Download the CMU New Venture Competition Mentor Guide:
Elements of the Mentor Relationship
As in all relationships, there are certain expectations of each
party. To get the most from your
connection with a mentor, and they with you, consider:
- Level of commitment: What is expected? Set up a
schedule to discuss or meet once /week.
This helps you establish a relationship, and helps enrich your
business plan. Teams should be prepared and focused during their mentor
meetings to honor the time of each participant.
- Shared areas of interest: Select a mentor/team that is of interest to each.
- Mutual Respect:
Mentoring does not run one way
only. Mentors and teams will learn from each other.
- A certain level of conflict: You may have different ideas. . Recognize
mistakes and conflict as part of learning.
- A better outcome: If you work with a mentor, your team will have
a much better chance of success than if you try it alone!
Getting Out of the Building
starts with teaching the students that the 9 building blocks of a Business
Model are simply hypotheses until they actually validate them with customers
and others they encounter along the way to creating a viable venture. Since
there are “no facts inside the building”, they need to get outside and actually
talk to customers, suppliers, channel partners and domain experts, and gather
real-world data for each part of their plan.
This can be a daunting and formidable task. We are throwing the students out of the building with minimal formal teaching on business basics, i.e. income statement, balance sheets, how to make cold calls etc. This is where you and your expertise come in. To the best of your ability, help them network, teach them how to send email and make phone calls and do appropriate customer discovery. Open your Rolodex to whatever level you feel comfortable with.
While part of your role is to help the teams to test their hypotheses about their business model, the goal is not to just to introduce them to people who you think will talk to them, or will even buy from them. That’s nice, but that’s unlikely to build a company. They need to learn the process, not just have conversations set up for them.