8. Advice and Mentorship


There is such thing as too much advice…

The Managing Director meets one-on-one with each team, guiding the team through the expectations of the program, prodding them to move quickly, helping mediate any internal team dynamics, connecting the teams to any necessary resources, as well as providing advice like any other mentor.

Given that workload, limiting the cohorts to 7 or 8 teams is important, as otherwise they do not all get the attention they require every week.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the advice is provided by the “mentors”. That term is used very loosely applied to anyone who provides assistance to the teams in any form. This can be advice on a business model, advice on marketing, ideas for names or logos, help setting up a website, help setting up QuickBooks, an introduction to a potential partner, singing lessons, a set of headshots, etc.

Entrepreneurs need a plethora of advice, connections, ideas, and other forms of help. The mentors provide most of that help.

There is no formal relationship between the mentors at Fledge. No formal vetting process is performed on the mentors. No formal matchmaking is attempted between teams and mentors. No teams are assigned mentors, or mentors to teams.

What works for Fledge is to encourage the mentors to talk to multiple teams, and let the teams and mentors sort out the best connections.

Before a session begins, the Managing Director sends out a Google Form to all of the mentors with a list of new fledglings, asking the mentors to pick teams they want to help, and noting the amount of time they have to offer.

Similarly, the Program Manager shares the list of mentors with the fledglings, asking them to pick at least 10 names. That list includes each mentor’s name, a brief description, and their LinkedIn profile.

During the course of the session, a Google Doc is shared across all the participants, where the teams note which mentors they’ve met, highlight those who are the most helpful, and those that were not helpful. The most helpful are invited back to continue helping that team, and others with similar issues.

This effort results in a stream of mentors throughout the length of the session. Some days with 5 mentors each visiting 2-3 teams, and some days with just 1 or 2 mentors each meeting a single team. Overall, each team usually meets with 10-15 mentors in 1-on-1 meetings, plus another 20-30 mentors at other “Meet the Fledglings” events.

Given the benefits provided by the mentors, it is vital to ensure that the mentor’s time is treated as valuable, with no gaps between meetings with teams. The Program Manager’s primary job is to ensure the experience of the mentors flows as smoothly as possible: welcoming mentors as they arrive, walking the mentor between meetings, gathering feedback from the teams and mentors, and following-up to thank the mentors for coming, inviting them back if the teams’ though the meetings worthwhile.

Before Day 1

To ensure mentors begin visiting on Day 2, selected mentors who have proven helpful at previous cohorts and other events are personally invited to come by to meet the fledglings. The mentors are encouraged to visit on Days 2, 3, 4, or 5, at their convenience.

This is in addition to the Google Form sent to all of the mentors, which helps fill out the mentor meetings into Week 2 and Week 3.

Mentors in the first two weeks are encouraged to meet with multiple teams in short, 20-30 minute sessions. Mentors do not always know which teams they can best help, and fledglings don’t know in Weeks 1 and 2 what mentors can help them with.

Week 1

On Day 1 or Day 2, mentors and supporters are invited to come and “Meet the Fledglings”, in an informal, cocktail party event. This event draws in 20-30 mentors for an early look at the teams, provides an opportunity for advice to begin flowing, for discussions to begin, and is itself a recruitment tool to bring the mentors back for meetings with the teams.

In the orientation on Day 1, and right before this networking event, the Managing Director reminds the fledglings that they and the mentors are all adults, and that as such, they are expected to ask for help, schedule their own 1-on-1 meetings with anyone who is interested in helping them, etc. Fledge is not a school. Fledglings are expected to speak up when they need something and ask anyone for anything they need.

Week 3, 4, … 7

Similar events are run as the program continues, often in association with another ecosystem partners. In Seattle these partners include Impact Hub Seattle, Pinchot University, the University of Washington, the Jolkona accelerator, the African Chamber of Commerce, Vulcan Philanthropy, and more.

Some of these events are after working hours. It is possible to have too many of these meetings, eating in the time the fledglings need to relax, but each of these events adds to the number of potential connections the fledglings get during the program.

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