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Think Change India

MentorEdge at CIIE, IIM Ahmedabad offers support to aspiring entrepreneurs

Think Change India
6th May 2012
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MentorEdge is a nationwide mentoring program to provide hand-holding, mentoring and networking support to aspiring entrepreneurs and startups. MentorEdge was born out of the need to cater to the needs of a larger ecosystem, and to create a support structure for enterprises which were not being incubated at CIIE. The network is spread across 8 cities [Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore], each city having its set of Evangelists who co-ordinate locally with the mentees.

1. What is the role of MentorEdge? How many mentors are now members?

The objective is to ensure that startups are able to leverage the expertise and experience available in each city. Mentoredge conducts mentoring sessions/workshops across these cities to create opportunities for entrepreneurs to meet the mentors. There is also an attempt to ensure that the mentor and mentee follow up on the initial meeting and are able to form meaningful relationships. The initiative has gained tremendous traction with more than 300 registered mentors and has till now reached out to more than 2000 entrepreneurs. We have seen a number of long term relationships forming in the process and are witness to a lot of success stories.

2. Once an entrepreneur finds a mentor through MentorEdge, how does he get in touch with him/her?

MentorEdge conducts Mentor Rendezvous every two months, in each of these cities, to introduce the mentors to local entrepreneurs in a one–to–one setting. These curated events help introduce the Entrepreneur to the appropriate Mentor and vice versa. Prior to the event the mentees are instructed to view the mentor profiles on the website and select which mentors they want to connect with. A lot of effort goes in the backend to understand the startups’ business and its needs and then identify the most suitable mentor. The mentees are sent preparatory material to ensure they come prepared with the project / ideas and make optimum use of the 45 minute slots allotted to them with their chosen mentor. 

The event lasts about half a day, where dedicated slots are assigned for mentees and mentors to meet. The event structure ensures that the mentee is benefited by meeting at 3 – 4 mentors on the day. Ideally, a 3-4 hour mentoring rendezvous results in mentor and mentee agreeing to meet again and exploring synergies in a more detailed manner. While the Mentee gets to find answers to their queries in the first meeting usually, it paves way for a long-lasting relationship between the Mentor and Mentee. We take timely feedback and facilitate interaction whenever required.

Apart from Mentor Rendezvous, MentorEdge also partners with other initiatives to provide mentoring support to their startups/incubatees/bplan competition applicants. Past patrons of MentorEdge include IIT Delhi ‘Startup Showcase’, IIT Bombay ‘Eureka’, SP Jain ‘Lock Stock and Trade’, IIM Calcutta ‘Ideas2Implementation’, MIT’s ‘Mobile Initiative of India’, IIT Kanpur ‘Techkriti’, UTVi Pitch, Sankalp Forum, ISB iDiya, UnLtd India, Goldmans Sachs 10000 Women entrepreneurs programme, Villgro Unconvention, iWeekend Impact and Startup Weekend.

3. Do these mentors charge any fees? How does the entire system work?

The intention is to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem across the country, where participants are benefited by the collective pool of intelligence. We believe that it is the Mentors who run the show and MentorEdge is a mere facilitator. Truly effective mentors do what they do for one reason: They want to help a mentee succeed. Unlike consultants, mentors don’t work with mentees to make money. A mentor is someone who serves as an example, an advisor, a sounding board and ultimately a friend. A mentor cannot really be effective if they don’t truly care for a mentee. Reasons why people choose to be mentors include,

  • Personal satisfaction – Mentors derive immense satisfaction from helping an aspiring entrepreneur succeed in creating value for the society.
  • Sharpen leadership and interpersonal skills – Mentors sharpen their own skills by challenging and coaching their mentees.
  • Keeps the mentors abreast of the latest trends – Mentorship helps the mentors stay aware of the latest trends and opportunities and gives them a ringside view of the most exciting innovations happening in the area.
  • It is a great opportunity to connect with other mentors and entrepreneurs.
  • Source of recognition and respect – For Mentors, a by-product of the mentoring process often is the respect and recognition they get from the society for their contribution in building a successful enterprise.

That said there are cases where mentees have offered equity to mentors once a long term relationship was formed. This happens as the startups start recognizing the value the mentor is bringing and the important role she is playing in the growth of the company.

What differentiates MentorEdge from others is the quality and commitment of the mentors to help young and budding entrepreneurs with a philanthropic intent. It is an initiative which supports entrepreneurs working on their business plans, entrepreneurs who have started operations, entrepreneurs in fund raising process and even those who are in growth stages. The attempt is to give the entrepreneur a right dose of realism and encouragement so that the entrepreneur is able to achieve her fullest potential. Together we have set a precedent and I am sure similar organizations like us will spring up in future and that would be a proud moment for us.

4. Your advice on how a startup goes about finding a mentor? (how does he know he has found the right mentor). What are the things he should keep in mind before zeroing down on a mentor?

We see mentor-mentee relationship as a long term relationship and not an issue based advisory support. While Mentoredge tries to match the startup with a mentor based on sector and domain expertise and mentor’s areas of interest, it is important for the startup to put in extra effort to make things work. It is important to ensure that one is able to communicate the idea to the mentor and make the mentor interested in what the start up is doing. Over a period of time, as the mentors see startups listening to their advice and progressing, the relationship gets cemented. An ideal mentor becomes as committed and as passionate about the start up as the entrepreneur herself, but this has to be nurtured in the initial phases of mentoring.

What a startup needs to ensure in the first few meetings is that the communication is free flowing, and the mentor accepts the basic idea /consumer need on which the startup is constructing the business model. It is not necessary that the mentor may agree to whatever the startup says and vice versa, but they should have an agreement on the basic problem that the startup is trying to solve. Many a times startups are looking for a quickfix solution for all their problems and that is where the relationship never gets built and the mentor feels no commitment to the startup. Each relationship is unique and would have a different synergy but invariably every relationship needs time to develop.

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