U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation launches network of mentors for startups
A launch event earlier this month for Venture Mentoring Services attracted more than a dozen potential mentors to the program. Venture Mentoring Services will match entrepreneurs with a carefully selected group of mentors, including venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurs, business executives and financial experts.
Founders of U of A-affiliated start-ups (including students, alumni, faculty and staff) will soon have access to a network of experienced mentors through a new program designed to accelerate and support entrepreneurship in Northwest Arkansas.
The Venture Mentoring Service program, supervised by the U of A’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, will match entrepreneurs with a carefully selected group of mentors, including venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurs, business executives and financial experts.
Mentors, all volunteers, will follow a methodology established 20 years ago at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and tailored to the unique strengths and needs of the Northwest Arkansas entrepreneurial community.
Using a team approach, mentors will provide practical and actionable advice that will grow the entrepreneur as well as their business. The main objective of the program is to support the development and success of entrepreneurs according to their own definitions. Additional goals include strengthening seed funding opportunities and creating jobs that retain entrepreneurs, engineers, software developers and product managers in the region.
A launch event earlier this month drew more than a dozen potential mentors to the program.
“We have been delighted with the caliber of mentors who have expressed interest in participating in this program and look forward to the successful launch of the pilot project,” said Shaheen Lokhandwala, Entrepreneurship Initiatives Program Manager, who will oversee the program.
“The beauty of VMS model is that it is scalable as the number of startups in the region increases. We believe that mentors who find this to be a well-organized and rewarding experience will recruit additional mentors over time, and entrepreneurs who attribute some of their success to the program will also give back. ”
The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation will spend the next few weeks matching mentors to companies based on their consulting needs and plans to start the first mentor meetings in August.
Interested startups and mentors can apply for the program through the office’s website. Companies should be under the age of five and be prepared to be held accountable for the commitments they agree to in their mentorship meetings. The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation will assess the needs of businesses and compare them to a pool of available mentors. Then, a team of three to four mentors, including a senior mentor, will be assigned to the company. OEI will organize and annotate the meetings.
Mentors can also express their interest in the program, as well as their relevant work experience, through the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation website. Entrepreneurial experience is not necessary, but mentors should bring extensive industry experience and not seek a business relationship with the entrepreneurs they mentor. Mentors should expect to devote three to six hours of their time per month and will be invited to monthly mentor-only lunches at the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub in Fayetteville or at the University of A’s new location in Bentonville, on Collaborative.
“The idea of us having the opportunity to speak with local pros who were in exactly the same place we are struggling makes my whole team excited and relieved,” said Trichell.
“The really amazing part about VMS is that it seems to be fluid and our group of mentors will change as we grow. This ability to continue to develop our network of mentors allows us to seek professional advice as we move through the phases and pain points associated with scaling up, “he said.
About the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Alberta:The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation creates and organizes innovation and entrepreneurship experiences for students of all disciplines. Through the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, McMillon Innovation Studio and Startup Village, OEI offers free workshops and programs, including Social and Business Innovation Design Teams, Company Internships, Competitions and start-up coaching. OEI also offers on-demand support to students who will be innovators within existing organizations and to entrepreneurs who are starting something new.