CED VMS functions best with a pool of mentors who possess operating executive backgrounds. The experience set may be a mix of that for corporate executives and serial founding entrepreneurs, as well as specialists in law, technical matters, medicine, education and other fields. Mentors can be from a mix of industries, especially mentors who may advise for customer target markets or industry alliances.
The following characteristics are also desired of suitable mentors:
- Respected by colleagues; a role model
- Has significant operational and/or startup experience
- Positive attitude
- Good listener
- Enthusiasm for the program
- Time to participate; desire to “give back”
- No personal or sales agenda; high credibility
- Ability to advise and coach in an unbiased manner
- Comfortable with team mentoring
Mentors come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. 40 percent have led a startup, 50 percent have worked in Fortune 500 Companies, and 38 percent have worked in small-to-medium size businesses.
56 percent have worked for tech companies, 24 percent in life science, 13 percent in advanced materials/manufacturing and 10 percent in other industries, including: manufacturing, lighting tech, investment banking, corporate finance and legal, transportation/logistics, textiles, 3-D tech, gaming, chemicals, marketing/advertising, e-learning, energy, mobile, semi-conductors, Aerospace, Big Data, Healthcare IT, utilities, cable Media, ag-bio, medical Device, consumer products, and many more.
Mentors agree to minimum participation requirements. Additionally, to keep an environment of trust with entrepreneurs, mentors sign conflict of interest forms relating to investment and solicitation of services. Should such relationships form over the course of mentoring, the mentor would recuse him/herself from the mentoring relationship.
Once a mentor has been accepted and enrolled, CED will arrange for a short training session. We hold monthly meetings (during normal business hours) where mentors will be introduced to a list of ventures needing assistance. Mentors will select the companies to work with and notify CED. A lead mentor is assigned to be the primary point of contact and unbiased ear for each team.
After a team is assembled a first mentoring session is scheduled. Meeting frequency is up to the venture, but average frequency may be once per month initially, and further apart at later stages. Mentoring content is often practical, operationally-oriented and focused on helping the venture set and achieve critical short-term (6, 12 and 18 month) milestones.
Every venture is unique in its status, needs, trajectory and priorities. There is no repeatable process. CED VMS is a flexible framework that can be adjusted to the participant. There is an ebb and flow to session activity. There may be times where multiple intensive sessions over a short time span are needed to help crystallize strategy and plans. And there will be times when meetings are less frequent as the venture executes those plans.
Since the relationship between entrepreneurs and mentors is voluntary, mentorship may last as long as it is beneficial to both parties. The nature of the mentoring and the composition of the mentoring teams may change over time as the needs of the venture change. There may also be breaks in time where a venture needs less assistance, and returns to service at a later date. There are some relationships that have been established and will last a lifetime, while others may be short-lived (especially if the mentoring focus is on how best to end the venture). But as a rule CED-VMS usually lasts 9-12 months.
- Ability to select ventures of interest
- Ability to set their own schedule
- Opportunities for additional activities within CED
- Collegiality and opportunities to network
- Opportunities for entrepreneurs and mentors to meet
- Experience is fun, exciting and rewarding