Guide on Super Learning: Help a Startup

Why Advising a Startup is a Super Way to Accelerate Your Career

Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash.

It was mid-December 2018. 

Doménica Obando had just arrived in Lima, Peru (our home country) after 3 months in Singularity University’s Incubation Program. 

Meanwhile, I had been working a few months for Winnipeg Startup Fund, a leading Peruvian seed-stage firm.

We both had been volunteering at Startschool, an NGO and met at one of its events. Suddenly we were discussing how she planned to launch her startup next month —  this was the beginning of my first advisory role for a startup.

Last week, the startup — after a pivot —from that conversation, had its first major milestone. Talently, a career accelerator for software developers (SD), placed its first 2 SDs in significant roles with USD +3k salaries.

After 10 months of discussion, execution, discussing again and re-executing, I couldn’t have felt prouder. Sure, I’m not a founder, but as an advisor, I invested plenty of non-paid hours —no doubt, my best performing investment up to date — due to the valuable lessons I’ve learned.

So it was time to write about my first experience as a startup advisor and build the case on why you should try it — ESPECIALLY if you graduated from school just a few years ago– as a means of accelerating your career. 

Photo by Sharon Christina Rørvik on Unsplash.

MBA: Manage (all) Business Areas

If your workday ends at 6 pm, you’ve probably been looking for courses, workshops or even degrees to study after work. You might’ve considered a new language, a particular technical skill or even an MBA, however, you’ve doubts about what set of skills you require to take your career to the next level.

Instead of looking for the perfect complementary skill, try many! What’s the best place to do that? In my opinion…

A startup. 

The previous options tend to be costly (unless you’re considering online), narrowly focused and — with a some exceptions — not practical at all. 

On the other hand, helping a new startup is cost-free, offers a comprehensive view of many business areas and it couldn’t get more hands-on.

At Talently, we’ve dealt with topics ranging from product development, pricing and go-to-market strategy up to hiring and the decision of pivoting the company. I participated in conducting research (both primary and secondary), having meetings with potential partners and executing certain tasks.

Your contribution will vary depending on what are the most valuable resources you bring to the table. However, take this opportunity to learn or strengthen the skills you want to develop. For instance, Talently’s digital marketing via developers’ communities allowed me to have a deeper view on how to build an effective, low cost and self-reinforcing growth strategy.

Photo by Micah Williams on Unsplash.

Playing With Fire Without Getting Burned

Speed, change and uncertainty are constant while building a tech startup, specially in the first months and years. These factors build up a powerful learning atmosphere, but come at a high cost: a low rate of survivability. 

However, as a non-founder, you don’t incur this risk. This is why I believe volunteering at a startup is such a good investment, especially if you’re a recent grad and besides your job, you have little to no responsibilities.

Imagine being a founder with no opportunity cost. You didn’t have to invest part or all of your personal savings plus you haven’t left your current job. 

Still, you get to enjoy the learning benefits of facing new challenges, get a deeper understanding of an emerging market and have a grasp at how new technologies are shaping new solutions and business models.

Ok. So assuming I convinced you, you may now wonder…

 Where Should (You) Start?

In my own experience, finding your own startup-advisor fit is key:

  • Advisor: What valuable skill/resource do you offer?
  • Startup: What’s the skillset of the founders in that startup? 
  • Common Vision: What they are building connects with your values?

Definitely, I was lucky enough to have known the founders for a while. They knew in which areas I could add value and also I knew I could learn new things working with them.

This may or not be your case, depending on whether you’ve friends launching a startup or you’re connected with the ecosystem. Either way, my suggestion is that you assist your local startup ecosystem events. In Perú, organizations like UTEC Ventures, Woman Makers and Wayra, frequently organize open events. [Suscribe to RutaStartup’s weekly newsletter so you don’t miss any]

You won’t only learn about tech, new disciplines, and trends, but have the chance to connect with founders who will be grateful to receive your help. Actually savvy entrepreneurs will be looking out for valuable advisors.

Finally, bear in mind that mentoring or advising a startup is a great first step to build a strong relationship with the founders, which, in case you are considering startup investing, will differentiate you as an angel investor.

So tell me… which startup you’d love to help?

  • Enzo Cavalie es parte del Equipo de Inversión de Dalus Capital, un fondo de Venture Capital basado en México. Puedes encontrar este artículo y otros en su blog personal, The Columbus VC .

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