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Startup Secret No. 28: Woo your mentor-to-be

There are people out there who can help you start your company, but they don't know it yet. Here's how to seduce them.

"Get in late, get out early"

--Larry Chiang, CEO, Duck9

Larry writes and talk a lot about working with mentors and about mentoring. His advice for sucking up to someone who you think can help you and winning their attention: Follow the standard advice for fiction writers. Enter your scenes once they're underway, and leave before they're done.

"Getting in late means asking a potential mentor a question based on existing advice that they have doled out already. For example, you would ask me: Hey, I saw your stuff on 'Getting a Legendary Internship,' and I had a question about point No. 3 on the YouTube video from that Northbridge event at Stanford with ASES. Can I call you next week for 10 minutes?"

Larry continues: "By asking a specific pointed question, you are giving your potential mentor a hard stop of 10 minutes and an early out to your intrusion into their time. Plus you are showing that you are a pro at managing important people's time."

"And you're not even hinting at the time sink known as 'coffee.'"

Once you've gotten the spot, which should happen if you telegraph how easy it will be to the potential mentor to help you, all the while stroking their egos, you should be sure to document the interaction or advice in a blog post. That feeds the ego even more, plus it adds value. "Now when another undergrad needs my help I can just send them a" Not to mention reinforcing the connection between your mentor and you.

Startup Secrets is based on personal interviews with people building companies and from their blog posts and news stories. Subscribe to Startup Secrets on Twitter or come back to Rafe's Radar every day for a new one. See all the Startup Secrets.