I keep meeting people in the startup community. They share one attribute – passion. Some of them have great ideas and others not so great. Some of them are good at building their products and others are still trying to figure out how to implement their ideas or build concept prototypes. Some of them are looking for partners and others are looking for some kind of funding. Most of them can use some guidance from more experienced people.
Why should you help a startup? Think about it for a minute. If you want to help some one at all, whom would you pick?Two types of people come to my mind – students and startups. I will cover helping students in a different post later. Here is a small checklist on how you can help a startup.
- Talk to them. Ask them what they do. If you are a potential user/customer of their product or service, wear a customer hat and ask them questions. This costs you very little. Depending on your level of interest and time, you may meet one startup a week or one a month. You don’t know how to get hold of startups? Leave a comment here on this blog and I will send you a list of resources.
- Become a guide. If you are expert marketing person, teach a tech startup how to market their products/services. Guide them on how to find their first few customers. If you are an expert in selling, share a few tips with them. If you are a designer or programmer, you can offer to review and make suggestions.
- Become a beta tester. You may need to spend only a few minutes a day or an hour or two a week. Helping them test an initial product and pointing out areas where things are not very clear is a great help. Be a part of their evolution.
- Become an early adopter. Many startups struggle to find initial customers. They provide their service for a discount or even free in exchange for being a referral. If you can use their product or service, this may be one of the best ways of helping them.
- Become a part-time coach. This is the amplification of “becoming a guide”. A coach can actually provide a service for a price. Just make sure that it is something they can afford. Pick an area where you can help them effortlessly.
- Help them raise or earn money. If you really, really like the startup team and have some faith in their offering, help them raise some money. If you don’t want to invest or do not have any friends interested in investing, then give them some consulting jobs so that they can earn money. Most of the software companies are bootstrapped (self funded through personal money or consulting assignments).
- Become a mentor. If you are a successful entrepreneur, you probably have a lot of things many startups can learn from. Find a couple of them and share your experience.
There may be many other ways of helping startups. If you have ideas, share them in the comments section.
All of us have a responsibility to encourage and help entrepreneurs. It is not the job of few isolated angel investors, incubators and VCs. Entrepreneurs provide employment, create wealth, provided much needed products and services. Helping them may be one of those random acts of kindness. You will not regret spending time with these energetic souls. It is my new found hobby and I am enjoying it thoroughly.