this article, we’ll explore why every startup founder needs a mentor, how to find the right one for your business, how to build a strong relationship with them, and how to make the most of your mentorship. So let’s dive in!

Value of Having a Mentor for Startup Success

Starting a business can be overwhelming and challenging, and having someone who understands and empathizes with your struggles can be precious. Here are some specific benefits of having a mentor for startup success:

  • Experience and Expertise: A mentor brings their years of experience and expertise to the table. They have likely faced similar challenges and obstacles that you may encounter as a startup founder. Their insights and knowledge can help you make informed decisions and avoid costly mistakes.
  • Expanded Network: Mentors often have extensive networks within the industry. By connecting with a mentor, you gain access to their contacts and connections, which can be valuable for building partnerships, securing funding, or finding potential customers. Their introductions can open doors that may have otherwise been difficult to access.
  • Objective Feedback: Startup mentors can provide you with honest and accurate feedback. They can give a fresh perspective on your ideas, strategies, and business plans. This feedback is crucial for refining your approach and making necessary adjustments to improve your chances of success.
  • Emotional Support: Starting a business can be emotionally challenging. There will be highs and lows, and having a mentor who understands the entrepreneurial journey can provide much-needed emotional support. They can offer encouragement during difficult times and help you stay motivated and engrossed in reaching your goals.
  • Skill Development: A mentor can help you identify and develop the skills needed to succeed as an entrepreneur. Whether it’s leadership, negotiation, sales, or other essential skills, a mentor can guide you in honing these abilities, accelerating your personal and professional growth.

Overall, having startup mentors provides a trusted advisor and guide who can support your entrepreneurial journey. Their guidance, experience, and network can contribute significantly to your startup’s success.

Finding the Right Mentor for Your Business

Finding the right mentor for your business can significantly impact your entrepreneurial journey. Here are some steps to help you find the perfect mentor:

  1. Identify the qualities you want in a mentor: Determine whether you need someone with industry-specific experience or someone with broad business knowledge.
  2. Look for achievement and shared values: Seek mentors who have achieved what you hope to achieve and whose values align with yours.
  3. Set expectations upfront: Clearly communicate your goals, preferred meeting frequency, and specific areas of your business where you need guidance.
  4. Build a strong relationship: Invest time and effort in developing a solid connection with your mentor. Take their advice seriously, ask questions when needed, and express gratitude for their support.

Remember, finding the right startup mentors is a two-way street. While mentors provide guidance and support, it’s essential for mentees to actively engage, implement advice, and take responsibility for their growth and development.

Building a Strong Relationship With Your Mentor

Building a solid relationship with startup mentors is essential for personal and professional growth. A mentor can provide guidance, share their knowledge and experience, and help you navigate challenges. Here are some key strategies to establish a solid foundation and foster a lasting connection with your mentor:

  • Communication: Actively listen to your mentor’s feedback, take notes, and engage in open and honest conversations.
  • Goal Sharing: Be transparent about your goals, challenges, and aspirations, allowing your mentor to provide personalized guidance.
  • Trust Building: Show vulnerability by sharing your struggles and demonstrating a willingness to take action based on their advice.
  • Accountability: Take responsibility for your actions and follow through on the feedback provided by your mentor.
  • Implementation: Commit to implementing the mentor’s suggestions and feedback, even if it feels uncomfortable.

Remember that building a strong relationship with your startup mentors takes time and effort from both sides. Stay committed, be receptive to their guidance, and actively work towards your goals. 

Learn From Their Network

Every Startup Founder Needs a Mentor

Learning from your mentor’s network can be a tremendous advantage for your startup. Here are some key perks you can derive from tapping into their connections:

  1. Access to Investors: One of the most significant advantages of leveraging your mentor’s network is the potential to connect with investors. Building relationships with investors is crucial for securing funding to grow your business. Through your mentor’s network, you can gain introductions to potential investors who may be interested in your startup. 
  2. Customer Acquisition: Your mentor’s network can also provide access to potential customers. By leveraging their connections, you can reach out to individuals or businesses interested in your product or service. It can help you extend your customer base and generate valuable leads for your startup.
  3. Partnership Opportunities: Networking through your startup mentors can lead to valuable partnerships with other businesses in your industry. Collaborating with established companies or complementary startups can provide mutually beneficial growth opportunities.
  4. Industry Insights and Market Trends: Learning from your mentor’s network gives you access to valuable industry insights and market trends. Through conversations with industry experts, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of your industry, emerging trends, and best practices. 
  5. Exposure and Brand Building: Attending industry events with your mentor exposes you to a broader audience and provides opportunities to showcase your brand. These events attract stakeholders, including potential customers, partners, and media representatives. 

Ultimately, learning from your mentor’s network opens doors to many opportunities. It provides access to investors, customers, and partners while offering insights, exposure, and valuable real-world experiences. 

Attend Industry Events Together

Attending industry events alongside an experienced mentor can provide invaluable opportunities to network, gain exposure for your brand, and learn how to navigate conversations with potential investors or clients more effectively. Here are three networking benefits you can expect from attending industry events together:

  • Access to a Wider Range of Contacts: Your mentor likely has an extensive network of contacts they can introduce you to at these events. It allows you to meet people who may be interested in your startup or could offer valuable advice.
  • Shared Experiences: Attending events with your mentor allows you to share experiences and insights about the industry. You can discuss trends, challenges, and strategies for success based on what you observe at these events.
  • Increased Credibility: Being seen with an experienced mentor at industry events can also increase your credibility as a startup founder. People will associate your brand with your mentor’s expertise, which may open doors for further partnerships or funding opportunities.

Overall, attending industry events with an experienced mentor gives you a unique opportunity to leverage your network, gain valuable insights, and enhance your credibility. These benefits can significantly contribute to your networking efforts, brand exposure, and potential business opportunities.

Examples of Successful Mentor-Mentee Relationships

If you’re a startup founder, finding a mentor who’s already achieved success could be the key to unlocking your potential. Take, for example, the relationship between Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. Zuckerberg sought out Jobs for advice early on in Facebook’s growth. Jobs was one of many tech mentors that Zuckerberg turned to as he navigated the challenges of entrepreneurship.

Another successful mentor-mentee relationship is between Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Despite their different industries (tech and finance), they share similar values and philosophies about business. Buffett had guided Gates throughout his career, including when Microsoft faced antitrust lawsuits in the late 1990s.

Having someone to turn to for advice can help you make better decisions. Startup mentors can provide valuable insights based on their own experiences. Knowing that someone believes in you can boost your confidence and motivation.

The Role of Mentors in Long-Term Success

Mentors bring several benefits to individuals seeking long-term success, including startup entrepreneurs. Here are some key ways mentors contribute to sustained success:

– Network Expansion

Mentors typically have extensive professional networks that they can introduce founders to. These connections can be valuable for partnerships, investments, collaborations, or accessing resources and opportunities that may not be readily available.

– Skill Development

Mentors can help identify areas where founders need to develop their skills and provide guidance on how to do so effectively. They may recommend specific training programs, workshops, or resources to enhance the founder’s knowledge and abilities. This ongoing skill development can contribute to long-term success by strengthening the founder’s capabilities. 

– Accountability and Goal Setting

Mentors play a role in holding founders accountable for their actions and goals. They provide a framework for setting objectives and milestones, tracking progress, and ensuring founders stay focused on their long-term vision. This accountability helps founders remain on track and maintain momentum toward their goals. 

– Confidence and Self-Belief

Mentors can boost a founder’s confidence by encouraging, acknowledging achievements, and validating their capabilities. This increased self-belief can be instrumental in overcoming challenges, taking calculated risks, and persisting through the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial journey.

Keep in mind that startup mentors play a vital role in the long-term success of startup founders. Their guidance, support, experience, and networking opportunities contribute significantly to a founder’s growth, skill development, and overall success in navigating the challenges of building and scaling a startup.

The Bottom Line

Securing a mentor is vital for the success of a startup founder. A mentor offers valuable guidance and support, helping navigate the hurdles of establishing and expanding a business. It is crucial to find a mentor with industry experience or who has faced similar challenges as a founder. By actively seeking their advice and feedback, building a solid relationship, and drawing inspiration from successful mentored founders, startup success becomes achievable.

At StartUP NV, we provide expert mentorship and support for aspiring startup founders. Contact us today and take the first step towards unlocking your startup success. Our experienced mentors are ready to guide you on your entrepreneurial journey.

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