Archive for the ‘Professional Connections’ Category

Startup Accelerators: Re-evaluate Processes Around Mentors & Advisors along with Entrepreneurs!

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Genotypes of an organism are inherited instructions carried within the Organisms genetic Code. Where as Phenotypes of an organism are what is resulted from Organisms genes as well as the influence of environmental factors and the interactions between the two.

From Wikipedia –

The interaction between genotype and phenotype has often been conceptualized by the following relationship:

genotype (G) + environment (E) → phenotype (P)

A more nuanced version of the relationship is:

genotype (G) + environment (E) + genotype & environment interactions (GE) → phenotype (P)


In the world of Entrepreneurship, Accelerators, & Incubators, no matter how great the mentorship is, how great the ecosystem is, ultimate success of the startup still depends on the entrepreneur and the entrepreneurs ability to respond to the ecosystem. Accelerators only empower the right entrepreneur.

That’s conventional conclusion and thinking;

What’s missing in the above argument is the relevant “qualification” of the ecosystem. For example just because a mentor is great at what he does or has been a successful serial entrepreneur, doesn’t mean that the mentor can create right support for a specific entrepreneur;

Entrepreneur’s ability to learn, grow and get influenced has as much bearing on him as it is on the accelerator and its ecosystem. 

Most of the accelerators pick mentors and advisors from their connections and networks well before they even know the entrepreneurs, their startup concepts and their needs & strengths. While the new accelerator model (assuming the 1990s version is original/older version aka IdeaLabs, etc) is less than a decade old, there has not been enough progress with respect to mentors, advisors and ecosystem customization based on individual entrepreneurs and enterpreneur’s startup ideas. Some of these accelerators get away by saying that we are investing in the entrepreneur rather than their idea – while there is some validity in that argument but am sorry, “no cigar”!

Since 2011 and 2012 we are starting to see industry specific accelerators – for industry such as Health Care IT, Fashion Tech, FinTech, Entreprise, etc. While these might address some of the problems common in generalist accelerators (by bringing specific mentors in a particular industry or sector), they also bring their own set of challenges and problems.

Going back to mentors and advisors, best way to improve the accelerator model is to start focusing on mentors & advisors as well – not just on entrepreneurs.

Here are some recommendations –

  • Some Mentors and advisors should be changed for each semester based on the entrepreneurs, their backgrounds and their startup ideas.
  • Mentors and Advisors should be accountable for their contribution – not just at the equity/compensation level, but some open/independent review of their contribution to the ecosystem.
  • Mentors and Advisors cannot be part of the management or shareholders of the Accelerators – this creates a conflict of interest for the management to be critical of mentor’s performance/actual contribution.
  • Mentors/Advisors who are also investors also creates weird situations – for the entrepreneur who is getting mentorship and the management. This scenario needs to reviewed appropriately – on a case by case basis.