Sandi MacPherson, Editor-in-Chief at Quibb

Sandi MacPherson shared:
How to avoid horrible startup advice & choose an amazing advisor


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Startup Edition, Product Hunt

Great advice, Sandi.

Do you think every startup needs advisors? Should entrepreneurs seek advisors, similar to fund raising, or should it be a more organic process?

Editor-in-Chief at Quibb

I can't think of any startup founders that I've met that don't have at least one advisor. I think the one thing that's a bit more flexible is the particular advisor relationship and how it's structured. If you've done it before, and have a pretty good sense for what you're working on - your advisors may just be close friends/colleagues who are also experienced entrepreneurs, and your relationship isn't formally structured. If you're newer/first-time entrepreneur, you might need to go with a more formal arrangement if you don't have those existing networks to tap into.
As for seeking out advisors - I'm planning on writing a follow-up post about how to find advisors/what the relationship looks like/etc this week :)

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Advisor at Quibb

In my couple years in Silicon Valley, my theory is that every successful well-funded startup has a whole network of mentors/advisors (both formal and informal) who help at critical moments. Especially with fundraising, the first thing an entrepreneur will do is show their deck to a bunch of entrepreneurs who've done it before, and get their feedback. If they like it, then intros to investors often follow :)

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Director of Company Relations at Insight Data Science

I've read a few things from PG on his take on advisors. One comment I found is:

"It's usually a sign of lameness to have an official advisory board. If you look at the startups you admire, you'll find few have them.

Board members and (good) investors are always de facto advisors. And if you seem promising, people in the startup world will help you out for free. But it is not a good idea to have formal advisors who are neither board members nor investors."

He also mentions the same thing in one of his essays. I find myself agreeing with that more and more especially since in SV people are inclined to help just because someone else did the same for them. I'm assuming most YC startups don't have advisors. It seems like a simpler approach to advisors. I'm not sure if you've come across that before but would be interested on hearing your take on that.

Advisor at Quibb

My experience has been a little different than what you're describing- first off, a lot of successful startups like Facebook and Twitter have advisors, they just don't publish the list anywhere. Ultimately they are giving really small stock grants for 2-3 hours of meetings per month, which isn't a big deal.

I agree on the point that if the people whose advice you care about can invest, that's the best case. "Celebrity" advisors are a waste of time since they are so busy- better to have them invest or just have a very clear view of how to deal with the affiliation.

Where I find advisors really helpful are cases of specific knowledge- for example game design, freemium, customer acquisition metrics, etc. These things can get pretty nitty gritty and take a few hours to get through, yet the folks who are best at the activity are current operators who aren't sitting on lots of investing capital.

Editor-in-Chief at Quibb

My thoughts are very similar to what Andrew says here. I can't think of anyone who actually has a 'board of advisors'. Also, I'm not sure if this advice from PG is still 100% accurate (it's ~5y old).
To get advisors really involved and able to spend a lot of meaningful time with you, you need to formalize the relationship through scheduling, equity, identifying specific areas, etc. If you want a smart, experienced entrepreneur to really help you out - yes, there's a lot of people in the valley who are willing to meet with you a couple times... but to get more attention, these people value their time very highly!

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Andrew Chen, Advisor at Quibb Andrew Chen
Advisor at Quibb
Andrew Goldner, Advisor at Quibb Andrew Goldner
Advisor at Quibb