I met with an entrepreneur recently who wanted to get my feedback on his business plan. I meet a few new entrepreneurs every week, so this wasn't unusual for me. We didn't know each other well beforehand, so we spent a few minutes getting to know each other.
He asked me Why? Why do I take time voluntarily to hear about plans from entrepreneurs. I don't have a fund to invest, and I can only do so many advisory boards. I am not looking to charge entrepreneurs for my advice, but I do end up taking some formal advisory board positions which include modest stock option grants. I don't really need a job in order to live the lifestyle I want. Why don't I spend my time playing tennis or hanging around with my kids?
My answer was that I want to stay involved in the high-tech community. I might become a VC again. I might go back to being an entrepreneur or start-up executive. No matter what I do, I need to stay fresh in this market. The technology space is moving so fast that if you don't stay current, you quickly become a dinosaur.
I learn something from every meeting I have, even if I don't end up being that interested in the company or don't continue working with them. So, I want to keep meeting with interesting people who have interesting ideas. I get 'freshness' out of these meetings, so I think that that's a fair bargain for my advice (hopefully good advice).
By the way, here are the lyrics to a song by the old musical comedian, Allan Sherman. This song, Good Advice, gives the appropriate caution to someone who listens to free advice. I wish I could have found an MP3 of this to link to.