Mentor vs Advisor

In my MENTORready workshop, I’m regularly asked what the difference between a mentor and coach is.  These two roles are often described interchangeably in all realms of mentorship. But more specific to the world of entrepreneurs is the distinction between mentor and advisor.  In his book “Startup Communities” Brad Feld differentiates these as well as I’ve seen:

Mentors are experienced entrepreneurs or investors who actively contribute time, energy and wisdom to startups and can be a key part of a startup community. 

Often the terms advisor and mentor are conflated. An advisor has an economic relationship with the company he is advising. In contrast, a mentor doesn’t.  The mentor is helping startups without a clear set of outcome goals or economic rewards. I refer to this as a “give before you get” approach. Mentors are counting on their contributions of good karma coming back around at some point, in some way, without predefined expectation.”  (Startup Communities, page 42)

While both of these roles are important in Startup Communities—the market will naturally draw entrepreneurs and advisors together. It’s important that we build a culture that supports mentorship. To do this, we need to:

  1. Create the cultural norms of mentorship (guidelines) so that entrepreneurs and mentors know what’s expected of each.
  2. Build platforms of communication for entrepreneurs and mentors to connect.
  3. Celebrate the success of the value these relationships bring to both participants.

In the culture of relationship building, otherwise known as dating—these conditions exist to bring couples together.  I predict it won’t be long before the eHarmony of mentorship websites is a thriving business!

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