David G Cohen: The Mentor Manifesto

David G Cohen: Mentor Manifesto

Creator: David Cohen is the founder and CEO of TechStars, a mentorship-driven seed stage investment program for Internet startups.

Purpose: What does it take to be a great mentor?


• Be socratic.

• Expect nothing in return (you’ll be delighted with what you do get back).

• Be authentic / practice what you preach.

• Be direct. Tell the truth, however hard.

• Listen too.

• The best mentor relationships eventually become two-way.

• Be responsive.

• Adopt at least one company every single year. Experience counts.

• Clearly separate opinion from fact.

• Hold information in confidence.

• Clearly commit to mentor or do not. Either is fine.

• Know what you don’t know. Say I don’t know when you don’t know. “I don’t know” is preferable to bravado.

• Guide, don’t control. Teams must make their own decisions. Guide but never tell them what to do. Understand that it’s their company, not yours.

• Accept and communicate with other mentors that get involved.

• Be optimistic.

• Provide specific actionable advice, don’t be vague.

• Be challenging/robust but never destructive.

• Have empathy. Remember that startups are hard.



Blog post on DavidGCohen.com – 28 August 2011.