This manifesto was co-created by startup mentors in the Startup Mentor Community Hungary. As an inspiration, we leaned on the talks delivered by Nathan Furr (Insead), John Hill (Techstars), Katja Wald (MIT Enterprise Forum Cambridge), Patrick Riley (GAN), Marisa Peer and Bill Aulet (The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship) in the framework of the Training for Startup Mentors - Best Practices from the USA event series, organized by CEU InnovationsLab and supported by the US Embassy in Hungary.
Mentors are key to both startup and startup ecosystem success.
In a healthy startup ecosystem, mentors support teams, paving the way for their success. Founders become mentors, sharing their expertise and experience with a new generation of founders. Founders become investors, and therefore investment decisions are backed up by a deep understanding of the entrepreneurial journey. This entrepreneurial life cycle scales the knowledge and network necessary for the growth of a quality startup ecosystem and support system.
Entrepreneurial management, characterized by a very high level of uncertainty is substantially different from traditional management, an environment where low uncertainty prevails. Startup mentors need to embrace the entrepreneurial mindset in order to support teams efficiently.
Mentoring is a two-way relationship, where both the mentor and the mentee share their insights and knowledge and they both learn from each other.
Mentors should always operate with a “give first” mentality.
Mentors and founders come from many different backgrounds and cultures. Getting to know, accepting and cherishing these differences is key to successfully working together and motivating each other.
A mentor relationship is a long, deep and personal relationship, a commitment between startup founders and the mentor with the aim to accelerate the growth of the startup.
For a great mentor-mentee relationship, a clear set of expectations is key. Among these expectations the meeting frequencies, goals, reporting, the role of the mentor, the meeting structure and agenda, confidentiality should all be clarified. The parties need to make sure that there is no conflict of interest.
During the mentoring process the mentor should make sure to identify SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) goals to the team. These goals help teams to focus - something that is very hard to do early-stage.
The mentor is not a teacher, not a boss and is not expected to answer all questions. The questions the mentor asks from the teams is more important than the answers. The Socratic approach is encouraged.
Mentorship is about accountability, motivation, and experienced guidance. The mentor should always keep in mind that the key interest in the mentoring process is that of the entrepreneur.
The mentor should always focus on quality before quantity. Growth should always be about scaling the quality of the work and not the quantity.
There is just as much truth and value in stories of failure as in stories of success. Nobody expects a mentor to be a superhuman, but showing both the dark and bright sides of one’s entrepreneurial career can be very inspiring for the teams.
Getting direct and sincere feedback is crucial for the teams. A mentor should create a safe and trusted interpersonal space where both positive and negative feedback is appreciated and well understood.
A great mentor should understand the difficulties founders face. Talking and sharing insights, views and opinions is important, but listening is even more valued.
A great mentor should exhibit enthusiasm and a positive attitude.
A great mentor lets mentees take their own decisions, but does everything in their power to help startups avoid fatal mistakes.
A great mentor helps founders grow in person, keep inner balance and develop their approach to business; helps develop senses to creating win-win deals via understanding the motivation of different stakeholders.
A great mentor also understands that one of the most important assets he can provide to teams is his own network.
The mentor should not be compensated for mentoring the team. The mentor should not expect anything in return, however, they will also get back plenty: fresh industry insights, the opportunity to become a better leader, contributing to elevating the startup ecosystem, gaining inspiration, motivation, new network and new friends.
Director, CEU InnovationsLab
Head of Outreach and Partnerships, CEU InnovationsLab
Marketing and Communications Specialist, CEU InnovationsLab
Operations Manager, CEU InnovationsLab