On August 19th and 20th REBBLS and I were invited to be mentors for the Venture Cup Nordic Health Tech Talents. The Nordic Health Tech Talents (NHTT) is organized by the Venture Cup to find the best startups within the Life Sciences, Medtech and Health Tech in the Nordics. If accepted into the program, the teams win 50,000 DKK and travel expenses around the Nordics. During the 5 month program, the teams participate in workshops that help in developing team, interpersonal skills, business skills, pitching skills and other skills that are needed to continue a successful health tech startup. Many of the REBBLS Core Group have mentored teams in their jobs or during some of the many REBBLS workshops. Here are six things we have learned through mentoring.
1. Every bit of your experience matters…
Even if it was the time that you worked at your first job washing dishes. That kind of experience may be very relevant for a particular type of startup that they might not had heard before. Your experience from your scientific or business career is even more important to the different start-ups you may be mentoring. The REBBLS mentors had a wealth of experience and knowledge totalling over 100 cumulative years (10 mentors x 10 years of working experience). In the NHTT Bootcamp the experience helped some of the teams rethink their business models and their scientific ideas. The mentors also give valuable connections. So when mentoring all your experience matters.
2. There is always an opportunity to mentor
People who want to be mentored will reach out to you once they know who you are and what you can offer. You are not obligated to mentor all the time and occasionally it may feel as though people take advantage of your knowledge and time. However, if you are really interested in the product or solution you can usually help people at any time in their journey to develop themselves if they are receptive of it.
3. Know when to mentor
As with the previous point. Sometimes you might not be available to mentor and in turn the teams might not be receptive to you mentoring them. This can be because they have all the answers to make the next decision, don’t want to violate IP, not sure about their direction yet, your experience for them might not be relevant or some other reason. Usually, you can ask ‘would you like me to give you some ideas for your project.’ or you can just start by relevant questions. If teams are ready for it then they would be interested in hearing more of your opinion or experience.
4. Know how and when to criticise
Criticism is important and should be given out at appropriate times. I have seen some mediocre start-up teams get all praise and no criticism. This can lead to overconfidence and spending of resources on an idea that could have been killed or pivoted by some good criticism. As in mentoring, it is better to ask if someone wants to receive criticism before giving it as some teams may not be ready for it. If the team is ready they may take criticism in different ways. The best way that REBBLS mentors offer criticism is that it better to criticise constructively and ask thought-provoking questions. Hopefully, you can change a teams perspective. You are not doing anyone any favours for not being a little critical of a start-up’s ideas.
5. Use different exercises to engage with your mentee
In the NHTT Bootcamp the teams worked on different exercises such as SWOT Analysis, Business Model Canvas, Eisenhower Matrix, 100-day plan and pitching. This allowed the mentors to see something tangible and then ask questions around that. It was much easier to mentor after seeing exactly where a team had difficulties throughout the course of the exercises.
6. The mentor gets something in return
After mentoring for years, REBBLS mentors have learned that they have recieved more out of mentoring than they realize. Some mentors have joined the startup teams they mentored to continue developing the project. Some have invested in the team financially and more often, the mentors and mentees have developed long lasting friendships. Some of the best mentees have connected to REBBLS and are today a part of the core group.