ChatGPT-3 speaks with absolute conviction despite having no idea what it’s saying. Many people criticize the current state of AI because of this, but the same can be said for many startup advisors.
In emerging startup ecosystems, you often find people who get a tiny bit of experience and then begin advising startups on how to do things.
These people are like an LLM trained on startup books and videos - they say things that sort of make sense but are operating from the wrong side of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
If you’re inexperienced, it can be pretty hard to tell if the person knows what they’re talking about or not.
So how do you know you’re dealing with a fake startup advisor?
- They keep banging on about lean startups, lean canvas, lean principles…really too much “lean” anything should be a red flag.
- Their LinkedIn profile shows they are the CEO, founder, or board member of an entity with only one employee.
- If they have easy answers to impossibly hard questions, they're either a genius or a fraud. And if they’re willing to talk to you, it's probably the latter.
- They ask for payment or advisor shares before doing anything to help.
If your prospective startup advisor ever says “4th industrial revolution” non-sarcastically, then you’ve found a corporate innovation consultant. Respond to them as a baby gazelle would to an approaching lioness.
While I appreciate the enthusiasm of these folks, learning to build companies requires actual experience. Or, to paraphrase my dad, you can’t attend a Star Wars convention and expect to walk out as a qualified aeronautical engineer.
p.s. There are, of course, fantastic startup advisors who add tremendous value to the ecosystem. You just need to be cautious of the “got my medical degree on WebMD” variety.