Entrepreneurs are always talking about their mentors. It gets casually dropped into conversation (“My mentor always told me…”) and it makes you wonder: Who is this mentor? Where’d you find him? And most importantly, how can I get one?
One University of the Arts researcher has made it his mission to figure all this out, and he’s using the Philly tech scene as his petri dish. Ben Farahmand, a master’s degree candidate in industrial design, said he’s trying to “create a model for effective mentorship relationships.”
Help a researcher out
As part of his research, Farahmand is looking for mentor/mentee pairs willing to be observed. He’ll watch and record the pair’s mentoring session, and in return, the pair will get an infographic, like the one above, that visualizes their session.
For more information, email bfarahmand AT uarts.edu
Mentoring — and more broadly, relationships in general — are undoubtedly an invaluable part of a tech startup community. Follow the track record of any CEO of a prominent Philly regional company and it can seem like success is contagious.
Take Monetate CEO David Brussin. With Josh Kopelman and Lucinda Duncalfe, he cofounded TurnTide, which was acquired by Symantec. Monetate later received a $5.1 million investment from Kopelman’s First Round Capital. Brussin was also an adviser to Invite Media, which was acquired by Google. We’re not saying that it was Brussin’s expertise that led Invite Media to get acquired, but Invite Media’s founders certainly valued Brussin’s experience enough to place him on their board.
While he’s still working on this thesis and can’t give us all the answers just yet, Farahmand did share some of his early findings with us. Below are three common answers he heard to the question, “Why mentor?”
Farahmand, 25, is a California transplant and lives in Mt. Airy. He spent the summer working with startups in GoodCompany Group‘s recent accelerator. You might remember his infographic plotting the frequency of certain terms used on the Philly Startup Leaders listserv.
- It’s a “test bed” for new ideas. A mentoring relationship is one way to test possible solutions for certain business problems, entrepreneurs told Farahmand.
- Mentors get a “return on involvement.” Using a term from “The Rainforest,” a book about “innovation ecosystems,” Farahmand said he heard from mentors that mentoring relationships could eventually lead to advisory board roles or an appealing investment opportunity. Read more on Farahmand’s blog about this type of ROI here.
- It comes from the goodness of a mentor’s heart. Farahmand offers this answer with a caution, as it’s hard to confirm if a mentor is really driven by altruism. But it’s possible, he said. One entrepreneur told Farahmand that he felt so fortunate to have sold his company and that he couldn’t have done it without help from his own mentors, so he was paying it forward, so to speak.
Do you mentor younger entrepreneurs? Tell us why in the comments.
Updated 11:22 a.m. 1/8/13 to reflect that Farahmand is a master’s degree candidate, not a Ph.D. candidate.