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.

Advertisements

Congratulations Eze Green Company  Winners of #CGSB St. Lucia

Castries, Saint Lucia – The Caribbean GreenTech Startup Bootcamp island hop series recently concluded its stop in St.Lucia at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center.

Participants came from all over Saint Lucia, with ideas ranging from products to help efficiency in rural farming and Eco building materials to energy consulting services, energy efficiency and remote controlled greenhouses.This intense three-day event brings together climate-related experts to drive discussions on the challenges of Climate Change to inspire participants to generate business ideas, as solutions to the impact of climate change. Participants are exposed to the rudiments of developing a startup team and are provided mentorship from industry experts to improve their business concepts.

During the Boot Camp participants learned a lot through examples, experiences, and advice from industry experts from the idea generation session and throughout the mentorship segment. The start-ups lead by trainers from Launch Rocket based in Trinidad and Tobago were thought how to address the business aspects of their solutions and converting their climate impact idea into a fruitful and healthy business.

On the second day, the energy from the teams was still booming. With discussions and laughter being mixed with working with their mentors on improving upon their idea for their final pitch to the judges.

“I was bowled over by the ideas presented” exclaimed mentor Mrs. Barbara Jacobs-Small

At the end of the event, each team pitched their ideas to a panel of judges who selected the top three startups. The first place winner will receive an award of US$1000, while the second and third place winners will receive US$500 and US$250 respectively by the CCIC.

Congratulations to the Winners of the Caribbean GreenTech Startup Bootcamp Saint Lucia 1st place team Eze Green Company, 2nd place AgriTech and 3rd place EcoCarib Inc.I hope the enthusiasm and passion remain in each of the start-ups while they develop their companies for the next stage.

Next stop ANTIGUA & Barbuda!

54 Hours to Launch: CCIC’s Caribbean GreenTech Startup Bootcamp kicks off island hop-series

The Caribbean Climate Innovation Center kicks off preparations for its GreenTech Bootcamp Island hop series in July with its first stop in St. Lucia.

The bootcamp is perfect for entrepreneurs or startups whose climate saving solutions focuses renewable energy, energy efficiency, water/waste management, sustainable agribusiness and resource use efficiency and desires it their idea to the next level.
This event is a fantastic opportunity for participants to broaden their skills and knowledge.

We encourage anyone who is pitching for funding to come to this Bootcamp. You must apply by August 18 to be considered.

Bootcamp dates
22 August – 24 August 2016

Click to apply

Photo: Scene from Caribbean GreenTech Startup Bootcamp in Trinidad