Subscribe NOW

Enter your email address:

Text Message our CEO:


or on twitter

Free Resources

Click Here to learn more

In The Media

10 Mistakes Mentees Make

by Larry Chiang on September 22, 2013

By Larry Chiang

Mentorship is still an under leveraged arbitrage opportunity. By arbitrage, I mean take your talent at level X and multiple it with mentorship.

I’m so curious about entrepreneurship that when I listen and take notes, I track a metric called MMPPI (it is mentor mentions per press interview). For example, I can reverse engineer my legendary results (self funded, launch at SXSW on a Shoestring, passed a law for $217, solo-founded the TC afterparty, solo founded ReverseVC) by citing an sourcing specific mentors. I want to be a legendary mentee

If you would like to be mentored by an industry legend (not me– your industry legend) or be mentored by a VC…, avoid
10 Mistakes Prospective Mentees Make

-1- Use a launch pad to align with your mentor. Or potential mentor.

It is a mistake to dabble.

Many mentees toil and struggle in quiet silence. For example, nearly everyone in your social circle. A launch pad you can use is a blog.

The difference between a NY Times feature and you featuring a potential mentor in your blog has never been smaller. Let me repeat that. Your new WORDPRESS blog and the NYT are thinly different. Document your mentee effort via a blog.

A few live-action business case studies  can be found via Googling “Entrepreneurship Week” blank school (like MIT or USC)

Question: what do I write?
Answer: R2D2 regurgitate, quote and cite and source up 12 sentences in a minimum viable blog post. Your only opinion or position of record is “I read blank”

Think of it as a glorified book report. But shorter with two pictures properly labelled.

-2- Vanity Menteeship

Every li’l kid wants to get mentored by Buster Posey. They’re hoping for silver bullet advice. As a mentor hail mary, they are patternistically seeking advice from a two time World Series winner.

Skip vanity mentorship by socially climbing for mentors. Hear is how…

-3- Mentees miss mentorship momentum

There is an over reliance on reach mentors. I label these as “Superstar” mentors. Mentees forget about two other categories of mentors: Co-hort mentor and junior mentors. You can use peer mentors in an incredibly street smart way to socially climb towards a vanity mentor.

Here are exactly 3 tactics…

-4- Pre network and pre promote a  mentor and pre blog a mentor.

I argue that anyone can be gmail alerted. It is a mentee mistake to not pre network. Not pre promote. Not pre blog. What I mean is that you SHOULD 
– pre network
– pre promote
– pre blog

For example, the general population networks with a speaker by asking for a business card after a speech. You as a mentee should observe: Oh, Larry Chiang is speaking at Startup School. Maybe I should pre promote and pre blog. Heck, even upvoting an answer on Quora is actually seen as an uptick in Silicon Valley mentorship circles– SILLY!

-5- Lose a little dignity 

Let’s circle back to co-hort mentors and junior mentors.

It is a failing if you do not use these types of mentors. It is a mistake to not use base mentors to socially climb for a better mentor. Here is a dirty dirty street smart example. Let’s say you MMPPI during your MVBP. Every other mentor on the Silicon Valley circuit says: “I’m a better mentor than they are– why are THEY getting promoted and NOT ME”.

Remember, every silicon valley angel is one of the best self promoters. What every self promoter needs is mentees to promote them. It is a massive mentee mistake to not leverage the Achilles heel of silicon valley elite.

(I love Keith Rabois and I wish he’d blog more so I can tap into his brain 😉

-6- A top mistake mentees make is not using email and cellphone to attempt to conference call

I wish I could show you VCs iPhone “Recents” call record. It would say: Yes, I’m available for a random mentee to “gCal-ask-to-book-a-ten min call”.

As mentees, close for ten minutes on the iPhone using email. Seriously awesome window of opportunity right now, because few people 16-28 talk on the phone very well. Give good phone! (my cold calling mentor, Steven Schiffman said that. So did my USC film prof.)

-7- Be able to deal with a relationship that is not defined

Have you ever had a pre mature DTR (define the relationship) talk with a girl you’ve only hooked up with twelve times?!


Be ok with a mentorship relationship that is nothing like school. In school you apply and ask and establish. Heck, you even define a clear end. And in college, you never say thank you. Learning from a mentor is all street smarts. On the mean streets of Sand Hill Road, there is zero definition and less than zero structure. Negative structure can be seen as something that seems like a joke but is more real and more deep and more valuable that the general population can imagine or understand

-8- Phone time.

I know I covered this in number 6. But it is a huge mistake. 80% of your value comes from using the phone to talk.

If you want to burst you iPhone talking cherry, call me, 650-283-8008


-9- Mentees fail to mentor

Mentors like mentees to mentor others.

This is such a true truth 
It also helps the mentor get distribution for how awesome they are

If you want a mentor, do a glorified book report and read that glorious book report on the YouTube. Yes you can EUTWMPPM 

-10- Updates. Update like a fedex package!

I wrote an article. What is smarter. A Stanford CS major or a fedex package. A fedex package updates you a minimum 15 times going from CHICAGO to 125 University Avenue. If you’re a CS major going from soph year to LEGENDARY summer internship, at least 10 updates to your mentor please

-11- Failure to use thank you notes.

So easy to do
So much easier not to do.

-12- Failure to be public

Your Facebook wall could keep you from a job 20 years from now. Your glorified book reports posted to WORDPRESS w 12 sentences and two pictures most certainly will make you legendary

-13- Execution.

Getting mentored is useless unless you execute.

-14- Over leverage academic.

It is a mistake mentees make to only reach out to alum with the currency of guilt, the currency of vanity, the currency of relevancy

Ok use the currency of vanity but don’t just use seemingly easy mentors

Plot summarizer: Mentors are ALL EASY AND SLUTTY

-15- Fail to be ATC’d

Mentors, de la Superstar, can actually air traffic control you.

Google Larry Chiang air traffic control (LCATC)
It even has a hashtag #LCATC

-16- Fail to learn from a lower ranking officer

The best west point cadets learn from sergeants.

What A Super Model Can Teach a Harvard MBA About Credit

American Express’ Under-Promoted Credit Truths at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week (MBFW)” 

My Stanford Engineering video boils down 20,000 hours and moves you to the right on the entrepreneur bell curve 

CEO of Duck9
MIT University EIR (Entrepreneur in Residence)

Duck9 = “Deep Underground Credit Knowledge” 9
125 University Avenue/ 100
Palo Alto CA 94301
650-566-9696 (direct)
650-283-8008 (cell)

Editor of the BusinessWeek Channel “What They Don’t Teach at Business School”
CNN Video Channel:

Read my last 10 tweets at

Author, NY Times Bestseller

“What They Will NEVER Teach You at Stanford Business School” comes out 11-11-14

52 Cards. Two Jokers. What They DO Teach You at Stanford Engineering

Emergency swings and cutting deals as an 9 year old

Duck9 is part of UCMS Inc.

More on #ENGR145’s SHIFTING right on the entrepreneur bell curve 

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: