Investing, Advising & Mentoring…An Observation Of Roles Using Different Lenses
As I previously wrote, I attended the GigaOm Structure Conference and was fortunate enough to participate in a chat with Stacey Higginbotham (GigaOm) and Simon Crosby (Bromium.)
In the beginning of our session, after Simon’s “unveiling” of Bromium’s approach to solving some tough security challenges, we engaged in some dialog about those same security challenges [for context] and many broader security topics in general. Stacey led off by rhetorically asking me if I was an advisor to Bromium. I answered in the affirmative with one word, “yes.”
To add more color, what “yes” meant was that I have advised leadership and employees of Bromium as to their approach, technology and productization and have access to their “technology preview” (read: beta) program.
What I didn’t clarify is that like every other opportunity wherein I “advise” individuals, boards, companies or investors (institutional or otherwise,) I do not receive compensation for such activities. No stock, bonds, gifts, cash, etc. The only thing that might qualify as compensation is when I have to travel to a remote location that I can’t expense myself or my employer can’t/won’t cover. Every one in a while, I get a meal out of these activities so we can do a brain-dump outside of normal working hours so my employer is not impacted.
Those things may, in some people’s eyes, still seem like “compensation.” I think that’s fair enough. I’m also required to disclose any position I undertake with my employer to avoid conflict of any sort.
This is interesting to me because I’ve never really thought about disclosing any further my “advisory” roles outside of this process because I never put myself in the position wherein I feel either I have a vested interest (financially) in the company’s outcome. The reason I “advise” is that it allows me early stage access to very interesting topics that I (cautiously) comment on — both publicly or privately where appropriate — and everyone involved wins.
What motivated this was a private DM exchange between someone (an analyst who shall remain nameless but to whom I am thankful) who attended Structure and was kind and honest enough to tell me what he thought. Specifically, he suggested I had “crossed the line” in my public “endorsement” of Bromium.
Check out the thread below. I found it fascinating. To me, this seemed to be one part poor communication/disclosure on my part regarding what being an “advisor” entailed and one part complaint that perhaps I was messing up the business model of those who advise for free.
There was one additional point made that to the investment world, there’s a distinction between investing, advising and mentoring wherein “mentoring” was the only category that implied there was no financial compensation. I’ve never really thought about making the distinction because again I’ve never asked for compensation…so I guess I’ve been a “mentor,” but I’d feel awkward calling myself that.
At any rate, I learned something from the exchange. Maybe you will, too.