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

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A ‘pop-up’ Accelerator alongside the latest co-working space

Aside

With the growth in the number of Accelerators it is becoming easier to put together short-term teams to curate ‘pop–up’ Accelerators, especially when they are co-located with existing startups.
Incubators and Science Parks with their colonies of early-stage ventures are ideal locations for Accelerators, which can also generate candidates for their hosts. Accelerators entail the bringing together of groups of ventures with similar issues, and the bringing together of teams of facilitators and supporters to deliver the process – a bit like putting together the cast for your new film: you can never be sure that people will indeed be available when you come to want them! Startupbootcamp’s FinTech Accelerator at the Rainmaking Loft in the City, now half way through its 12-week programme, has done just that.
What started as a one-man role (in John Bradford’s case at Ignite, it was him and a superb assistant), has now morphed (for example at Startupbootcamp’s FinTech) into a whole ‘pop-up’ team. Their roles include supervisory facilitation, communication/marketing, mentor management, event management, learning management, legals and documentation, and of course leaders with reputations and with connections in the fields concerned. While there is indeed a close-knit startup community at least in London, putting together such teams is a different matter in more remote locations, such as Nottingham, Newcastle or Swansea.
Jon Bradford’s success was built on his many connections, whose passion about or interest in startups enabled him to draw willingly on their help. Other Accelerators have relied on a small number of faithful people who have made their particular contributions. And mentors who have ‘done it before’ have been significant supporters. While the best of these are often irregular contributors because they are busily occupied on their own enterprises, alumni are often outstanding contributors. At all events, the role of mentor management is becoming critical issue.
Startupbootcamp has relied on networking and its many local connections, both in recruiting startups and in putting together its management team – recruiting students and graduates where there is a strong interest in startups and early-stage ventures, and using what is now a good market for temporary placements and interns (with a number of job board websites like http://workinstartups.com/). Moreover it has the benefit of many connections with experienced mentors; it aspires to Angels-in-residence; and it has access to a host of entrepreneurs-in-residence, located as it is in a small part of the Rainmaking Loft in London, a new co-working space for some 45 new ventures.

See also: Startupbootcamp – a leader in nurturing young businesses http://wp.me/p3beJt-8C

John Whatmore
September 2014