On Wednesday, 4/18, a few local tech entrepreneurs spoke at the 6Degrees Breakfast Speakers series on digital startups and innovation here in San Diego. In this segment, the panelists discuss their varied experiences with their mentors.
Moderator: When you were getting started, were there any mentors or resources that helped you achieve success?
Lars Helgeson: I'm probably an anomaly on this one because for whatever reason, I never actually had a mentor. I did a lot with what they were talking about with iteration, you know, where you try things and some of those, a lot of those, a-ha moments don't work. I guess it's a lot of hard work, at least from my perspective.
I never really had that person that I look up to and say, you know, this is someone that has so many years of experience and everything. I think that in some ways it's good, in some ways it's bad, you know? If you have a mentor, they can kind of guide you and tell you not to make the really stupid mistakes, but sometimes, without a mentor, you kind of figure those things out on your own and sometimes those mistakes end up being good things.
So, you're good and bad.
Moderator: Good point.
Jimmy Hendricks: For me, I've had several, I guess. I've been in and out of business. When I first got a job at active.com I took the job because my boss had been a manager at CitySearch. And so I knew, I'm like, if I'm gonna get on the internet, I gotta have someone to teach me about the Internet. I knew nothing about software.
I knew nothing about that. But then when we moved out here still kind of blind entrepreneurs, and actually a friend of ours Drew introduced me to Steven, he is the first person who challenged me on business modeling where instead of like, we can build it, blind success, you start with what about this and what about this, damn, damn.
What about this? What about your market? Have you thought about the challenges? Eventually, these things started to get my brain thinking out. There are some other advisers and then now we appear where we all like bounce ideas off. Mitch and I try to meet every month or two and Scot as well. Like, we get together and talk about how your business is performing.
How are you modeling it? Everything from pricing to recruiting and get all of that by and Steven's the first person that got me to actually start thinking.
Steven Cox: I'm very very big on learning. And in fact one of our company's values, core values is constant, never ending improvement. That basically means however you are today, it's just kind of a baseline for where you could be tomorrow.
So, I am constantly, probably these guys as well very curious, and always asking a lot of people a lot of information, as much as I can get my hands on. And there's been a couple key people that, specifically, even now, there's one of our investors that I look to a lot. As we continue to grow, business, and no matter what scale you're at, whether your one person moving to five, five moving to fifty, or thirty moving to a hundred like we just went through right, would consistently ask and say listen, so here's what I know, but what I'm more interested in is what questions should I be asking that I'm not even aware yet that I need to understand in order to get to the next level.
So there are people who have done that who will mentor you and will help you. And, you know, it's not about the money. They get joy out of seeing other people succeed. So I'm a big believer in finding those people and learning all you can from them.
Mitch Thrower: So, I'll take you back to when you were a kid. How many folks ever played the game Chutes and Ladders?
If you land on the number 28, you would be sort of catapulted by a ladder almost to the end of the game. Mentors really, you want to find there's two categories. There's mentors and then there's mentor catapults. People who you can get advice from and then people will open doors for you so, you know, Ken Potashner, who's was here in town is a mentor.
He took three companies to a billion and he's on a board of directors and I'll call him and we'll literally huddle around issues. And then mentor catapults are people who you can really, you know… Brian Messec, who was actually with the venture group up in L.A. picked up the phone when we were working with them on a project and make a phone call and the next thing we know we have a client with 17 million customers.
So that's a catapult and I think San Diego's a very rich, a very deep well of mentors. There's a lot of folks here that are very successful, hence they can afford be here and choose where they live, so find and seek the folks that are passionate about what you're passionate about and what your business is passionate about and then spend some time with them 'cause it's hard.
It's hard to pick up the phone because you're managing the team, you're managing financing, clients. It's hard to carve the time out and pick up the phone and call those mentors and share everything, the good, the bad and the ugly within it.
Scot Chisholm: I would definitely agree with most of what was already said. We've a couple advisers. The first group started by us going through the connect program, the springboard program. But each has helped along the way But I, now that everyone has talked about it, I'll take it from a different angle. You also have to know that not every adviser knows your business or you know your business. And you have to take things with a grain of salt.
Also you take people's advice but also come back to your team and yourself and really think it through before you make that decision. Just don't take someone's word and go implement it. That's something that we learned throughout and I think that's been something that's really helped shape our vision and our product moving forward is to take people's advice and then make it your own and really think it through and learn from the customer versus just someone's opinion.