What I want when I see web sites like this is to see an understanding that mentoring isn't Q&A, and it's not "a chat over coffee".
The most successful mentoring arrangements I've seen have always had a clear agreement between mentor and mentee, a mentorship contract with specific goals and hopes outlined over a specified period of time, and a clear commitment to meet and stay on topic, discussing what needs to be discussed.
Training for mentors is therefore critical, giving a clear guide to them as to what they should and should not do (knowing when not to give advice is important, a mentor shouldn't feel they need to fix someone's life).
For mentees, who generally enter into this from the cold and with little experience... having a good mentor matters. And that is far more about having a person who is able to shape and manage the mentorship process rather than just a specialist in a field.
I would suggest going beyond just match-making, and helping to give online training, advice, and a mentor's forum so that they have a support network... such that you can really offer a strong benefit to mentors, and as a result have such high quality mentors that this becomes a key selling point to the mentees.
It is much harder to find mentors than mentees after all, so building an attractive proposition to those wanting to give time is critical.
PS: As an example of what mentors go through, I've uploaded the notes that were the outcome of the last training session I attended: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/a9c832pvsz2tn4j/zAEgACdZ8_/Mentor... . I think online training for mentors, education for them, would enhance the offering... it becomes clearer to them that they can do it, and will be shown how and have support to do so.
Finding someone who you think "yeah, I could totally put my faith in this person to give me advice and not me a jack ass" is pretty hard from a two paragraph introduction and a list of all the jobs they've ever had.
It's a great idea from a site but it could fail under the insurmountable challenge of making people feel comfortable around each other for that initial encounter.
Agree with you on giving more guidance and structure to the relationship. It is certainly the next phase for Mentii.
Our view was that a mentoring relationship starts with the discovery, and a query -- as you mentioned, it takes a lot more for it to develop into something serious. But, we got to start somewhere.
The training session notes are really useful -- emailing you for more detailed thoughts. Thanks again!
2) I would really like to see if there are any mentors relevant to my interests before I have to make yet another account on yet another website.
3) I really think mentorship is the best way to really become good at a skill. Hope it goes well for you.
The other issue is, great mentors aren't usually plainly available on a website; the very act of finding their contact info/introduction and making a convincing pitch for "I'm worth meeting with" is a great filter for experts who (unlike YC, for example) don't have the bandwidth for an open application process.
The brilliant can be left to blaze their own obscure bildungsroman.
Firstly, when I sign up and am filling out the form, I didn't see any warning that my profile and request were immediately going to be published on the front page with no apparent way to edit the request. I spent some time clicking around trying to find out how to edit my advice request with no luck. In my case this was not an issue (except for those who were subject to my whimsical filler posting), but I can imagine that it could come as a nasty shock to some. The distinction I am trying to make here is the fine line between making available and broadcasting to all. There may be no practical difference, but there is a world of emotional difference between the two.
This leads me to my second point; I note that the stream of requests is awfully repetitive. I would think you either need to encourage people to put more thought into there requests for help, or have awfully good analytics for those who are looking to be mentors, otherwise you are going to quickly run into the bane of dating sites everywhere. The race to the funniest/quirkiest profile as the myriads of potential proteges compete for the few mentors, leading to a situation where the only way to win is to already know the person, or to be highly manipulative and socially astute, which sort of defeats the purpose of the site to my mind.
Lastly, the site was very slow to load, worse it had appeared to load but the bar with advice requests, browse people etc. had not loaded, making navigation initially very confusing. Once this bar loaded things became much clearer, though why this element failed to load is not clear to me as other assets from the same source seemed to load? Mysteries.
Lastly congratulations on building and shipping such a cool idea and getting so many awesome people to sign up. Best of luck.
We will clean up and categorize the advice requests. You are absolutely on point on discoverability. We are experimenting with the concept of affinities, where based on your affiliations, you get more or less access to mentors. Trick is in defining these affiliations correctly.
Thanks so much for the encouragement! Look forward to interacting more. (p.s. drop me a message at Mentii so I know who you are -- https://mentii.com/mentor/sumit.suman)
I love the idea behind mentii, but this kind of thing could tank it early if it gets out of control.
We would love to reach out to the recruiters who messaged you, and understand their need better -- could you send us more details at support @ mentii.com
For recruiters who take the method of making a normal account and using it to recruit to people who have opted out you could have a report ticket based system, even algorithmic-ally limiting the account abilities of people who repeatedly break the rules should they have a certain comment/report ratio.
In the very immediate term, we are also tracking the recruiter's activity and engaging them 1-1 on community rules.
Also, make sure you plan for longer term - 1:1 engagement rarely scales with explosive growth. :)
Here's a feature I'd love to see.. A way to ask a question and let people answer it. Results could be ranked in term of "top mentor", or other people could vote on it.
The idea is that it's hard to filter through lots of mentors.. trying to find one that match your needs, then go after him/her, etc. Something way more organic would be me asking a question and people interested in my problems could help me solve it. And, as you help others, you get a better karma too.. which put your questions in front of mentor with good karma..
Personally, I'd love to see a feed with lots of various startup questions from all kind of entrepreneurs.. be able to see what famous founders are asking. Could be anything really. From "Which is the best landing page?" to "Anyone knowing a good UX in <city>".
Anyhow, congrats again on the launch, hit me up if you want to chat about it.
Right now, we are using the advice requests to encourage 1-1 interaction. A public discourse, with voting could be interesting but we erred on the side of assuming that many won't be comfortable with having their career questions publicly discussed. We will revisit this assumption.
Mentor karma is coming soon. Interesting possibilities there.
Thanks for the wonderful feedback, emailing you for more 1-1 time.
That aside, great service!
Is there any difference between the normal messages and the "Request Meeting" feature?