How to get first-class advice without emptying your wallet
“I’ve launched my product, but it’s tough to get user adoption and fundraising.”
“Our marketing team is set up, but we’re unclear about what tools to implement next.”
“I want to make a change in my career, but I don’t know where to start.”
If any of these statements resonate, don’t panic. Most of us have been there at least once. The first thing to do is face the brutal truth: you can’t be an expert on all aspects of growing a business. You can’t be a great product manager, an experienced market researcher, a fearful fundraiser, an amazing growth hacker, a lethal salesperson, and a master of all the latest tools. If you are, you can stop reading this article now. If not, you might be interested in finding a mentor.
Wait, what do you mean by mentor?
Mentors are nothing more (and nothing less) than people with solid experience in an area who are willing to share their knowledge with others.
I know, this is not new. Mentors have probably existed for as long as businesses have, but something has recently changed. It has never been so easy to find and get advice from one.
Or so affordable. While startups and entrepreneurs probably have the most to gain from mentorship, they have traditionally had the least access to it. Today, luckily, there are online mentoring platforms that allow entrepreneurs and other professionals to connect with specialized advisors online for low fees or even for free.
I have tested some of the most popular virtual mentoring platforms, compared them, and spoken to other mentees to create the following shortlist of the best online mentoring platforms for startups and scaleups.
My Top 3 Online Mentoring Platforms
GrowthMentor is a vetted mentorship platform. This means that mentors have been carefully selected — of more than 2,000 applicants, less than 10% have been accepted — to ensure the highest standards. The majority of mentors (80% as of this article’s publication) offer their time for free, and paid rates are encouraged to remain low ($20–50 per hour) to foster a collaborative spirit.
- Launched: 2018.
- Number of mentors: 160.
- Price: $49/month or discounted yearly price. Mentor rates start at: free.
- Others: 1:1 free demo call; mentees can post their challenges for mentors to apply.
Having been both a mentee and mentor myself, something that I especially like about GrowthMentor is that all mentors must offer their time for free until they receive three reviews, and their hourly rate cannot exceed $99/hour until they receive ten. This policy translates into a unique community of experts segmented by skill, industry, tool expertise, and language and ranked by number of sessions and review scores, making GrowthMentor an accessible resource for anyone trying to grow a business, validate an idea, or develop a career.
“The GrowthMentor network has been my fast-track to education across multiple fronts of getting a startup launched, many I had no idea about before becoming a member. When starting a company, it is very easy to get lost in the sea of service providers offered. GrowthMentor has saved me lots of time, money, and stress because they are my one stop shop for all my questions around launching my business.”
Anthony Orisses, Founder of RARE CUT, GrowthMentor mentee.
Browse GrowthMentor’s advisors here.
MicroMentor is an open community of more than 25,000 mentors and 70,000 mentees that matches and connects entrepreneurs and mentors, allowing them to determine if they’re a good fit. The strong point of this model is that anyone can become a mentor or mentee, making this network accessible to micro, small, and growing businesses and to any person willing to become a mentor.
- Launched: 2008.
- Number of mentors: +25,000.
- Price: Free. Mentor rates start at: free.
- Others: Premium employee engagement solution for corporations.
Mentors can be filtered by expertise, industry, years in business, language, and region. However, there is no easy way to rank them or see if they have already engaged with mentees and if so, how useful their advice has been. That’s why the value extracted from this platform varies significantly across users.
“As a young/small company that is still trying to find it’s feet, it is difficult to find/get quality business advice for free/at a price we can afford so these platforms sounded like a good idea. The challenge is that free advice is time-limited (only so much support that someone will put in) so you can never really get into the detail, and there are lots of people on these platforms who probably shouldn’t be giving advice, who will give bad advice or use them like a lead gen tool and try to convert you to a paying customer so you do need to be careful.
However, it’s a useful starting point and any information/ideas that you can get are better than none.”
Mark Hutchinson, Managing Director at Accellier Limited
Browse MicroMentor’s advisors here.
Clarity is an online mentorship platform that allows mentees to book calls with mentors for a specific duration. Once a session is confirmed, phone number and access code for a conference call are provided, and the mentee is pre-charged for the requested mentorship time. All sessions must happen via telephone, as the final price is calculated on a per-minute basis.
- Launched: 2012.
- Number of mentors: +10,000.
- Price: Free signup. Mentor rates start at $60/hour ($1/minute).
- Others: Mentors can select a Charity which to donate their proceeds to.
The power of this network is its large number of available mentors. The main drawback for many startups and individuals, on the other hand, is the high rates of most mentors. As of this article’s publication, there were only thirteen mentors with a $1/minute rate, and per-minute rates averaged between $6 and $8. If your budget allows, however, Clarity may be an option worth considering.
“This is a very nice tool that can be of use for every other startup who is facing some or the other issue in the operations side of things for their endeavor. It not only provides you with operations expertise but also will help you settle your technical shortcomings as well.”
Dan Martell, Clarity mentee
Browse Clarity’s advisors here.
Even if you count with top professionals among your team, it would be naive to think that there aren’t other great minds with the experience to take you to the next level faster.
Whichever alternative you choose — even traditional face-to-face mentoring or business incubation — seeking advice should not be an exceptional undertaking. It should be a recurrent, easy, and on-demand activity.