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Daniel Johnson – Meet the Mentor

I help early-stage startups and businesses grow using data-driven growth marketing to build scalable, predictable and repeatable machines that scale revenue and customer acquisition activities.
Daniel Johnson

Founding Partner, We Scale Startups

Learning by making mistakes

Why did you decide to become a mentor?
Over the years, I have been fortunate to have many incredible people around me, from which I can get ideas and learn from others’ mistakes. This has helped me learn and grow as a person, and from that, I can be who I am and achieve what I have today. Hence, I feel that it is also my responsibility to thank those who have helped me along the way by sharing my knowledge and insights with aspiring startups.

Less altruistically speaking, it’s also fun. Mentoring keeps me updated with the recent trends in this industry while also being one-on-one with amazing, passionate people looking to change the world with their ideas for the better. This keeps me going after being in this industry for 8-ish years. Seeing how people tackle different problems enables me to think there’s always room for improvement.

How relevant is mentorship for startups?
Although it is easier than ever to start a startup, creating a successful company is challenging. For me, I find learning by making mistakes the most effective method. However, I 100% wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for the generous time given to me, for people much more experienced than myself. Even being a mentor teaches me so much about dealing with challenges in my work.

How did you get your career started?
Growing up, I wanted to be an ‘inventor’, whatever that means, but by 16, I was trying to supplement my income pocket money to follow my passion for long-distance cycling as it was not a cheap hobby. I created many startups during that time, with most of them failing and occasionally doing OK. Fortunately, my hard work paid off, and I could sell one of them for a not-insignificant amount.

After selling that at 18, I realised I didn’t have any qualifications or actual work experience. I did know that it’s easy to start a startup, but it’s not always easy to get customers. This leads to me wanting to learn more about how different startups acquire customers to become better at it for myself.

Focusing on what’s important

What did you do to learn more about startups?I dove headfirst into the deep end by frantically trying to scale every idea I had. That was a fantastic learning opportunity that taught me so, so much. Secondly, I schedule 1 hour per day to focus on more formal learning like courses, tutoring, etc., based on a personal SWOT analysis every three months.

What’s been the most important thing you’ve learned during that time?

Hundreds of things, but there are a few key learnings that I tend to come back to:

  1. Focus on basics: who is your customer, what problem you are solving, and how you communicate that.

  2. Do your customer research.

  3. Listen to the data.

Apart from that, it’s always to keep moving forwards and learning. Failure is omnipresent in the startup ecosystem, but it leads to growth and development.

How do you usually set up mentorships?
Every mentee <> mentor relationship is different, and it’s essential to acknowledge that at the beginning so that we can ensure we’re always focusing on what’s important.

Some mentees are just looking for an informal, ad hoc sounding board as they grow their companies, and my job is to help them ask themselves questions so they can find the answers. Others are looking for a highly structured goal-orientated approach.

I always recommend that we identify what we’re trying to achieve at the end and then work our way back.

What can you as a mentor do for a founder, entrepreneur or startup?Mentors can help so many areas, whether that’s simply someone to bounce ideas with, someone to lean on in stressful times, or someone to learn from.

What are you getting out of being a mentor?
After having to help and oversee a mentee’s growth and accomplishment, every mentee always held a particular spot in my heart. Hence, it’s not easy to pick a specific mentee as a favourite. However, I happen to have met someone I found particularly exceptional in the past.

Sara was one of my mentees, who had recently left corporate life to take care of her kids and started a business. Unfortunately, during that time, she also had a divorce. Trying to build a business from scratch while going through the legal process of a divorce is not easy. I was truly honoured to support her journey throughout!

And recently, Sara has successfully raised a Series A investment round for her company. I couldn’t be more proud of my mentee’s achievement! What an extraordinary lady!

I look forward to helping more people like Sara to help advise people to build their business from the ground up!

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