To Succeed at Startups and Innovation, You Need Great Mentors

wes stringfellow

Wes Stringfellows’ post on the TechStars blog is the strongest endorsement I’ve ever seen of the value of mentorship.

He says:

You can boil Techstars’ track record down to one thing: mentorship.

Techstars has mastered the art of mentoring. Without it, most startups – and many innovation efforts – fail.

Here’s what amazes me: the proven value of mentoring is right out in the open, yet the vast majority of innovation initiatives fail to leverage it. Mentoring is literally the secret sauce of every accelerator.

He backs up these very strong statements with data:

Endeavor Insight studied thousands of startups and interviewed nearly 700 founders, and they validated the powerful role of mentoring. 33 percent of founders who were mentored by successful entrepreneurs went on to become top performers.


Wes lists three reasons why mentorship works in his experience working with TechStars. Read his post to get the details:

  1. Entrepreneurs and Innovators were willing to accept help
  2. Experts were willing to offer help
  3. Positive ways to say “no”

He concludes with this advice, which founders ignore at their peril!

I feel so strongly about this that my advice is that you are crazy to launch an internal innovation effort – or a startup – without first understanding how you will gain access to mentors. Not just one or two, but multiple mentors with expertise in the numerous specialties you will need master to succeed.

West Stringfellow is the Vice President of Internal Innovation and Operations at Target Corporation. West’s career has focused on driving innovation at scale. He has had executive-level innovation and product management roles at Target, PayPal, VISA, Rosetta Stone and Bigcommerce. @westringfellow

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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