Engaging with the Ecosystem: Startup Advisory Webinar

Being there is half the battle for executives looking to join startups as advisors. In a recent webinar with Pulse, Everest CTO Mike Kail joins with Todd Dekkinga of Oncopeptides to share their experiences as advisors to some of the most influential Valley startups.

Within growing innovation ecosystems, more and more executives are directly engaging with startups. Either as a board member or as an advisor, many IT leaders are embracing companies at their early stages of growth. But how does one dip their toes into the ecosystem as an advisor? And what are the best ways of sustaining good relationships when you do find a startup to work with?

In our most recent webinar with CTO Mike Kail and Head of IT Todd Dekkinga, Pulse finds out the best way to take on advisory roles at startups.

Making yourself seen

The times may call for social distancing, but as Everst CTO Mike Kail told us, tech leaders can still make the most of their small platforms by engaging directly with collaboration platforms like Pulse and Twitter. People will take notice if you have something thoughtful to say that will then get amplified. Think about your personal brand,” Kail said.

It’s also important to be certain about what you’d like from the experience when looking for an advisory role. Todd Dekkinga, who had front row seats as advisory board member of both Box and Zoom at their early stages, spoke of the importance of making yourself seen at events and meetups.

“When I’m advising all these companies, I’m seeking something that is across verticals, so I can talk to everybody about it and not just be siloed to a certain vertical or sector.” Dekkinga said at the webinar about his expectations going in.

Forging a relationship

Once you’re in, It also helps to have a sense of the type of role you’re looking to play within a startup. “I’m a big believer in paying it forward,” Kail told us, “Meaning I can make introductions and help out with the networking without being a formal advisor.”

For Dekkinga, on the other hand, the advisory role is very much about improving what the company has to move it past its early stages. “It’s usually about taking the product or tool to the next level.” Dekkinga told Pulse, “How can you become more of an overall service as opposed to just a little tool? That’s one way I help with enhancements and features and product improvements.”

So what are the key components of a sound CIO/startup relationship? For Dekkinga it’s alignment with the founder’s temperament and vision. “You really have to get along with the founder and understand their vision.” Dekkinga said “Also, make sure you’re passionate about it. Make sure you love the product, and make sure that you’re able to add value. If you can’t, then just step away.”

For Kail, 80% of the advisory role goes towards networking and more minor details like removing friction or other barriers in the way. “Then 20% of that time, give or take, is used on strategy, whether that’s in honing the marketing message, pitch deck or how to either pitch to VCs, get intros and properly set context with CXOs if you’re trying to sell them.”

Unable to watch the full webinar? Catch the full dialogue at Pulse’s Youtube Channel.