Mentors are individuals with deep industry, investment, or entrepreneurship experience. They work with the startups pro bono, without expectation of reward or compensation, will share of their knowledge and guidance freely, and will open their networks when appropriate. David Cohen, Jon Bradford and Brad Feld of TechStars wrote a Mentor Manifesto that is excellent and reads as follows:

  • Be socratic.

  • Expect nothing in return (you’ll be delighted with what you get back).

  • Be authentic, practice what you preach.

  • Be direct. Tell the truth, however hard.

  • Listen too.

  • The best mentor relationships eventually become two-way.

  • Be responsive.

  • Adopt at least one company every single year. Experience counts.

  • Clearly separate opinion from fact.

  • Hold information in confidence.

  • Clearly commit to mentor or do not. Either is fine.

  • Know what you don’t know. Say I don’t know when you don’t know. “I don’t know” is preferable to bravado.

  • Guide, don’t control. Teams must make their own decisions. Guide but never tell them what to do. Understand that it’s their company, not yours.

  • Accept and communicate with other mentors that get involved.

  • Be optimistic.

  • Provide specific actionable advice, don’t be vague.

  • Be challenging/robust but never destructive.

  • Have empathy. Remember that startups are hard.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I mentor all the teams or just one?

We run Mentor Madness sessions where we try to gather several mentors on the same day at The Refiners office downtown San Francisco. They are a regular occurrence and feature 5-10 mentors that engage with the startups “speed dating style” where each startup comes prepared with one specific ask tailored to each mentor. The main goal for our startups is to briefly meet and connect with our network of mentors, get a chance to learn more about their experience, move faster and avoid known pitfalls based on their years of expertise. 

How much time is this going to cost me?

This is usually the most important question we get, and reasonably so. What we ask is that each mentor participate in one Mentor Madness session every two fleets. Mentor Madness sessions usually last for 3-4 hours from 8:30am to 12pm and take place at our office in San Francisco (169 11th Street, San Francisco). 

Can Mentors invest in startups?

Yes. Direct contact with the Startup businesses going through the program brings early opportunities (but no obligation) to make investments. These would be negotiated on an individual basis between the parties involved.

I’m in! Now what?

The first thing we need to do is get you loaded onto the website, added into our group chats and onto our email distribution list. You’ll then receive a PDF outlining each company at the beginning of the program, as well as a calendar of events for the upcoming batch. Let us know who you see a synergy with and let us take care of the rest!

How else can I get involved?

The startups have a plethora of needs once they enter the program. This could be anything from introductions to companies or beta testers, to talents as they start to scale their teams, to helping them out by simply re-tweeting or posting to social media their marketing efforts.

The program itself is always looking for startup recommendations to apply, or simply hosting a get-together in your space. If there is a something out-of-the-box that you feel would be a benefit we’d love to hear about it.

Will I have opportunities to interact with other mentors?

Yes that's the beauty of the Mentor Madness format. In addition, we will be hosting regular meetups and events. You will also be added to the The Refiners Mentor Channel we have on Slack. If you’d like to host a Mentor-only meetup we’re also keen to explore that as well!

For how long do I need to mentor them?

We ask that once you’ve committed to a Mentor Madness session during the program you come to that session and the Pitch Night. Of course if something comes up and for some reason you need to cancel, we will of course understand, but advance notice is appreciated as this impacts a dozen companies' calendars. Even the smallest contribution is greatly appreciated.

Some last points we’d like to mention:

  • Staying in touch is important. We only know as much as you tell us about your interests, availability, and areas of expertise.

  • Know what your reasons are for mentoring and make sure they are the right reasons. Mentors are not financially compensated and should expect nothing in return from the onset, but if this mindset is held they always ending up getting the most out of the program.

  • Much of what you will be exposed to should be kept confidential; please do not discuss the companies outside the program without their permission.

Please direct all inquiries to mentor with The Refiners to Carlos Diaz, General Manager ( or Todd Embley, Program Manager (