Why your startup needs a great mentor, and how to land one

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At age 26, Hind Hobeika is the founder of the Arab World's hottest hardware startup, Instabeat, and has been successfully driving it towards success. One of her smartest moves so far has been to surround herself with helpful and supportive mentors and experts.

The Beirut-based startup manufactures the first waterproof heartrate monitor that tracks, stores, and displays information about a swimmer’s workout in real-time, to help swimmers optimize their performance. Earlier this year, Instabeat secured a Series A round of investment from Wamda Capital, Jabbar Internet Group, and angel investors, to accelerate its growth and bring its first product to market.

Throughout her journey Hobeika has come to realize how important it is for first time entrepreneurs to have mentors. She has learned how to find the suitable mentors for her and her startup, in addition to how to approach and get them involved.

Based on her personal experience we asked Hobeika to share bits of the story of  building Instabeat amidst a strong circle of mentors.

Wamda: Where do you scout for mentors?

Hind Hobeika: At the beginning, I used to talk to every single person that had some business experience, even if not related to mine. As a first time entrepreneur I didn't know what I needed exactly, and meeting with people and having them asking me questions helped me figure out what I should focus on. I spent a lot of time going to conferences and events.

I also read a lot, and when impressed by a certain startup founder or expert I would find ways to reach them, either by going to conferences where I know they will be speaking or figuring out a common connection.

Wamda: How do you decide who you need as a mentor?

HH: The best way to look for mentors is to ask for mentorship!

I met a lot of people who run startups in a similar field, and so I go to them every time I need something specific, and usually people are very helpful and are willing to help.

I have always looked for mentors, and at every step of the journey I needed different kind of expertise and mentorship. At first I needed someone who understood business plans, investments, and term sheets. Then I had a mentor who would advise me on how to go about building a research and development team. After the crowdfunding campaign, I looked for a mentor who would help me understand manufacturing and how to deal with a manufacturing partner. And now I seek for mentors who can help me build strategies and build a company.

At the beginning, I would take everyone's opinion into consideration and try to overlay them and implement them all. But I've learned that it doesn't work that way, and I need to make decisions based on the many opinions I get. So almost naturally, I started talking more to the people that I felt understood my vision and my business, and less to the people that didn't. Now that I know more about the different aspects of my business, it takes me less time to identify the people who get it.

It is very difficult to identify long term needs for a very young company, so it's really important to keep an open mind, to ask a lot for help, and to listen to what's around. It's even more important to be critical about that help, and filter out what fits into your strategy / vision.

Wamda: What makes you interested in a mentor?

HH: 1. A good rapport. It is very important that they like the product and that they like me as a person / startup founder. They need to believe in me and my vision, and I need to like them as well. I need to like them as a person, be impressed by what they've done, and like their work values.

2. Practical. I usually prefer hands-on people rather than [people who operate on a] high level, i.e. instead of telling me what a manufacturing agreement should contain, they would send me a sample or help me review the one I have.

3. Self-confidence. I need to feel they really know what they're talking about.

Wamda: When does a mentor become valuable?

HH: Always! There is always someone who knows more about what you are doing, and having a mentor is essential at every stage of the business.

Wamda: How do you make the best of your mentors and maintain the relationship?

HH: The relationship with a mentor is not temporary, it is one you build and that grows over time. You reinforce it by involving them in your updates, making them feel part of the success, and being grateful for what they've given you.

It is very important to involve them enough to make them feel they are part of building your startup. Regular updates, gratefulness, humility are main elements to make this happen.

Wamda: To what extent you owe specific mentors and how did it happen?

HH: In my case, I've had two very good experiences with mentors.

The first is right after the crowdfunding campaign, as I was trying to pick a good manufacturer and I had no idea on how to go about it. I had heard about Sarjoun Skaff, and knew that he was building complex robots in the US, but had never met him. So I just sent him an email asking him to chat. And I spent the next month talking to him almost every single day, reviewing together all the contracts and proposals I got. He would explain to me every step of the process in details and how I should go about it. He also introduced me to design engineers, and manufacturers. It was absolutely amazing, more than I ever could have asked for.

The second is when a VP of sales at a big wearable tech company reached out to me because he loved the product, and helped me put together my entire distribution plan, and introduced me to all the distributors I needed to launch.

Learn more about Hind and Instabeat here:

The Arab World's Hottest Hardware Startup this Year? Instabeat Raises $11K in 5 Days

Instabeat raises Series A round from Wamda Capital, Jabbar Internet Group, and angel investors

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