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JobLab’s co-founder Aidan Cramer on finding a mentor

Where did you find your mentor?

There are public lists of mentors, and using the one provided by Techstars, we found John Stamler. He’s got a finance background, has done a bit of tech investing, and we had a mutual connection. He was really receptive. With these lists, you’ve got people who are already willing to help start-ups.

What makes a good mentor and how can you make the most of them?

A good mentor is not someone who expects you to come to them with really specific questions. Instead, a great mentor will work with you to find out your biggest challenges and where their experience feeds into that. That’s one of the greatest things we have with John – he’s really good at questioning and understanding.

Should you ever pay a mentor?

I don’t think paying a mentor is right or normal. We’ve had mentors that have pushed for remuneration – salaries or high levels of equity. It’s really easy to fall into that trap when you start a business. You feel like their help is going to be a silver bullet.

We have been meeting with John once a week for months. We’ve now decided he’ll be getting share options under a FAST agreement, which is a pretty standard document.

"John’s given me confidence in my own decision making. I can have those conversations where I’m not sure about things in private with him, then I can talk to the team with real conviction."

Has finding a mentor made you a better founder?

John’s given me confidence in my own decision making. I can have those conversations where I’m not sure about things in private with him, then I can talk to the team with real conviction. He lets me be candid and open about the challenges of running an early-stage business.

He’s also really helped with my negotiation skills. In our recent crowdfunding campaign, we had some issues with the legal paperwork. If it was down to me, I would have brushed it off. Instead, John got on a call with them, which helped me realise what’s the right and wrong way to be treated in that sort of situation.

For anyone starting a business, what should they look for in a mentor?

Don’t worry too much about whether or not your mentor’s skill set is perfectly relevant.

Have one person consistently there who understands your issues and struggles and can act as a trusted sounding board. That’s far more valuable than meeting once every couple of months with someone who is more ‘relevant’.

It’s easy to get into pitch mode if you’re not meeting up often. But with a more regular cadence, there’s always good and bad to discuss. Trust, time and commitment are what’s really important.

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