One of the key framework’s of the MassChallenge program is the mentor-startup relationship. Each startup is teamed up with an industry expert in their respective field and meet regularly throughout the program to check in on progress or struggles in a specific area, developments in the external world, how to approach X situation in order to get to Y result, or maybe Y result isn’t exactly what we should be focusing on, and have you consider Z result?
In other words, the mentor and startup relationship helps to break through certain black and white issues to get to the nuances of growing a business. And there are a lot of nuances.
The official definition goes as follows:
MassChallenge mentors are foremost experts in their field. They are university professors, partners at VC firms and law firms, serial entrepreneurs, and corporate executives. They make up a global network of experts sharing a commitment to helping high-impact startups grow and succeed.
For the startups, the impact of a strong mentor relationship can have exponential benefits and last far longer than just the accelerator program. See what NonSpec had to say about their mentor relationship in the video below.
In Texas Janice Omadeke, the CEO of the startup The Mentor Method, had the following to say about her experience:
“I still communicate with the mentors from MassChallenge Texas a year later. The mentors helped me refine my pitch, get integrated into the Austin ecosystem, helped with follow-on investment, and have become good friends I see regularly.”
So, why become a MassChallenge mentor?
As MassChallenge recently passed the decade mark (read more about that here!), hundreds of mentors have participated with the program. And while their expertise and insights can be invaluable to startups, the value they themselves receive can be just as impactful.
In reflecting back on MassChallenge’s past 10 years, mentors repeatedly emphasize how their role isn’t a one-sided benefit.
Mentoring at MassChallenge is an investment in the future of your industry and in the success of the future workplace. It is a way you can influence the current culture and ensure that our workplace and your industry reflect your own value. MC Mentors help contribute to the most valuable element of the Accelerator, a personalized process that allows startups to excel beyond initial expectations.
“A mentor can impact the culture and decisions [of a startup] in very significant ways, so they need to be as willing and able to contribute as any team member. Sometimes this means they have to listen more than speak, answer the phone at odd hours, and give tough suggestions when the unexpected happens.”
– Elizabeth Jennings – Venture Atlas Labs, Principla, a MassChallenge mentor
You may wonder, what makes a good mentor? The answer can be different for every industry and every startup. We recently asked mentor Vicente Armendariz, of Simon-Kucher & Partners, from the Mexico program about what he thought made a good mentor.
“A good mentor will be able to identify if the start-up has what it takes to reach its goal. They should provide objectiveness, pragmatism and guidance effectively and assertively. A good mentor is a mirror with no filter that will point to both the strengths and the opportunities, followed by clear advice.
The mentor will help focus the start-up’s scarce resources on what really matters. Finally, while the mentor should at all times remain realistic, they MUST inject enthusiasm so that the start-up’s motivation remains high.”
At MassChallenge, mentors meet with each team they mentor every week (generally) for the duration of the 4-month Accelerator program. Mentoring is offered on a volunteer basis, mentors can invest in startups and take on board positions, but no fees, even for external services should be charged whilst mentoring.
In addition to being involved with promising startups from at an early stage, a recent mentor in the Boston program, Rachel D. O’Neil, pointed out a more holistic value she’s witnessed with her experience at MassChallenge:
“Creating jobs out of thin air is magical. Creating the economic opportunity for every human to earn a decent living is magical. Everytime I see the number of jobs MassChallenge cohorts helped to create, I get chills.
My small part mentoring future job creators is helping the economic engine of employment. I adore the industriousness of American ingenuity. We evolved from folks blazing the Oregon Trail to technology disrupters. Some folks are skilled in blacksmithing, other folks are skilled in coding. We can all contribute, if our superpowers are channeled in a fulfilling direction.”