Role Models

Asst coaching  My 16 year old daughter (in the orange sweater with a player on her lap in the photo) and her friend got up at 9:15am this morning, about three hours earlier than they'd ordinarily get up on a saturday morning, and headed over to the local public school to be assistant coaches in the Greenwich Village girls basketball league.

Both of my girls played in this league in their middle school years and then assistant coached in it during their high school years. The skills and experience they developed playing in this league allowed them to be leaders and top players on their high school team.

Earlier this week, when I showed up at my daughter's high school game, I saw one of the younger girls on her Greenwich Village team in the stands cheering her on. 

As I sat there this morning watching these little girls play basketball, I was thinking about role models. I talked a bit about role models in the Fast Company interview I did last month.

We can back first-time entrepreneurs and have mentors and role models for them and we have those role models in their second, third, and fourth startups and that's the magic–that creates a sustainable startup economy that Silicon Valley has had for four decades now.

Role models are so important. When my girls were young, they had high school players who were their assistant coaches to look up to. They had women head coaches who had played college ball. They had Becky Hammon who was the point guard on the NY Liberty to go root for. They wanted to be them, they listened to them, copied them, and got a lot better as a result.

The same thing plays out in startup land. The young entrepreneurs who are starting companies for the first time are best served by seeking out and getting experienced serial entrepreneurs as angel investors, board members, and mentors. We encourage all of the first time entrepreneurs we work with to do this. And the serial entrepreneurs who work with young founders get something out of it too (in addition to equity). It is a truism that the best way to learn is to teach. I know a bunch of seasoned entrepreneurs who love working with young first time entrepreneurs because they learn quite a bit from it. Matt Blumberg, founder and CEO of Return Path, wrote a great post about this last summer.

One of the best things about the startup programs like Y Combinator, Seedcamp, Techstars, and many others is that they provide a vehicle for young entrepreneurs to connect to experienced entrepreneurs. Mentoring is a big part of these programs.

But not every young entrepreneur gets to participate in one of these programs. I'd like to see more vehicles emerge, not just here in NYC but in every startup community, to connect first time entrepreneurs with mentors and role models. Everyone would benefit from more role models, mentoring, and coaching.

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#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Phanio

    Nice post Fred. Similar situation with my daughter. She kept the stats for her High School team – she was to short to play. But, not only did it help her with good managerial skills and looking at a group or business from a management (not player or employee) perspective – it really helped her make new and better friends while in school.

    1. fredwilson

      sports are great for developing group work skills

  2. Mark Essel

    Coaching from previous founders in the startup sector sounds great. How does the equity payment play out (give up 1% for a year of light coaching)? The 5% to YC sounds like a better deal (but not one I’d dive on).How do founders measure external contributions to fairly exchange shares? I like the idea of a floating level of ownership between tiny-a few percent depending on how much a startup grows in a year (a large measurable timespan). When I think of what startups need, my first instinct is sweat equity and Traction. Then legal and financial support (forming a real business, proprietary defense, proper financial status) to improve their success. I hadn’t considered other founders as consultants.

    1. fredwilson

      sometimes you can get them to invest, sometimes you have to give them freeequity. 1% is a lot but the good ones deserve it.

      1. Mark Essel

        Thanks, will certainly keep this in mind.Having a board like group of super brains to get suggestions from, in addition to having pros with a vested interest in my businesses success is not to be underestimated. When’s a good time to seek out these ladies and gents, and does this share diminish with the founders when external capital comes in? I’ve got ideas on a super team coming together. What better way then enticing them with shares.This is the type of expertise that can make the difference between explosive growth, or getting stuck or even folding.

        1. fredwilson

          as soon as you can talk with certainty about what you are building and yourvision for it

          1. awaldstein

            That is precisely the time. When and how to roll out the product, going public with the seeds of a brand, thinking about distribution and community…all start here.Important post Fred. There does need to be better ways to connect entrepreneurs and mentors. For myself, I run into folks haphazardly online and some turn into formal mentorships; some a monthly coffee chat. But it’s only the most aggressive that reach out to me that connect. Must be a better way. I think this is an important missing connection marketplace that should be filled.

          2. debtitor

            Mr. Waldstein, Haphazard indeed. My first mentor (retired business man) I met in a California Pizza Kitchen in Palm Springs, CA, while he was having dinner with his bride. His counsel over the next year, changed my life. I remember devouring every little bit of wisdom that he spoke. Going for a drive into L.A., or having lunch with Mr. Jim Giusto was like gold to me. I cherished every moment. There are so many smart men and women out there, and with good counsel can change the world.

          3. awaldstein

            CarlosThanks for sharing the story. And consider yourself fortunate indeed to have had the opportunity.I agree. Connecting entrepreneurs with more experienced business folks and seasoned entrepreneurs is an important thing. Being done individually from both sides, but still a matter of happenstance.

  3. ADstruc

    Right, on Fred. This is also an important decision factor when working with certain VCs. You, and other VCs, are successful when your portfolio companies are – therefore, the right VCs are involved and provide integral support structures to their entrepreneurs along the way. For first time entrepreneurs, this is one of the most attractive benefits behind receiving the right funding, from the right group of people. A $1MM from a nobody versus a $1MM from the right support network makes the extra amount of equity given up almost “priceless.” Almost. :)Best,John

  4. RichardF

    I agree 100% Fred – I’ve been looking for a decent mentor for a couple of months now and they are very hard to come by.

    1. fredwilson

      where are you located Richard?

      1. RichardF

        London!…a little far from Austin otherwise I’d be chasing JLM πŸ™‚

        1. Mike

          Richard, I know how you feel. I’ve been personally funding/incubating (which is really just a better way of saying “working in my spare time”) on building a business for the past few months and can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. The only downside is that working as a CPA in Dallas hasn’t exactly provided me with the network of serial entrepreneurs (we’re a risk averse group after all) whose knowledge I can easily tap into. Thankfully AVC and Mark Suster (amongst others) are around to fill the void!

          1. JLM

            I live in Austin and I know a ton of people in the big D. Only downside is that most of them are rich and lazy. LOLSend me a text on Monday w/ your e-mail address and I will respond. One caution, I am very busy next week and may be a little slow getting back to you.You may have to enter a 12-step program to counter that CPA business.512-656-1383

          2. Mike

            JLM, I really appreciate your response and I just sent you a text with my email address. I’m also always looking for an excuse to visit Austin, so I’m willing and able to head that way if that’s what it takes to make something happen.Assuming of course that it doesn’t conflict with my CPA-Anonymous meetings.

          3. RichardF

            But you are nearer to JLM than I am! I don’t think networking comes that easily to most accountants, I was in the same boat until I joined my first VC backed venture. The culture of a start up is just infectious and once you’ve worked in one I think it’s really difficult to go back to the corporate world.

          4. Mike

            True, so here’s hoping that my proximity to greatness somehow translates into success!

        2. fredwilson

          yes, he would be greati’m not that well versed in the london entrepreneur communityi’ll ask around

          1. ADstruc

            Fred, I’d love any insight as to potential mentors for our startup. Any thoughts would be much appreciated.Thanks,John

          2. DuncanLogan

            check out the ACE. The Academy for Chief Executives http://www.chiefexecutive.c… in London. When I started my first company at 24 I joined a group and it was awesome. 12 CEO’s from all sizes of business who really helped out each other. I recently moved to San Francisco and I am slowly building a network here but would be keen to hook up with others.

          3. RichardF

            Thanks for the link Duncan. Is this a fee paying group? The website is vague about how you obtain membership.

          4. DuncanLogan

            It was when I was a member. My advice is not to pay a penny until you see the quality of the group you could join. My group was worth every penny of it but there were other groups I would not pay to be part of. The quality and experience of the group Chairman is essential. I am sure you can check it out for free.

          5. RichardF

            thanks Fred

        3. JLM

          Hell, I am so easy as to be a Perkins Pancake waitress! Buy me some BBQ or Tex-Mex and I am yours until the food runs out!

          1. RichardF

            I am going to take you up on that when I’m in Texas next !

  5. MattMinoff

    Fred, love the sports analogy. As a former college and pro athlete, I can certainly attest to the positive impact that coaches can have on their players. I learned just as much about life on the court as I did in the classroom. Organizations like @peaceplayers and @NewHeightsNYC do an amazing job of using sports as a tool for development.Having made the transition from Wall Street to startup world, I am finding the guidance and feedback from more experienced people in the community to be invaluable. In NYC, it feels like we all play for the same team.

  6. kidmercury

    you call that sweater orange boss…..looks closer to red IMHO

    1. fredwilson

      that’s the google phone camera that’s tricking you. it’s orange in real life

  7. Jason

    mentor has always sounded like a luxury, just having even 1 human being i could ask questions to, bounce ideas off of, would have saved me many moons, even more dollars. but the lesson i’ve learned the super hard way is that proximity to people with experience in your field is of prime importance. if you know someone Fred, anyone, in Vegas who would meet with me, before i inc in Delaware, and build a team in startupland (ny, sf, la, in that order, hell anywhere oc192 – it’s my internet thing) … grateful wouldn’t cut it. it’s a new decade, we are entering the 3rd internet era, i keep working hard and hope for a long life to make many things happen…… and on a closing note, i am willing to do whatever, help whoever, spend my time to earn the time of someone i can trust. just because internet connects us everywhere, doesn’t mean that some of us have had misfortunes that force us to build our dreams alone.

    1. fredwilson

      hmm, vegas. i’ll think about that. don’t know vegas very well.

      1. Jason

        we both understand the value of executed ip in this system, and the fewpeople that do contact me can’t be googled or are shark not transparent.please DM me if it ever comes to you, the next internet boom is not that faraway.

  8. Darren Herman

    Great post. One thing I’ll add: you never grow too successful to forgo having your own mentor as well.

    1. fredwilson

      so true

  9. Keenan

    Amen Fred, Few make it alone. One of the things I like about the social web, is it can create virtual mentors. As experts share their thoughts on blogs, engage with people via the comments or on Twitter they are in many ways being a mentor. Traditionally, mentors were face to face offline or nothing. Social web is creating a middle ground that i think has value. It’s nice to see. I like the post Fred. Mentors are critical to the sharing of experience and knowledge. The move our society forward.

  10. reece

    I also find that as the ecosystem matures, my peers become invaluable. Even if a startup is just a few months ahead of you, they may have great advice.And just as I seek advice from others, I’ve been approached by some great people about their startups and i’m happy to share my experience, even if I’m still young.

  11. JLM

    The first woman President of the US will not have been a cheerleader, she will have been a varsity athlete in an otherwise “boys” sport.Keep your eye on that Ayla Brown — Downtown Scottie Brown’s daughter who is a Boston College basketball player, an American Idol vet and a competitive gal.Our children do not miss a single thing that their parents do.Of course, there is that point guard from Alaska — what’s her name? Oh, yeah, ……………………………………… the ‘Cuda!

    1. fredwilson

      Becky Hammon for President!

      1. fredwilson

        just went to Becky’s wikipedia page and found out she’s now a russian citizen. guess that’s not happening!

  12. JLM

    I am a bit older than most folks on this blog and I have had the benefit of having had some very great folks to guide me along the path in the military, in business and in life. I have also had the great blessing of having been the son of the smartest guy I have ever met. My Dad. The son of a bitch is just never wrong — in a very nice way but infuriating nonetheless — and he does not have a compass that swings to the left or right, it’s always fixed on right. I have been very lucky.Having made it to the pay window a few times in my life, I have also had the great fun of having met and worked with a great number of bright young folks who have gone on to found, run and monetize their own endeavors.Oh, I worked them like slaves and I never really let them know how good they were. I always told them they could only eat what they killed themselves and I always fostered a culture of learning and risk taking and I was always quick to bandage a wound, empathize with them for just a second but I never coddled anyone and told them to get back on the damn horse.I used to tell them that everyone has character but you have to work hard to create the friction to expose it. I was a bit of a prick. Still am. But it was all in the ironic humor of life and there was never any meanness to it.It is one of the most pleasant moments of any day when I have a chance to speak with one of these guys and they recount their latest triumphs. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. They are all better than I ever was on my best day.Understand one thing about most successful people — they attribute most of their success to luck. Plain, old fashioned, luck. Sure there is a bit more luck in the air at 6:00 AM, but most things are determined by luck.Successful people want to help young entrepreneurs if for no other reason than they want to spread the luck around and multiply it because they fear the loss of karma if they don’t.If you are looking for help approach a retired businessman, look into SCORE, TAB, YPO and WPO — and remember to just plain ask for help. A great American failing is we don’t ask for help enough.When you do get help, send a hand written note in gratitude. Remember your manners. We are all equal. Nothing more.Ask for help and any decent successful person will bend over backwards to assist because they all feel guilty.

    1. awaldstein

      JLM…great commentsMatching experience with entrepreneurs from a mentorship perspective is haphazard. And unfortunate because experienced folks like yourself and young entrepreneurs are a good match.

    2. GlennKelman

      I really liked what you said about friction exposing character. Thanks JLM, a moving comment.

    3. Dave Pinsen

      Interesting how it all ties together. I got a glimpse of this sort of thing about a week ago. A securities attorney/entrepreneur/blogger whose acquaintance I made recently has been generous with his advice and contacts. I spoke with one of the contacts he referred me to, and it came up in conversation that that gentleman had launched the securities attorney’s career a few decades ago. The securities attorney had been the beneficiary of a big break, and now he tries to do the same for others. I’ve thanked him via e-mail and phone, but the hand-written note is a good idea. I’ll send him one too.

      1. JLM

        The genius of hand written notes is that they become a reinforcing trophy for the recipient. It keeps your name in front of him for years. It personalizes the relationship and he will likely show it to his wife (someone who is quite skeptical as to whether he is a “good guy” or not) — and if his wife approves of you, well, the possibilities are beyond comprehension. Just kidding.If you have truly horrendous handwriting, as I do, it also provides a follow up call for you to decipher what the hell you wrote. LOLHave your own weirdly remarkable notecards printed up. Mine have my airplane and my ’66 Chevy Impala convertible. People remember such weird things.

    4. fredwilson

      “If you are looking for help approach a retired businessman”great advice as usual JLM

  13. Anthony Piwarun

    Great post Fred. I know exactly what you mean being a 25 yr old MBA in Milwaukee, WI- mentors are very hard to find in the midwest and funding is dry. I’ve applied to YC and TS with no luck so far. Do you happen to know any mentors in the area? Thanks in advance.

  14. JLM

    One other insight about sports and children.Keep your kids engaged in sports continually even if they are not varsity caliber athletes in order to drain their energy to prevent it being re-directed toward mischief.Start at the earliest possible age and don’t quit until they go to college.You will have less trouble with them.

    1. Mark Essel

      Why not get them working early?

      1. JLM

        Why not? LOL

  15. Doug Covey

    As parents we want to surround our children around caring adults, when they hit junior high and high school if a teacher or coach can touch their lives it’s pretty cool. As adults we look for mentors to help our professional careers. I continually surround myself with life board members (outside my normal board) who can help ground me personally and professionally.

  16. howardlindzon

    there needs to be an apollo of techstars…a simple rollup

    1. fredwilson

      you want to consolidate all of these programs into one big one?

      1. Robert Shedd

        There’s certainly been a big increase (… in the number of seed-stage accelerator programs in the last year or so. More options for entrepreneurs is certainly a good thing, though it would be great to see more coordination and collaboration between the various programs.

  17. adityac

    So, how would you go about finding role models in the consumer internet space in New York? Is it just beginning a dialog with people you respect at meetups or is there a more structured way to go about it?I feel like this is one of the biggest things missing in NYC right now, we are beginning to see quite a few second/third/fourth time entrepreneurs with pre-built networks starting their next venture here, however there isn’t a very strong culture of mentorship for first-timer’s and I’d appreciate any suggestions you have…

    1. fredwilson

      going to the meetups and such is very important. you can also read blogs and comment on them. chris dixon’s and roger ehrenberg’s are two good ones. that can lead to face to face meetings. it’s all about networking, getting people to recognize you and pay attention to you.

  18. GabrielGriego

    Great post Fred. I have been lucky enough in my career to work for some great entrepreneurs, and learn from them, and consequently I have gravitated to small, entrepreneurial companies. I have also really enjoyed meeting with new entrepreneurs and talking with them about their business challenges, providing advice, feedback or just good conversation. Whenever I get a call or email or text from someone who wants to chat about their new venture, I always make time. And I’ve found that I learn and get as much from the conversation as they do.

  19. ShanaC

    Searching out for role models is among the hardest activities I have ever done in my entire life.It’s something that I figured out I needed to be proactive: No one was going to say to me ‘”Hey I want to be your role model.” And I’m actually shy and awkward- what do you say? (ok I’m growing out of that). There aren’t any good things to say. Sometimes I wonder if it just sort of happens.I still don’t know. I think also role models change as you get older, because I’ve noticed I changed. I’m different than I was even a year ago. Maybe that’s normal? Who knows? I’m not sure all the things a role model is supposed to be -I’m young.I wish I knew.

    1. GabrielGriego

      I’ve found that a lot of it has to do with being open to the possibility. When I’m feeling more closed, meeting the sorts of people that could be mentors doesn’t seem to happen. But when I’m feeling more open and willing to engage people, in a humble and learning sort of way, I seem to meet people that I can learn from. I often have to remind myself to be that way though … to be curious and willing to ask questions and listen … it often requires serious effort.I don’t know, maybe I’ve just been lucky.

      1. ShanaC

        I’ve noticed that myself. I’m otherwise not quite sure how I ended up here.

    2. JLM

      Real world advice that works. My dear departed Mother actually used to tell me this and I promise you it works.At the instant you feel “shy and awkward” about anything imagine that the person with whom you are talking is naked. That’s right — N A K E D!Sounds incredibly stupid, right? Well, it actually works.Nervous about speaking to crowds? Right — imagine them all naked. LOLWhen you get done chuckling, you will not feel shy and awkward. You may well have to explain why you are chuckling. Don’t tell them.The way to approach someone to become a role model — “You know something, I have always admired the way you do………………perhaps you could teach me to do that?” Nobody in the world can resist flattery.When I was getting out of the Army and was going on my first job interviews I once asked my Mother what I should wear. She said “…dress like a dummy…”! Huh?”Yeah, dress like the dummies in the windows at Macy’s, Bond’s, Brooks Brothers — cause somebody who knows something about men’s clothes was paid hundreds of dollars to dress those dummies.”Whenever I would appear in a suit, she would always whisper in my ear — “You are so handsome, you look just like a dummy!” And then we would laugh.Most of the things we worry about in life are actually totally meaningless. Be yourself. Because guess what — under our clothes, we are all really just naked.

      1. ShanaC

        As odd as this is to say in public -I’m nervous that they won’t like me asme, and if they do, I’m suspicious as to why. I admit to sometimes gettingfreaked out here when people like what I say: I know that I am tiny incomparison to a lot of people here. And have a lot to learn. I’m lucky tobe here and I have learned a lot: I don’t know what to do with it. And thatmakes it even more problematic in person, because I’ll say something, andthen I get stared at. High pitched female that sounds cute that suddenlycan talk to someone about gadgets and whatnot…It took me a long time to really come to terms to even being here. I wish Iknew what to do as my next step (this has been good to me for everyone whoknows me in person, I seem calmer and less shy, and slightly less intense).I just wish I knew what to do next -that part scares me. I don’t want to betaken too seriously since I am still green. How do you get over that nextstep and just take it. To grab a situation in person so that you canlearn…it’s frightening because I’m afraid I won’t be helped through theparts I don’t understand. I work hard to be here, I would do tthatsomewhere else.I’ll think about the naked thing. It’s mostly only going to make me blush,really. Awkwardly relgious background- you either want to be totallyunaware of such things, or you are too aware. Think if you told that tothose nuns.

  20. Wiltsie

    Like others, I’m glad you made this connection. Sports are very powerful in kids’ lives, and young girls in particular. I’m very excited to be in the SF Bay Area where there are plenty of start-up role models. But I’m also excited to work with Team Up for Youth to be a volunteer coach in the Bay Area

    1. fredwilson

      that’s so great that you make time for coaching kids. it’s such an important thing to do.

  21. aanwar

    You are my role model πŸ˜‰

    1. fredwilson

      i’ll do my best to live up to that responsibility

  22. JordanCooper_NYC

    Saw someone’s comment re: first time entrepreneurs giving up equity to “advisors”…i’ve seen it done many times, and personally, I don’t think any accomplished entrepreneur worth his salt asks for equity in exchange for his advice. Somewhere along the way to their multi-million exit(s), someone stepped up and helped them without asking for equity in exchange. I find successful entrepreneurs who try to formalize their “advisory services” to young entrepreneurs in exchange for equity abhorable predators…either put up the cash as an angel if you want a piece of the company, or do the best you can to help without any compensation in return…but don’t go hocking your “advice” a quarter of a point at a time to some kid who could get it for free from a true mentor in our community…

    1. JLM

      Bravo, well said! A fair and noble sentiment!Further, real entrepreneurs are all members of a cursed subspecies and must stick together by the law of the pack if for no other reason.It almost seems a serious risk of losing one’s karma traction, to fail to help a fellow cursed member of the genus “entrepreneur”!

      1. JordanCooper_NYC

        Expanded upon this topic of “free equity” on my blog today:

  23. justinlevy

    This is excellent Fred! I think it is a critical component of successful growth to have a role model and/or mentor, or several of them. All of the experiences that you will have, someone else has had to experience before and has, hopefully, learned from those experiences and can share them with you. Have a strong role model/mentor helps you deal with the entire spectrum from the lows of failure to dealing with the highs of success and everything in between.

  24. ankurk

    I partially agree with your point especially with the idea that role models are important because young entrepreneurs/budding stars in any field need guidance and support to hone their skills. however, i dont quite like the idea of looking up to someone or emulating someone, because your skills are unique and they should be developed in your own way. it is important to acquire the basic lessons from your gurus in any field, but once you have acquired the universal/basic tricks , you should focus on developing your own skills. your strengths are unique.To illustrate my point, i would like to take the example of sachin tendulkar who considered ‘sunil gavaskar’ and ‘vivian richards’ as his role models. but he learnt the nuances of batting by ‘looking up’ to these stars. however, he developed his own batting style which is unique to him.I have written a similar blog post, you may read it here : http://ankurkakkar.blogspot… , whenever you are free.Thanks.

  25. Jean-Francois Gagne

    Maybe through Entrepreneur Commons? – a new chapter in NY is just being launched…”Entrepreneurs around the world get valuable help from their peers through Entrepreneur Commons.San Francisco chapter member Brandon P. says: “Through EC, I’ve met a solid, knowledgeable group of entrepreneurs who challenge my thinking and gladly offer assistance.”To serve entrepreneurs better, we are happy to announce the creation of 3 new chapters.** A new chapter in New YorkMelcion Chassagne et Cie ( and Alexander Lexington & Co ( are happy to announce the first Entrepreneur Commons meeting in New York City on February 9, 2010. This meeting will be hosted by Foley & Lardner (, and will start promptly at 8:30am.LOCATION: Foley & Lardner – 90 Park Avenue, 37th floor – New York, NY WHEN: 2/9/10 from 8:30am until 10:30amto register for the NY meeting: http://entreco100209.eventb

    1. fredwilson

      that’s terrific. i hope everyone on this thread who is looking for help finding mentors in NYC reads this comment and goes

      1. Jean-Francois Gagne

        more info on – hope it helpsEntrepreneur Commons is a network of entrepreneurs that provides peer mentoring. Entrepreneurs meet on a regular basis (typically once a month) to share issues and successes on their current projects with other entrepreneurs. These meetings are an opportunity for all to exchange information, knowledge and contacts in a trusted environment.

  26. Nick Oliva

    Every once-in-a-while, Fred can pick a time and a location with enough room and drink specials, invite a bunch of his friends, and mention it in his blog. Free drinks for anyone that connects two people that are a good fit. No name tags. Any entrepreneur trolling for investors and not talking to other entrepreneurs buys the next round… ;-)Middlemen create delays and costs. Gatekeepers like that thing with the toilet paper name can’t possibly do more good than harm. There are plenty of events with 10:1 ratios of entrepreneurs to investors where the little time available for meeting is more like a fish market.Everybody would benefit by more connections. Entrepreneurs need also to know about what other entrepreneurs are doing. I’d like to see more informal opportunities without barriers to entry rather than programs with forms to fill out and fees, etc.Perhaps these events are already happening and I just don’t know about them….?

    1. fredwilson

      you are looking for a place for entrepreneurs to meet mentors, or VCs?

      1. Nick Oliva

        I would like a place where I can meet other entrepreneurs, VC’s, etc., and not feel like I’m being funneled into one category or the other. When you’re dating, it’s a mistake to say, “I’m looking for a wife”… you’re looking for someone you would like to get to know that happens to look great in tight jeans. What the relationship can turn into comes later.It’s easy to create mentor relationships when you’re talking about children, schools, sports, etc. I don’t really see how I could look to anyone as a mentor unless I had worked for or with them.The people that I’m likely to look to as future mentors are entrepreneurs that have been successful, or investors who know how to help me get my business where I want it to go… or even people that can tell me about how they balance a startup and life in general. All I want to do is meet these people and get to know them without having to fill out forms, pay fees, stand in line for an elevator pitch, listen to yet another panel discussion, etc. It’s all too contrived for me… though I’m sure it’s what many other people prefer.

        1. fredwilson

          there are lots of those events in NYC these daysdo you get the NY Tech email?

          1. Nick Oliva

            Uh… no. Did a search for it, though. You mean the New York Tech Mixer meetup? Hadn’t seen that one. Looks like it’s 6 months old or so? I went to a couple of NY Tech meetup meetings and was turned off by those.

          2. fredwilson

            sign up for the newsletter here’s good

          3. Nick Oliva

            Thanks… signed up.

  27. cindygallop

    I’d be interested to hear from all of you who you consider to be the best female role models, alongside male ones, for young female entrepreneurs?

    1. Susan Macaulay

      Forbes top 100 women would be a good place to start in my view. There are so many amazing women everywhere…

      1. cindygallop

        Susan – many thanks for the suggestion! I am particularly interested in female role models in the tech/startup sector – Fred’s excellent post cites his daughters and female role models in sport, and given how hard both men and women struggle to launch startups in what has historically been an understandably male-dominated sector with male success role models – Larry, Sergey, Mark, Biz, Evan et al – it would be great to celebrate who this audience considers the best female role models in the same space.

        1. ShanaC

          I’m tired of that. I’m waiting for someone to break the mold of what someone who is in this field should be. I have no idea what “should” is. I realize a lot of the expectations on me (or that I created for myself?) are sort of unrealistic, however it would be helpful to know what is realistic. I want to complexity in these rolls in the media, and I never do.Oddly, the GothamGal has written about her bounceback and forth between these rolls, and I consider a huge a rolemodel despite the fact that she isn’t working right now. She’s very honest about how difficult the choices are, especially once you factor in family. From her writing she seems mostly happy, I do really wonder what would have happened if she had gone on and done something differently.I wish we would write about the complete picture- the families, the children, the women, the men, the grandparents, the aunts. It’s not one person usually. And its difficult for everyone. A female for me who I can look up to would be able to pass on wisdom about how do to handle being in a greater community while also doing this.

          1. cindygallop

            Agreed, and apologies if I phrased my response inappropriately – far too much talking in this world, and too little doing! Would like to connect with you regarding exactly what you outline, which I feel about equally strongly (but no worries if you’d rather not).

    2. Guest

      A quick list of female tech entrepreneurs that includes many of the usual suspects:Gina Bianchini (Ning)Caterina Fake (Hunch, Flickr)Eileen Gittins (Blurb)Susan Kroger ( Maybank (Gilt Groupe)Rashmi Sinha (SlideShare)Gina Trapani (Smarterware)Mena Trott (Six Apart)Susan Wu ( Wilkis Wilson (Gilt Groupe)

      1. ShanaC

        As odd as this sounds, none of these are quite what I am looking for. I’ve never met a woman who truly wants to just shake the system so broadly through looking at as many aspects of it through as many lens as possible. I would love to meet that woman. That woman would be really cool.As odd as this sounds, I rather work with a guy if I knew I could shake something up so radically.

        1. cindygallop

          Shana – please email me at [email protected]. We should talk.

    3. fredwilson

      there was a post that i saw around year end somewhere (and commented on) that listed some of the most successful women entrpreneurs working in internet/web. i googled around for it just now but could not find it. if i can, i’ll come back and leave a link here

  28. Jennifer McFadden

    I would add that there are amazing university-based programs that are providing mentors to student-run ventures. I was lucky to be part of the founding team for the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (…. In the inaugural year, we had18 students who were part of an incubator and summer program that was loosely based on Y Combinator. We recruited 50 entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and service providers to work with the students. We brought in a wide range of tech luminaries, including Donna Dubinsky from Palm, Steve Hafner from Kayak, Leo Laporte from and Seth Sternberg from Meebo, to tell their success and failure stories. This is the third year of the summer program and YEI has expanded to include an incubator space in New Haven and an incredibly active monthly meet-up in New York that attracts 150+ entrepreneurs and investors. The students from the first year are now part of a network that provides mentorship to the newest group of entrepreneurs. The current staff at YEI is also in creating a mentorship program that can help students throughout the year.This is just one example of such programs. Stanford, Columbia, and MIT are just a few of the other universities which have highly-developed programs. These programs not only have an impact by encouraging entrepreneurial thinking in new ventures, but many students go on to build these skills and apply them to larger organizations.It would be interesting to see how established VC firms could partner with these programs, particularly in light of all of the changes that are occurring in the VC industry.

  29. Susan Macaulay

    Hey Fred,I post role models on my website here:http://www.amazingwomenrock…You might want to contact 85 Broads here: also Unwritten Rules: What Women Need to Know About Leading in Today’s Organisations (a book by Lynn Harris) here:http://unwrittenrulestheboo…Also, social media and other kinds of networks for women are springing up all over the internet.Thanks for your thoughtful post.

  30. Aruni S. Gunasegaram

    And this is why you need to back more women CEOs and surround them with supportive mentors and other things that let them be women, mothers, and leaders so there will be more women CEOs/founders to emulate. Let them get the scars and build the experience. Even if they don’t have the typical background that your other founder/CEOs have, I think we have seen some of the future and the future needs bright, talented women at the helm.

    1. fredwilson

      i would love to do more of that.

  31. Trevor Owens

    Hi Fred, as an NYU student and young entrepreneur I completely agree that mentoring is key, and there’s not enough of it here vs. the valley. If the NY Tech Scene is going to have a comeback there needs to be more connection between NY’s universities, schools, and the Tech Community. The NY Tech Meetup Student Group ( starting in February is trying to get students more involved and grow the community from the bottom up.

    1. ShanaC

      I joined (and I know there are students reading this)….

  32. daveschappell

    Never heard it say that plainly “to seek out successful repeat entrepreneurs as investors, board members and mentors” but I absolutely love that advice. Not just people with money, or who worked at large companies to get that wealth. The perspective you get from someone who’s built something from nothing is incredibly helpful — the advice you get just seems to be more grounded in (your) reality.I hope I can keep that advice in mind as we grow our investor, board and mentor base.

  33. silviafernandez

    Cindy Gallop is MY role model! I think there are far more smart, savvy women to emulate out there than many people might imagine…

  34. rebeccastees

    In the Bay Area…..check out Women 2.0

  35. WeslyM3000

    I’ve been a reader of your blog for a while now and this post truly hit home. As an entrepreneur, you run into many mistakes, many. More often I find myself at times as the kid with the lollipop and people promise you the world in exchange for a lick. It’s not because I genuinely saw the good in people.After all of this, I decided to devolve my last company after hiring a CTO and 4 developers he chose from his last company, when nothing came of it for 6 months not even a prototype I got fed up and planned a move to silicon valley. It took me just three weeks of learning programing to come up with a beta version – (7am-4am). I guess my my point is, no one will have sleepless nights as much as you (the founder), no one is going to leave their family and friends and move 3000 miles away to the silicon valley for the CHANCE of success; but i did. Mentors could really help me right now, I dedicated four years into an idea and sometimes I feel alone, I feel as if it’s just me carrying The Book of ELI. I know the idea is good, my story is different from others, but finding a true mentor is something I am still looking for, hopefully it can be someone that really understands mobile LBS and tell me about the dangers i should avoid. When i graduated from college in “06”, i had an idea. I bugged my parents and parents friends to raise money for the project only to find out the one company that quickly “jumped” to my aid was a company that saw a lucrative opportunity, a young kid with money, promise me the world, and require increments of what I raised until it’s finally gone. Fred. I learned a lot, unfortunately it’s because I actually had to go through them. I blog about a few of my experiences since leaving PA and NYC to Silicon Valley, but if you know anyone in the LA area (that is where I live for now until the last week of March) I would greatly appreciate the contact.

    1. fredwilson

      why did you leave silicon valley for LA?

      1. WeslyM3000

        I left Philadelphia to move to Silicon Valley, I’m in LA now with a friend until I find a home in the Valley.

        1. fredwilson

          got iti think you’ll have a much better shot at finding a mentor in silicon valley

  36. ispivey

    Fred, you should’ve mentioned Harry, who start the GV girls’ basketball league more then 10 years ago because playing with the boys at the Y wasn’t fun for his daughter! That’s a real local entrepreneurship story.

    1. fredwilson

      you are rightHarry is the best

  37. Murat Aktihanoglu

    Just wanted to mention Entrepreneurs Roundtable’s free mentoring program designed exactly for this to connect experienced mentors with startups/entrepreneurs:…We’d love to have you as a mentor Fred.

  38. SSEVentures

    Great Post. Working on getting one of these up.