When asked by Sam Solomon, what makes Techstars different than other accelerators like 500 Startups and Y-Combinator, Techstars Associate and Startup Exchange co-founder Aswin Natarajan harped on the intense mentorship Techstars entrepreneurs receive as part of the program. Aswin is correct, it is the deep level of mentorship afforded to our founders and the ever-growing network that they become a part of that draws entrepreneurs to Techstars. However, like anything else in life or business, not all offers to help are welcome or all that helpful.
This first post is a brief one about the mentor/ mentee “dating game:” the process of matching up founders with the mentors who they will hopefully click with and who will help them succeed. This all sounds easy enough, but in reality it is more of an organic art than a real science. Yes, there are obvious dos and don’ts, like matching up a social travel company up with a social travel mentor, but beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess who gels with who. As Brad Keywell says of his longtime mentor Sam Zell: “You’ll know a mentor when you see one”. There is someone out there who will come into your life while you’re busy pursuing your passion. He or she will see the spark in your eyes and affirm your vision — while also challenging you in ways you never considered. Your mentor will care about you enough to give you the ultimate gift: brutal honesty. They will want what’s best for you, with no hidden agenda or bias.”
Here at Techstars we used to simply assign mentors to teams after a big meet and greet and hope that the rest would figure out itself. That worked alright enough, but this year we’re trying something a bit different. We’re calling it “Mentor Speed Dating” and basically it will consist of mentors being stationed at tables around our space and the teams rotating through the mentors and chatting for 15 minutes before moving on the next mentor. After the speed dating, we’re going to have each company and each mentor select a few mentors or companies with whom they clicked. From there, we’re betting that the rest will figure itself out as Brad Keywell mentioned above -- and trust that Techstars founders will know a mentor when they see one :-) We’ll keep you posted on how it goes!
Sam Solomon video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vU4KalBO1EA
Brad Keywell article: http://blogs.wsj.com/accelerators/2013/05/23/brad-keywell-you-know-one-when-you-see-one/