Written by Felix Gerlach Sept. 5, 2022
Felix Gerlach is the co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Passbase, a privacy focused identity verification tool. Launched in 2018, Passbase has since raised over $17 million in funding.
Why did you decide to become a mentor?
Throughout my career, I’ve experienced on my own how essential mentorship is. Having a mentor is like going on an unknown trip in the jungle but having a local with you, who knows which berries you can eat, which you should avoid or how to defend. Mentors are a critical backbone in the business world for any successful entrepreneur. Its your time to find somebody who has done it before, who is open to help and share their experience & knowledge so you can tap into your full potential.
Keep in mind though, that mentors should not present solutions - mentors should focus on providing you with the right tools and frameworks - the execution is on you.
How did you get your career start?
I started to build things very early on and self-taught by trial-and-error, by success and massive failures. My inner drive and curiosity for building and creating value for others kept me going.
I failed many times, I probably built 20 non-successful projects, lost some amounts of money until I slowly gained ground and experience, knowledge and skills that helped me to understand what it really means to build successful products. Product-full-stack as a skill is probably a critical piece in my journey to understand any in-and-outs of a business in order to build successful products for the masses.
How do you usually set up mentorships?
First, I like to understand the human behind. This is a critical piece to get to know their motivation, current struggles, goals and fears. I usually take time to get a full picture of the current status quo and all dependencies.
The second phase is all about alignment and goal setting. What do we want to achieve for the next 1 month - 3months - 6months? What do we not want to achieve, defining anti-goals is an interesting practice my mentees really enjoy. I let them write down a little game plan, the foundation for our work, basically a little strategy paper.
The third phase is all about execution. I usually schedule bi-weekly check-ins in order to discuss wins, fails and learnings. Preparation is key for those sessions. The better prepared, the more value will be generated out of those sessions. We usually discuss also one new mental model or new framework to overcome current struggles or bottle necks. I try to go deep on current problems and obstacles and let them understand problems through first-principle views, not superficial solutions. Compounding effects kicks in around 2-3 months mentoring.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to your younger self?Start early and break things. You need to learn how to start, how to fail and how to continue. It should almost be your mantra. Be fast in failing and iterate based on your learnings. Develop principles around it and build discipline. The majority of people will stop continuing after they experienced the first failure - you need to have more perseverance. Your first project probably won’t be a success. Your odds though will improve with every little learning you gain. Start early and move fast.
What are you getting out of being a mentor?
I like to share my experience, knowledge and especially failures. This is the invaluable currency as entrepreneur that I missed in the first place. Why not starting to give something back to new entrepreneurs who want to change the world to something better? Its time to build, for that you need a strong community of builders, mentors and believers around you. Overall, I really enjoy to have a small impact on the next wave of builders.
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