Why I love being an advisor…

I saw a constructive thread yesterday in my TwitterStream (I wish I could segment my TwitterStreams – more on that later) on fund raising. This is a topic near and dear to my life. I’m in the middle of fund raising with 4 companies all seeking different levels/types of investment (ranging from angel to strategic to VC) and my involvements vary from very involved (2 of them) to pretty passive (meaning I’ve already made my contributions and now it’s in the founders/CEOs hands). I also saw a post at Mixergy commenting on getting an advisor before getting funded. These two threads/posts got me thinking about my role as an advisor and why I do it. That and the regular question of “what do you do?” (so LA).

So why do I do the advising thing?

  • Most importantly because I love it (trust me there are easier ways to save for retirement). I enjoy working with entrepreneurs trying to solve the puzzle of startups and next generation consumer technology. The most successful relationships I’ve had are where expectations (time and role) and value add (strategic skills to grey hair) are clear. If I’m adding value and I’m learning from them it is a win^2.
  • I do it because it gives me a chance to work with what I’m betting on as being some of Southern Cal’s future ‘proven’ entrepreneurs – I’m seeing an exciting bunch of young guns doing cool things right now. I do it because the energy is contagious (I wish I could manage my time better). I do it because this is the hardest stage of the innovation cycle (I’m an innovation guy) so the more at bats the better (for all involved). Remember – it’s a numbers game.
  • I do it because I’m committed to doing my part to help foster the early stage community (the biggest gap in the Southern Cal innovation eco-system). The first company I worked for as a Chemist exited successfully. I’ve worked at 2 tech startups as an executive. I’ve advised another 7 or so. So I guess I can say this is the place for me. In Southern California we have a gap here. But the great thing is every person I speak to who is equally as passionate on the topic is doing something meaningful and introduces me to another person doing something. Great time to be here!

I think there are different advisory capacities to consider. The level of involvement can range from more of a board member all the way to more of an interim executive role. It really depends on what the company needs, the advisors ability to add specific value and the advisors availability (and other factors). Different types of advisors bring different types of value to the game. It’s important to figure out what you need in advisors.

So, why get advisors? I say the list of reasons is pretty simple. Get advisors to:

  • help you get your strategy clear
  • help you get your product focused
  • help you get your story tight
  • help you get your numbers straight
  • help you get some partners
  • help you get introduced
  • help you get funded

So, enough about that – time to go work on a few pitches ; ) A quick special thanks goes to my buddy Damon Young for the compliments and for being a passionate collaborator!

Go Start Something!

2 Responses to “Why I love being an advisor…”
  1. This post is really helpful. Now that I’m realizing how important advisers are, I naturally wondered why they do it. The payoff (if there is one) is far in the future that it’s no way to make a living. I see from your post that it’s got to be about passion.

  2. gammill says:

    Well, I don’t look at advising as a career (so it’s not the income generator). It is a passion. And outside of the upside (which you have to feel good about for the companies you work with otherwise you should just be a consultant) there are some certain pay-offs:

    The most important near term benefit is breadth. I firmly believe that a breadth of experience leads to more powerful insights, more creative solutions and better decision-making.

    Another near/mid term benefit is the people. I believe in the idea that startups are about three things – Teams, Products and Markets. So, I’m working with great teams and potential long-term collaborators. Talent is a scarcity.

    Another near/mid term benefit relates to numbers game (self explanatory to startup folks).

    This leads back to the obvious long-term payoff in upside. So why not start my own company and reap more up side? I will in due time, but now is not the time (I’m working on a few concepts with my fav product, technical and bd people). I’m having a great time working with great folks. But I think we are at the top of a lot of S curves in tech. Web2.0, Social, video, ad networks and the like are all very crowded spaces (with a few exceptions). I’m focusing my Founders energies on next gen search, data analytics, mobile, local and other things as well as things with global reach and implications. All the while seeing as many categories and technologies as possible. Not a bad model in my mind.

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