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How to Maximize the Value of Your Mentors

Having a mentor is one of the most valuable resources to have in your career, and becoming one is can be a hugely rewarding experience. A great startup mentor is like a magician. In the midst of an ordinary conversation, they are able to amaze their mentees with valuable ideas and advice that seem to be pulled out of an empty hat.

In reality, there are a few successful management techniques, structures and models and memorizing them doesn’t guarantee the success for any startup. Mentors possess the skills to guide you, the entrepreneur, in selecting the correct model that best suits your business.

It is hard for any program to consistently bring the quality mentorship resource to the table. Mentors are extremely busy people, they have varying skill sets, and it’s unclear how structured or unstructured the mentorship component in an accelerator needs to be.

One of the most important things we will encourage in our programs after the initial Meet & Greet session is for founders to reach out to mentors directly. We encourage founders to build direct relationships with mentors., which will prove beneficial even after our program has ended

Startup founders: If you want to maximize the value of mentors in a program, it’s entirely up to you to do so.

Believe it or not, this will pretty much be the case with everything you’re going to do as a startup founder. At the end of the day, what you get out of any relationship, be it with investors, co-founders, staff, family, friends, support groups; is up to you.

When you enter into a program, before anything else, think about what your startups needs then go through the list of mentors provided to you with a fine-tooth comb.  Select the mentor that addresses that need, and reach out to them directly. Use the accelerator as the conduit for initial communication to build a personal relationship with your mentor.

Mentors are usually well connected, many of them are investors as well, and they can open doors. That’s the expectation. But if there are no personal relationships between founders and mentors, I don’t see many doors getting opened. People are always careful with their Rolodex and they should be. It’s one of their most precious assets. They’re not going to open it up willy-nilly, just because they’re listed as a mentor for an accelerator. It still comes down to personal relationships and trust.

If you want to maximize the value of mentors inside an accelerator, it’s your job to build that trust.

It’s our job running an accelerator to create opportunities for trust building to occur but it’s your job to maintain it.

As an entrepreneur and founder, you have to remember that you’re competing for attention. That means you need to be extremely strategic and aggressive (within reason) in absorbing as much as you can from the accelerator experience. Don’t sit around waiting for another to tell you what is of value or what values you can acquire from the program; you need to leverage your participation in the program to get what you possibly can.

Here are a few pointers on how to maximize the value from mentors:

1.       Understand their specialties. Mentors all have different skill sets and experience. Do your homework and figure out which mentors are the best ones for you to engage with at specific times or work with the accelerator time to peer you with the mentor that meets your needs. When it’s time to raise money, go to the mentors with that expertise. When it’s time to focus on user acquisition, get closer with the appropriate mentors. You have to build the relationships early, though, but time your use of mentors properly.

2.       Be clear and to the point. Remember mentors are extremely busy individuals, avoid wasting their time and get to the point. Make sure when you connect with mentors that you know why you’re doing and what you’re looking for; Mentors will appreciate that. Asking for “general feedback” is a death trap; Mentors won’t know how to help you, they’ll get frustrated, and you’ll be frustrated as well. 

3.       Engage with them on social media. Mentors are people too many of which are actively working on their own startups. Engaging with them online is a good way of building relationships. Tracking what they’re doing is a smart way of showing that you care.

4.  Take professional development sessions seriously. Most accelerators have some structured components to the program. Some founders may feel like this is a distraction, but that’s the wrong way to look at it. Think of it like a crash course in all the elements of running a startup. That’s an educational component that others aren’t receiving. But also realize that these sessions are an opportunity to build better relationships with mentors. These sessions will help you if you have ready questions with which to engage your mentors. Be engaged and take it all in.

In the end, the experience of mentorship is somewhat magical, but the more the entrepreneurs understand the ‘tricks of the trade’, the better off and more successful they will be. And that is the whole point of mentorship.

 

Until next time,
Cashyaka McDonald
Marketing Officer
Caribbean Climate Innovation Center

 

Applications are now open for CCIC’s LaunchIT GreenTech Accelerator Program until September 9. If you have specific questions about your company and whether you would benefit from our program, please contact us.

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Could Aquaponics be the future for growing food in Jamaica?

“Being able to see my hard work paid off at the end of the day when I see those crops is really a blessing.”Alicia Williams, CEO, Aquaponics Jamaica

It has been called the future of farming because of how much water it saves.  Aquaponics is the marriage of aquaculture — fish farming — and hydroponics — vegetable farming without soil. This technology, used for raising fish and plants together in a recirculating system, is gaining attention around the world and now in Jamaica thanks to a self-driven young farmer and entrepreneur named Alicia Williams.
Although not a new process Williams and her team has tailored the system to fit Caribbean farming. This model allows users to exhaust fewer resources such as land and water while capitalizing on other climatic conditions that are good for crop production. With a compact packaging system in mind, the complete aquaponics system can be purchased and installed for use in both urban and rural areas.

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Illustration of how a small Aquaponics system works

We are indeed blessed to reside in a country where its summer all year round, however, there is a downside to this tropical luxury one of which affects the livelihood of farmers daily, from lengthy periods of drought resulting in low-quality crops to pests along with non-farming periods due to farming superstitions.

Williams, who’s been a farmer all her life became tired of the climatic challenges, daily tedious farming activities associated with crop growing and waiting for the stars to align decided to research a process that would make farm life simpler while generating higher yields.

“Ever since I have known myself I have wanted to start a business of my own,” said Williams.

With the desire and drive to start her own business coupled with her love for agriculture, an aquaponics system which provided a solution for higher yield, good quality crops while remaining organic was a perfect fit for Williams.

As with many small businesses aiming to grow there are many challenges on the road to success. To compensate Williams has been on the hunt entering as many competitions and applying for as much grants as she can to raise capital. Team Aquaponics Jamaica placed second in Jamaica’s Caribbean GreenTech Bootcamp competition and its sub-division counterpart Rabb-Eats; recently placed fourth in the national business model competition.

Williams, who currently successfully juggles both running a business and a regular day job, have not allowed the pitfalls of being a small business owner deter her dream of helping to stabilize the Jamaican food industry by limiting the importation of agricultural goods.

As a younger person building a career, you have to be cognizant of the fact that even though your business is growing; you need an income you can expect every month said, Williams.
Alicia encourages upcoming entrepreneurs to follow their passion and not to be intimidated by the business world or the current economic climate. She pleads for them to keep searching and always reach out to the various networks.

When I entered into aquaponics, I didn’t know much about the technology but I knew about farming much of Aquaponics success to date is due to the support received from my team said, Williams “Don’t enter into business because you want to start a business. Be sure of what you want to do, be confident about it, do a lot of research and form a team around you that can help you with your shortcomings. Then go for it! The world is your oyster as they say”.

Team Aquaponics from left: Dr. Stephen Rhoden, Alicia Williams, Karima-Deen SupriaO’Brian Clarke, Kimar Edwards and Shae Tongee Stewart

Aquaponics is a cool idea. There’s something appealing about using the waste from the fish to feed the plants. Producing food near to where it is consumed sounds logical; the food will be fresh, and you save money on transport.

Could our current agricultural dilemma present an aquaponics moment? Thanks to technology, demand, and entrepreneurial ambition, that wouldn’t surprise even the skeptics.
 
For more information on Aquaponics Jamaica and your hands on one of these systems visit:
Facebook: AquaponicsJamaica
Twitter: AquaponicsJm
Or Email:aquaponics.jm@gmail.com

Until next time,
Cashyaka McDonald
Marketing Officer
Caribbean Climate Innovation Center

 

 

 

Applications are now open for CCIC’s LaunchIT GreenTech Accelerator Program until June 14th. If you have specific questions about your company and whether you would benefit from our program, please contact us.

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3 Reasons Your Startup Should Join a Cleantech Accelerator

Is it worth it? That’s the question you ask yourself when the day finally arrives for your idea to get recognized as a valid business opportunity. Just moments before applying you begin to doubt yourself, comparing your idea with others, convincing yourself again and again that you won’t be selected … then to hoping that you would be.

Imagine

You got selected to spend 6 months amongst the best mentors, become a part of an amazing community and then some.

Still pondering should I click send or should I go on watching Shark Tank and keep hoping? 

Want my suggestion? Just click send already

Guess you’re still in doubt, well; here are 3 benefits of joining a cleantech startup accelerator:

1. Acceleration
You believe you have a good idea, and potentially a great business and you want to accelerate the discovery of whether this is true or not.
It’s not about the capital you attract at this point but the manner in which you work on your ideas and how fast you execute them. Because you want to be ready and the best you can be for demo day and you are aware that the minute you walk into an accelerator the countdown begins. 

2. Mentorship
Quality mentorship is a secret sauce behind a great accelerator. Being given direct access to a network of top industry specific professionals who share their experiences, provide feedback, and guidance can really accelerate your business.

3. Network
As a true entrepreneur, you seek out and seize new markets and business opportunities as you are constantly on the prowl for the next big thing; it’s in your DNA.
By leveraging the network a cleantech accelerator can provide, you are short-cutting your lengthy business development process and rapidly accelerating your startup. If your product is great, you can turn introductions into customers and quickly grow your revenue in a shorter period of time.

Together we can shorten your roadmap and accelerate your startup for success. Let us assist you in achieving more for your business you decide what ‘more’ means to you.

Hope this helps. Go ahead and apply. You’ll rock it!

 Cashyaka McDonald
Marketing Officer
Caribbean Climate Innovation Center

Applications are now open for CCIC’s LaunchIT GreenTech Accelerator Program until June 14th. If you have specific questions about your company and whether you would benefit from our program, please contact us.  Click to Apply

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Bet you left your lights on!

Young Jamaican entrepreneurs leading the way in Jamaica’s clean technology space

It’s beyond any doubt climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. From across the globe, we can feel its effects from an inability to access necessities such as food and water, decreased crop yields and an excess demand for energy.

Today, electricity accounts for thirty percent of energy consumption in Jamaica.

With each “Blackout” oh yes the power company puns. There is a flicker of hope that reassures us that even in the darkest of times the smallest actions or in this case devices can have a big impact on our lives for years to come.

While some products on the market allow users to monitor electricity usage through kilowatts usage, very few internationally, unknowns if any locally provides a completely automatize monitoring and control device. But, the energy monitoring invention dubbed “Plug N Pree” does exactly this, providing users real-time kilowatts usage and comprehensive monetary service providers’ rates from any electronic device anywhere in the world, while acting as a motion detecting home security system using a simple mobile app. Additionally, the device features a behavior pattern recognition component which turns household devices connected, on or off based on users habits.

plugnpreeIllustration of Plug ‘N’ Pree prototype, the device uses Wi-Fi and built-in motion sensing technology to allow users to control the device over distances.

This invention is the brainchild of the recently held Caribbean GreenTech Startup bootcamp in Jamaica, winning team composing of Jordan Northover, Phillip Logan, Kenneth Williams, Yekini Wallen-Bryan, Trevaun Miller, Chadwick Barclay, Kashif Ford and Ashlé Henriques.

 Recently, I had the pleasure of catching up with the captain and founder of team Plug ‘N’ Pree, Yekini Wallen-Bryan following his team’s victory. Wallen-Bryan stated that the bootcamp inspired the development of the Plug ‘N’ Pree device which was an earlier concept amongst his team’s inventory. The bootcamp provided a platform for them to fine-tune and display their skills as innovators.

Wallen-Bryan who considers himself as both innovator and entrepreneur has always been inclined to areas of energy and product development which resulted in his decision to major in renewable energy. With the formation of a team of likeminded peers, along with his background in electronics, team Plug ‘N’ Pree began using their skills to implement energy-related solutions.

“The most satisfying moment thus far is the progress the team has made in developing our prototype”, said Wallen-Bryan. “Sometimes opportunities present themselves and you might not feel ready for it, but it’s always best to try making the most out of the opportunities that are presented to you”.

“Many persons heard about the competition and doubted their own ability and believed they didn’t have anything to bring to the table, they couldn’t win”, said Wallen-Bryan. “But that didn’t dither neither my team nor I, win or lose, the bootcamp was a great avenue to work on our concept and get it out there and see what others were doing and creating. This was one of the greatest lessons learnt thus far and it has impacted greatly how I work and approach novel paths”, said Wallen-Bryan.

Before parting, I asked Yekini if he had any advice for individuals seeking to follow the path he and his team have chosen. And he stated, “Do not allow the feeling of doubt to get the betterment of your judgement. If you have an idea or believe something can work, give it your all even if you may come up short, the rewards received and lessons learnt will be invaluable and it will prepare you for the next step”.

The team recently competed in a robotics competition in which they placed third internationally. Currently, they are working on finalizing their prototype interface and application design for market release and the upcoming accelerator program. All while juggling finals, improving their applications and tackling other projects. “Nothing, as it is right now, would have been possible without the input of every single individual involved. Not just the team members, but our family members, friends, CCIC and everyone who’s encouraged the development of Plug & Pree, whether it is through physical or verbal support”, said Wallen-Bryan. “We are looking to form the company as soon as possible and getting legal consultations through the help of CCIC. We’ve decided on the name preeLabs”.

There are many recipes for  forming a winning team. The important thing is to establish one and make building a positive culture and a winning team your top priority. Team Plug ‘N’ Pree is proof that is a reality.                                                                                                       

For updates on Team Plug ‘N’ Pree, you can contact Yekini at y.wallenbryan@gmail.com. 

We all have a role to play in building a brighter future – just don’t leave your lights on

Until next time,                                                                                                                                

Cashyaka McDonald

Marketing Officer

Caribbean Climate Innovation Center