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Mentoring at a StartUpWeekend is Tough!

April 29, 2014 by · 1 Comment
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startup_iconStartUpWeekend – what’s that you might be asking right off the bat and I’m not surprised to be honest. The whole StartUpWeekend movement began years ago out west in Seattle and while the number of events already held is over 1000+, it’s understandable that the whole experience is just not as discernable as it could be. Why?

Well, as it’s “hosted” by brand-new-to-event-management folks each and every time, it’s easy to see that these folks lack to a certain degree the knowledge and ability to push out the brand to the community in which it’s being held. They’re new to this kind of output for community notice and they miss a few or sometimes more opportunities but thats a part IMHO of the whole “coolness” of the event itself. As the rules state that no one can “host or run” a StartUpWeekend more than three times, it promotes the onboarding of new folks at the top to run and look after all the details of an event and that is one of the best parts of any event!

Well our own StartUpWeekend was ably hosted and run by a great group of “newbie” folks who didn’t miss a trick in the community roll-0ut – and I wanted to name them right here….Larissa Drobot, Chad Fullerton, Nicholas Ivanecky, Nathan Jervis and Alex Pineda! Job well done folks! They were supported by tons of volunteers and I had to mention at the least Kevin Browne of Sofware Hamilton and Tammy Hwang of Innovation Factory – with their help the whole event went smooth….and it was a great way to bring entrepreneurs together too!

That said, Mentoring is my point today. Just this past weekend, I attended as a Mentor, our own local #HamOnt StartUpWeekend4 and have nothing to say but praise for the whole event itself. And how one Mentors is by moving from finalist to finalist, asking questions, delving into their assumptions, validating their approaches…it’s long and yes, tough work but so worthwhile and well accepted as the “way” to Mentor.


But it was the “new” Mentoring item that I fell in love with, and let me explain.

New to the event was something called the “Mentors & Expert Panel,” which was held all afternoon on the Saturday for each of the 10 finalist groups. I believe that the formation of same was based on the value of bringing together experts in the various areas of business all into one room – and then each of the 10 finalists got a full half-hour to discuss their startup and we, the experts, would aid them to find a road to success.

Note, that I did not say that we experts were to “kill-off dreams” as is often the case….and in my experience a bad tack to take. Instead, we were told to offer up solid biz advice and with our own knowledge of the marketplace, to help our entrepreneurs find methods to advance their startup towards fruition.

That said, I must admit that while I think the sessions went off well – the short 30 minute timeline each as a real challenge. We’d perhaps say something that would take the whole room off on a tangent for further discussion and validation…and then 10 minutes later get back to the task at hand….and that alone to me means that at the next Mentor & Expert Panel, I’d ask for at least 45 minutes for each startup session….and an hour would be better!

We helped. I know we did. We showed these young entrepreneurs various ways to look at the first steps and how to validate and prove their beliefs. We didn’t kill any dreams – well, there is the one instance of a finalist tossing their whole startup in the bin and coming up with something brand new which is an interesting item to note. But that said, I can add that the variety of Mentors and Experts in the room went across all biz channels and styles and marketplaces. The queries were sometimes “out there” and sometimes spot-on…but I think – and I’m pretty sure that the rest of the Mentor/Experts in the room would agree that this kind of a direct input at this early stage was invaluble to the finalists.

I liked it. Was it really “tough?” Yes, it was in that it was hard at times to not just interrupt a founder and say “naw….never mind that item – go here” and instead figure out how to ask the right kind of questions to elict that same response and by doing so teach this new entrepreneur how to learn to solve their own issues. Tough? Yes…but fun too, eh!

I enjoyed listening to the varied responses from all of us in the room and think that this whole concept should ALWAYS be a part of the StartUpWeekend events to be held….and now I can’t wait for StartUpWeekend5 here in Hamilton!

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