The last couple of years, I have become amazed at the emails I get from first time entrepreneurs or long-time employees (“entrepreneurs by proxy”) telling me about the latest startup they are advising. That the founder of said startup gave them real equity in return for…well, hell if I know.
Advisors, stop hurting startups by adding minimal value. Just because you can spell Andreessen Horowitz doesn't mean you are adding any value.
Founders: 1) You don't need advisors. 2) Stop picking advisors based on the perceived value of their name. 3) Focus. Focus. And if you have time, focus.
Collecting advisors just for the sake of having them in your pitch deck may seem rather pointless, although, to play devil's advocate, if the said advisors are indeed well known, respected industry figures, there is certainly a "namedropping effect" at work that can help achieve certain results. Grant funding, for example.
That said, first of all you don't need to give equity to get advice, and secondly, you don't need people to be deeply involved in your business to be able to drop their name in your slide deck (though you should of course get their approval for it first).
As I've argued before, experienced entrepreneurs preserve equity at all costs. Leave the task of giving away small slices of their business to the newbies. You know better. You only give X% of shares to people who have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will increase the size of the business by several times that factor.
On the advisor side, I have given countless bits of advice to numerous startups (hopefully most of it good). However, none of it was to the level that would justify calling myself an advisor, nor would I want or expect any payment for this advice. If you're an "advisor" and you're asking for payment for your advice, and you're not Richard Branson or some other Tony Hsieh type of character, you should really take a look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself who's really benefiting from your so-called advice.
Most of the "serious" advisors who do work that's worth charging for do a specific piece of work. They tend to be called consultants, though they also often appear on slide decks as part of the "advisory team". Oh, and they're usually paid in cash, not shares.
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