Mentorship programs are essential for effective performance of any incubator or accelerator in the tech ecosystem. In this current age where time literally equals money, a lot of experienced mentors are investing their time in mentorship as a means for giving back to the society/ecosystem. Setting up mentorship programs around this voluntary model should be encouraged - as mentors will volunteer their skills and experience essential for growth of businesses in the ecosystem, and they are able to learn new trends and techniques from the newer businesses. It is also a chance for mentors who are investors to be able to do long term due diligence on startups they would invest in.
iHub has, for the last 16 months, implemented a volunteer-based model of mentorship in the East African Accelerator program, Traction Camp. Through various learnings that come about through testing and review, the program team was able to benchmark for success and manage the expectations of both mentors and mentees. The program pieced together an approach for modeling mentorship around startups. This is as opposed to the conventional mentorship that is highly mentor focused and mentor guided.
Traditionally, startups and mentors are artificially matched with mentors, with the latter heavily involved in achievement of program deliverables for businesses. The iHub model follows a different approach: it improves the mentorship experience by enhancing the structure of the experience, matching process, and shifting expectations of both mentors and businesses. Startups are encouraged to leverage the vast experience and skills of the available network of mentors. This way, businesses can gain support for an array of knowledge and skill areas for the sake of their businesses to grow and scale. This encourages startups to be at the forefront of their business growth as opposed to being overly dependent on mentor intervention.
Startups in the program are reporting better outcomes for their businesses in terms of proper complete pitch decks, sales and growth strategies, completed organizational charts and financials with up-to 5 year projections. Additionally, more and more startups are using the platforms available in the model to better understand term sheets and negotiation methodologies including very complex term-sheet terminologies. Startups become increasingly able to self-assess their readiness for investment and in the process identify steps to manage the process. This is quite timely as they are increasingly attracting investors to their businesses.
We have learnt a lot while implementing the Traction Camp program and shall continue to share these in subsequent series.