The UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) has unveiled a new mentor program designed to accelerate the success of local entrepreneurs. The program started nine months ago with a behind-the-scenes effort to recruit mentors, develop processes and operating guidelines, and test the service with four early stage ventures.
The CIE program was inspired by other proven team-based approaches to mentoring, including the MIT Venture Mentoring Service (MIT VMS) and the New Enterprise Forum (NEF) model.
The team-based approach is a great fit for our community. We have an abundance of business experts with diverse backgrounds that have settled here and want to connect with entrepreneurs and share their expertise.
MIT VMS was founded in 2000 after two successful MIT-affiliated serial entrepreneurs – David Staelin and Alexander Dingee – approached the university with proposals to remedy a gap in how the university supported emerging entrepreneurial ventures. Since then, MIT VMS has been recognized as an innovative leader by the Kauffman Foundation and has trained many other universities to emulate its program’s success.
New Enterprise Forum, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is an all-volunteer organization that has operated continuously for the past 32 years and has used a team-based method to coach more than 390 companies.
The new CIE mentor program assists both campus- and community-based ventures by surrounding them with a team of experienced professionals to guide them to their next business milestone. UNCW students, alumni, faculty and staff, and community startups are welcome to apply for a mentor team. The CIE mentor program assists entrepreneurs through the early stages of their ventures, starting from concept development and continuing through team formation, incorporation, and initial operations.
CIE mentor group entrepreneurs receive practical hands-on mentoring from teams tailored to meet their unique challenges. CIE mentoring services are educational only and all business decisions remain under the control of the entrepreneur. Participants are assured impartial and unbiased advice by a strict code of ethics and interactions are confidential.
Mentors are the backbone of the program and the CIE is eager to interview anyone interested in volunteering. There is a monthly mentor meeting where new mentors and entrepreneurs are introduced to the group and teams are formed. Early results are encouraging. The first mentor team began working with an entrepreneur in April to help him fine-tune his financial projections, business model, and approach to investors. Those efforts resulted in the entrepreneur reaching the final stages for a competitive grant, an opportunity to present his venture at an innovation conference, and three investor meetings.