I've previously hailed the value of having a few good mentors. Back then, I thought having mentors was about people giving you a helping hand, helping move your venture along. I have since realized that there is yet another purpose for having mentors -- having people who can help you make fewer mistakes, and ultimately better decisions.
Inevitably, coming at a problem with only my own perspectives and experience, I sometimes miss things. I make assumptions about how things work, or what is reasonable. For example, I once thought that I needed to hire a sales guy to generate some sales. Following conversations with various people, I realized I need not do so fast. I first needed to develop and prove a sales model. With that in place, it is reasonable to hire a sales person to execute on it.
These types of mentors -- the ones who help you make less mistakes -- come in many forms. Some are peer students who've happened to have gone through it all before. With a student body as diverse as the one we have, someone likely has gone through it before. To find such people, I keep a copy of all my classmates' resumes on desktop. It's incredibly useful.
Other mentors include alumni. The Kellogg Venture Community is an exciting and experienced group of alumni. When speaking to them, even though some are only three or four years out, it is apparent that they have an order of magnitude more insight and experience that the full time students. Finally professors too, as I had mentioned in my original post, have provided feedback good. It was a professor who first suggested that I needed to speak to 30 alumni to understand my target customer. He was right when he said, "by the time you speak to the 20th person, you'll know what they're going to say before they say it".