Mentoring is key element in startup ecosystems


The article An Ecosystem Where Start-Ups Help Other Start-Ups in The New York Times business section emphasizes the importance of mentoring in developing startups in the Chicago startup ecosystem. Clearly mentoring can help develop startup ecosystems in any geographic area. Though there are two other key elements required: a community of early stage/seed stage investors and a college or university which serves as an evergreen source of talent. Without angel investors and a wellspring of talent all the mentoring in the world is unlikely to generate a startup community.

What also helps greatly is the “pay it forward” attitude of successful entrepreneurs, like the two who are featured in this article.

Shradha Agarwal and Rishi Shah are co-founders of ContextMedia, a health care media company in Chicago. They made a point of financing and mentoring other start-ups.

Here’s a couple of concrete examples of how to apply mentoring:

“Shradha became our first investor and gave us our first check for $25,000 and employed ‘radical candor,’” in her mentoring, Mr. Iseri said. That included discussions about tough decisions that had to be made when building a business, such as hiring, firing and determining long-term goals.


“We’ve been in seven office spaces since we were founded four years ago,” said Jessica Tenuta, a co-founder and head of design of Packback. “Shradha showed us how to hire and incorporate our values while mentoring us. We made great connections while being in their space.”

It greatly helps to house mentoring within an existing community, workspace or through investment connections.

For their part, Mr. Iseri and Ms. Tenuta were inspired by their experiences to mentor other start-ups. These may be at university-based or private incubators and accelerators, in co-working environments or through other angel investors and venture capitalists.

Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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