Analysis of Second Round of Interviews

After completing the tangible interviews, I came back to my studio and put up the research all over the walls. I looked at the differences, similarities, and even refined the ecosystem map.

These interviews were set up to find out where people in the ecosystem believe they may find mentors in order to discover challenges that the entrepreneur may face while finding and accessing a mentor.

Main Takeaway:
I learned there’s a misperception about where entrepreneurs may find mentors. Entrepreneurs on the outside of accelerator and incubator programs believed that the majority of mentors could be found and accessed in incubators and accelerators. However, those on the inside of incubators and accelerators revealed that they find their mentors from previous founders of startups that have either had successful or failed exits. Essentially, they find experienced entrepreneurs who have enough available time on their hands and are at a place in their life where they want to give back to the rest of the startup community.

Second Takeaway:
While asking entrepreneurs to point out where they find mentors and how many mentors are closely or loosely tied with their startup, I learned that it's the norm for entrepreneurs to have many mentors. Each mentor plays a specific role, providing feedback and strategic advice on a specific part of the business. Their mentors would provide strategic advice on areas such as customer acquisition, refining the business model, hiring team members, product development, financial related tasks, etc. For example, a particular entrepreneur I interviewed explained that he had formed a relationship with one of his customers, and this customer has mentored them by providing strategic advice and feedback on how the product should be developed.

An important distinction:
These two takeaways revealed an important distinction: the generalist mentor and specialist mentor. The experienced entrepreneur brought in by accelerator and incubator programs seem to fit the profile of a generalist mentor because they have experience dealing with more than a single area (product, team, financials, customer, business model). The specialist mentor, as the word implies, has a single specialty and is providing strategic advice and feedback on that area. As stated before in the second takeaway, the norm for entrepreneurs is to be in contact with several specialist mentors.

Finally, I learned about four barriers to accessing mentors. Read Barriers to Accessing Mentors.

I later learned about how entrepreneurs identify a mentor for their business, and specifically that it's to the benefit of the entrepreneur to focus on finding and pursuing specific mentors.

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