Startup mentoring is the process of transferring the experience and knowledge of more experienced entrepreneurs or business people (mentors) to relatively less experienced entrepreneurs (mentees). The main task of the startup mentors is to guide their mentees by sharing their experiences and to motivate them to learn. Today, the business world makes use of mentoring actively. There are very important cases such as Steve Jobs mentoring Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffet mentoring Bill Gates.
Mentoring programs can bring many benefits to entrepreneurs and mentors. There is already quite a lot of research on this subject in the literature. However, the issue of mentoring success is always up for debate. It is observed that many mentoring programs have not been successful. I think it has 3 indispensable components about startup mentoring by combining my experiences and research by addressing the subject from different aspects:
a. Right Mentee – Mentor Match
As with any matchmaking effort, the key-lock harmony brings success on both sides. Although it sounds nice for the mentee and mentors to choose each other from a pool, it is a bit slow or difficult for people who do not know each other to interact in this way. For this reason, the existence of the structures conducting the mentoring process can accelerate the process by acting as a catalyst.
For a correct match, the strengths of the mentor must be determined first. In which sectors has he/she worked before? What business functions does he/she have experience in? Which of the different country markets does he/she know well? How wide is his/her business network in these areas? How willing and successful in communicating his/her knowledge and experience? Does he/she have experience in entrepreneurship? Has he/she been involved in different roles in the ecosystem? (Entrepreneur, investor, etc.) Does he/she know about the problems experienced by entrepreneurs and the psychology they are in? With such clear questions, the knowledge, experience and network of the mentor should be thoroughly determined.
On the other hand, entrepreneurs and startups should be analyzed thoroughly by using strategic analysis surveys, and strategy documents should be examined in detail. In addition, entrepreneurs should be encouraged to tell which aspects are weak and what they need to strengthen by establishing strong communication. For example, which industries and companies does he/she need to reach for product and service sales? What is the investment need? Which investment funds does he/she want to reach for investment? What steps does he/she need to take to improve its products and services? The answers to such questions should be revealed clearly.
After these studies, theoretical matching can be made in the background. Mentors with strengths in areas where the mentee entrepreneur is weak can be matched. But ultimately, since mentoring is a mutual human relationship, the compatibility of people in terms of communication should be tested with trial interviews. If there is harmony in the interview, mentoring can be started, otherwise it is a great benefit to try the mentor candidates until another mentor who can adapt is found.
b. Setting Success Goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Generally, the mentoring service offered in entrepreneurship and acceleration programs is limited to a few hours. The mentor can’t make noteworthy contributions to the mentee entrepreneur in such a limited time. However, mentoring is a long-term job, it takes 1 year in successful cases. When the time problem is overcome, it is very critical to set concrete targets to show whether the mentoring service is beneficial or not and to follow these targets periodically. Moreover, when you want to measure the success of a startup in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, the performance indicators that can be set are very clear. The goals that show the success of a startup are selling more products and services, getting more customers, and getting more investments. These can be defined as performance indicators (KPIs), as well as some tasks that will pave the way for the entrepreneur to achieve these goals. For example, reducing digital marketing costs, lowering the rate of employee turnover, adapting the existing product to other markets.
c. Well Structured Monitoring Processes
When it is a long-term program, it becomes possible to follow the relevant targets periodically. Thus, failures can be analyzed together with the mentor and new tactics and strategies can be developed. And the better structured monitoring of this process is, the easier it is for success. Because in long-term programs, a close follow-up is required to keep the motivation of the parties constantly.
Successful mentoring services depend on finding successful and competent mentors. Therefore, entrepreneurship centers need to expand their mentor pool. Generally, academics and managers in corporate life work as startup mentors on individual initiative. But for the development of mentorship, there is a need for entrepreneurship center-company collaborations to support and guide the managers of companies. JP Morgan Investment Bank, for example, encourages its employees to mentor social enterprises involved in Ashoka programs. Similar examples need to be numerous.