Benefits to Mentors
As a Mentor for the regional I-Corps site program, you will have an opportunity to share your experiences as a business leader, participate in growing a local and regional entrepreneurial ecosystem and experience, first hand, the Lean LaunchPad process. Hopefully, in the process, you will learn some new and useful skills in customer discovery. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to work with many bright and interesting people, both on your team and on other teams.
Be a Coach, Not a Consultant
As a business leader, investor and/or entrepreneur, you bring great experience to this process. In other settings, you may act as a consultant and share your experience and valuable opinions on what will and will not work. But we’re asking you to step out of that role for this program. Instead, we want you to encourage teams to find the answers on their own. So, instead of saying “I tried that before, it won’t work,” you might say “you should talk to these people…” and let the team discovery from the market what won’t work.
Support the Customer Discovery Process
We’re asking the mentors to work with the teaching team to support the customer discovery process. If a team offers an observation, the Mentor should help challenge them on whether this is something they think or something they learned from talking to five (or more customers). In addition, we’ll be working on techniques and tactics for customer discovery—including good ways to ask questions. As a Mentor, you’re role is to understand that process and help the team develop skills and good habits for their customer discovery work.
Help Open Doors
Team will be challenged to meet with 15 or more potential “customers,” and they’re going to need help. The Mentors should help them think about who to meet with and provide introductions if possible. Obviously, your contacts are valuable to you. In making an introduction, you’re risking your reputation, and the teams will be asked to respect that important investment that you are making in them.
Mentors will typically not be asked to sign a formal non-disclosure agreement. The I-Corps process should focus on the customer more than the team’s technology, so teams should be able to avoid detailed discussion about the technology that could potentially compromise intellectual property rights. Even in the absence of a formal non-disclosure agreement, the teams will be more effective if they can work amongst themselves with an expectation of confidentiality.
Make a Difference
As part of the Northeast Hub Regional Program, we are able to compensate our Mentors with the expectation that they will participate in all sessions (including pre-and post teaching team-only meetings), hold weekly mentoring sessions with teams, and contribute to the overall success of the teams. Mentors may possibly join one or more teams who are selected to participate in the national I-Corps program.
Mentors are representative of our nation’s diverse population, and respectful of diverse backgrounds, viewpoints and cultures of participating teams.