It is true – being a startup mentor can be incredibly enlightening and rewarding. Obviously, it also is a great way to “pay-it-forward” and help your local startup ecosystem grow and prosper.

At the same time, helping early-stage entrepreneurs can be very challenging. You want to be positive and inspire them to build a great company – but is that really the best way to get results?

I have worked with thousands of startups, and if there is one thing I have learned, it is this:

To truly help an early-stage entrepreneur, you have to be brutally honest.

Building a successful company from the ground up is one of the most challenging things somebody can do, so mentors always have empathy for early-stage founders. Empathy is good, but most startup mentors that I work with are simply too nice and often sugarcoat their feedback, which is a disservice to their mentees.

How to Ensure Honest Feedback

Since you can’t force somebody to be brutally honest, we came up with a paradigm in the Founder Institute to get the best feedback from our startup mentors. Throughout our 16 week program, founders are constantly pitching their ideas, customer research, revenue model, growth plans, first products, and more to panels of program directors and startup mentors on what are called “Founder Hotseats.” Right before the mentors are asked to provide detailed feedback to an entrepreneur, they need to rate the company on a scale of 1-5.

Building a successful company from the ground up is one of the most challenging things somebody can do, so mentors always have empathy for early-stage founders. Empathy is good, but most startup mentors that I work with are simply too nice and often sugarcoat their feedback, which is a disservice to their mentees.

How to Ensure Honest Feedback

Since you can’t force somebody to be brutally honest, we came up with a paradigm in the Founder Institute to get the best feedback from our startup mentors. Throughout our 16 week program, founders are constantly pitching their ideas, customer research, revenue model, growth plans, first products, and more to panels of program directors and startup mentors on what are called “Founder Hotseats.” Right before the mentors are asked to provide detailed feedback to an entrepreneur, they need to rate the company on a scale of 1-5.