Mentor manager delivers miracles

Aside

‘Mentor Managers’ can work miracles for startups
Above all else, early-stage ventures need their hands holding in their new adventures, but they have no idea about whose hands to hold. Mentor Managers can help them by finding experienced and expert mentors.

Their extensive network of supporters is one of the most distinctive features of Accelerators. Their early-stage ventures have fast-changing needs for support – in terms of knowledge, expertise, advice and relationships; and keeping up with these changes and introducing people with appropriate contributions is a job for which the programme leader is often the best placed person, but he can seldom give it enough time.

One Accelerator has used a leading intermediary as their ‘mentor manager’. Once a week he would talk briefly to each team, on the first occasion to all of the team together, then each week to a different member, and ask:
What is your current ‘pain point’?
What are you currently struggling with?
to which he would add his own experienced perceptions. The CTO of one team was having trouble in managing a growing team: he was an expert in technology but managing people was a different story.

‘Validating a financial product is not as easy as going into the street and conducting a survey: you need specific experts! This team was having trouble in finding and getting in touch with a decision-maker within a large African Bank who would be a specialist in micro-credit in two specific sub-Saharan countries.’

As an intermediary, his task was then to find someone who would be able to help the team with their specific issues. There was a very good chance, he said, of doing so from within his and the Accelerator’s own extensive data-bases. With some two hundred previous startups in the latter’s data-base, within a week that CTO had meetings with numerous experts on the subject and gained tremendous confidence.

If these sources did not identify a good contact, his second line of attack was to search Google and LinkedIn by using key words, for someone with whom there could be some kind of link – with their company, their skills, their country and their activities (eg they had spoken on the topic at a recent conference).

He would contact them by e-mail, hope to spark an interest in the project, invite them just to have a 10-minute phone call with the team, then to Skype and perhaps meet.

On one occasion he searched the main VC, Tech and banking conferences in two countries, identified three people who might help a startup, and within a week had arranged Skype calls to two of them.

He brings to Startupbootcamp his experience when Up Global held Startup Weekends in some 270 cities in one single week last November; and he has kindly offered to come and tell us more about his work at the Workshop we plan to hold shortly – about mentors and mentor management.

See also:
I am a fly on the wall at an Accelerator’s Mentor Day
When the participants had an opportunity to meet the mentors at the beginning of a recent Accelerator programme, my encounters with the latter revealed five different mentor roles. http://wp.me/p3beJt-8N

John Whatmore
January 2015

Universities being dragged into more commercialisation of their research

Aside

A small but elite conference brought together by new publication Global University Venturing indicated areas of progress as well as areas of obduracy, but added urgency to the task.

Conceived and run with his usual flair by James Mawson, 16 October saw an outstanding small conference on Global University Venturing, a new publication launched earlier this year, which brought together top people in this field from all over the world to offer in a tightly packed agenda their perspective and to talk about their successes in various fields of venturing.

James sees the commercialisation of university research as a likely source of rescue for the financial squeeze faced by universities. And while delegates saw some signs of changing attitudes in university departments, they also mentioned many of the obstacles still to be tackled if universities are to make real progress in the commercialisation of their research.

The emphasis was certainly on the selection of investments, and the making of deals, and on funding gaps – more than it was on the supporting of investments. Evidence suggests that venture capital organisations are being increasingly attracted to the university sector and a number of strategic partnerships are being formed (among them for example, a leading edge partnership – mentioned in the publication – between the Mayo Clinic and Arizona Furnace, an Accelerator programme, of which Arizona State University was a founding member).

The plethora of small group sessions at the conference provided frequent opportunities for delegates to meet leaders in other sectors and cadge from their experience.

Global University Venturing has chosen a long road to hoe, but if it moves the field forward as fast as Global Corporate Venturing did with corporate ventures, it will have provided a remarkable service.

Angel investing taking rapid steps forward

Aside

Now far from its origins as a side-line for rich single investors, angel investing is becoming a collaboration between different contributors and a major supporter of fast-growing young businesses

Since its re-launch last year, the UK Business Angels Association has increased its strength by opening its doors to related organisations working in its field, and has thus become more comprehensive and more influential.

Angel investing appears to be expanding – with more deals and more angels in the market – helping to fill the hole being left by the continuing decline in bank lending to SMEs, and as  the economy begins to pick up. The arrival of a new breed of Super Angel combined with the continued rise of syndicates plus leverage from co-investing funds (at least one VC has a panel of co-investing angels) are ‘pushing Angels up the value spectrum’ (according to Deloitte’s recent report.)

The Association is attracting widespread support – for example now from most of the big five ‘accounting’ firms (and soon all?), and from funders big and small; and it is generating new initiatives.

By their involvement, and by virtue of their related experience, Angels are increasingly themselves generators of added value; and are becoming increasingly sophisticated investors in young businesses.

The Association has set up a “walled garden” website for its members in order to help in the completion of funding deals. It enables them to share information about part-funded deals – to help close those deals and reduce the number of deals that fail to complete.

The Association is forming The Business Angels Institute – an organisation designed to help people understand and learn about Angel investing – with several meetings already planned this month. It is working with PWC to support a programme of increasing access to identified Angel-backed businesses for corporates seeking acquisitions, and is running workshop on trade sales. And it is setting up local meetings for Angel investors to meet sources of deal-flow and key players such as the Angel Co-fund, the Business Growth Fund and HMRC.

Making conferences and meetings more networkable

Aside

 

Helping delegates to come away from conferences with not just five business cards but with twenty – plus some new perspectives.

If just before each session (and especially before topic break-out sessions), conference chairs can get their audiences to form informal groupings (of three or four people), to say hello to one another and why they had come, to give each other their cards (and perhaps other contact names), delegates could hope to go away with not just five business cards but with twenty or more (and most of them good names.) For a specific protocol, e-mail john.whatmore@btinternet.com