Beyond the Pitch

Startup Secrets – 3 Tips for Picking the Right Partners

Startups in Columbus are benefiting from First Connect. We asked Phil George, founder and CEO of MentorcliQ, to give us tips on leveraging First Connect based on MentorcliQ’s experience using the network to choose the right partners, achieve milestones, and grow.

Tip 1: Build mutually beneficial business relationships that last.

There are many types of experts in the network—attorneys, accountants, marketing and computer development specialists. The individuals and firms are well-vetted and have the functional expertise and mindset to help entrepreneurs grow their companies and become customers for the long haul.

The first professional relationship a corporation usually develops is with legal counsel.

MentorcliQ chose Dickinson Wright to take the company through a recent Series A investment round because of the relationship that their attorney had built with MentorcliQ over the last two years.

Phil says:

“Our initial introduction was two years ago, during one of the sessions that R1 offers to help entrepreneurs to learn about the legal ramifications of corporate structure and other considerations that can keep entrepreneurs (and their counsel) up at night or, worse, get the startup into trouble quickly, if they make the wrong choice.  

Our attorney was an active participant in the startup space. We had the chance to talk with him at many events over a long period of time, which allowed us time to build rapport and trust. When it came time to make a decision about where to spend our money for the Series A, that relationship helped make our choice a lot easier.”  

There are certain things an entrepreneur should worry about. But NOT legal ramifications. Whichever firm or individual you choose, you want peace of mind with someone you know, trust, and feel comfortable moving forward with.”

Tip 2: Connect with experts who have experience your space.

Part of the confidence in engaging the right partner is getting comfortable that they understand where the startup is.

Phil says:

“When we talk to big companies about our solution and how it could help, they ask, ‘and what other companies like ours have you worked with?’ That’s the same question a wise entrepreneur will ask of a service provider. Part of the reason we trust service providers is that we’ve seen them working with startups and that is part of their long-term business strategy.” 

Tip 3: Get a 2nd opinion early from experts in the field.

Very early on, through the Expert Network, MentorcliQ worked with AWH, a development firm in town, to lay out MentorcliQ’s product plan. AWH’s CTO pointed out soft spots and helped MentorcliQ anticipate considerations of scale.

Phil says:

“That experience came back in spades for MentorcliQ. AWH is also a due diligence leader for technology review of companies in which Rev1 investments. We kept up the continuity of the relationship, and this benefited us by minimizing the burden of starting from scratch in explaining our development path. AWH had a comprehensive understanding of our approach, and could better assess both the improvements in our technology, and our ability to solve problems along our product road-map going forward.”

And one more tip—this one from me: Recognize that a startup can use different types of advice at different times. Today isn’t always the right time to fit in the services of the person you are talking to. If a conversation feels potentially helpful, yet a little overwhelming, you may not be ready for that type of help.

As you meet advisors, match their expertise to the stage of the company and the milestones of the business plan. The company may not be able to absorb the expertise immediately, but that advisor could be someone to keep in mind as the company matures.

If you’d like to talk more with us about the acceleration potential of First Connect, please contact me.

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