A note on advisors…
The first week we started theSkimm, people asked us who was on our advisory board. We said we didn’t have a board yet, not realizing that an advisory board is entirely different than a board of directors.
We quickly learned that just like the word ‘equity,’ people throw the word ‘advisor’ around very casually and it means different things to different people.
What should it mean to founders? Someone who is involved with the company, who is not an employee, and who is not necessarily an investor. But is more than just a friend. Someone who will get equity. Someone who can offer expertise or be able to help in a specific area of your business. And someone who can and will give you time.
This is what we’ve found it can mean to other people.
Scenario: “Hey, Skimm A and Skimm B, we went to college together and I’ve been working in finance for a few years now and so I know a lot about deals and things. Give me some equity and I’ll advise you.”
Takeaway: This person has never worked with startups. This person doesn’t know what they would be advising on.
With every industry becoming more and more entrepreneurial, more and more people are trying to get their feet into the startup scene—and position themselves as experts, when they may not be.
Scenario: An interview applicant said rather than join the team they would love to formally advise us so we could learn from their “business acumen.”
Takeaway: This person has about 3-5 years work experience in junior and mid-level positions. Sometimes people need to check themselves.
Scenario: A very well-connected and influential person who could be very helpful to us informed us they would not make one introduction on our behalf without an advisory agreement.
Takeaway: There’s a fine line when it comes to gaining access to someone’s rolodex. There’s the stage of general and generous intros and then there’s a stage when someone becomes a professional networker for you. The latter stage is usually an advisor. The first stage is a normal human.
Scenario: A serial startup advisor said they’d love to get involved. For 8% of our company.
Scenario: "I’m advising all the companies in your space. And actually plan on starting my own company just like yours! I should advise you too!"
Takeaway: Too close for comfort.
Scenario: I’d love to advise you. You can use my name. But I have no time to talk to you ever.
Takeaway: Sometimes it is helpful to have advisors for name recognition and credibility. But at a certain point, you need to realize what it means to give someone a piece of your company and a name can only help so much.
New Entrepreneur Lesson of the Day: Focus is as important here, as in other parts of your business. Know what areas you need help in and line up advisors who are different from one another and can give you the time you need. Each relationship will be different but each should have a distinct value to the company.