The Boston Startup Guide - Part II: Finding Mentors

We all get them. Those emails that make you cringe, just a little.  Some brand new entrepreneur emails you for help. You're busy and you're not sure you're the right person to help. They seem like they lack even some of the most basic knowledge to get started.  But they're asking you for help...probably hoping for a meeting or maybe an intro to a trusted contact.

In Boston, we have a habit of just wanting to click the delete button on such messages, or simply declining citing a desire to "focus on my startup" right now or just not being "the right person." We can do better than that. If you really can't take the meeting, let's leave each of these new entrepreneurs pointed in the right direction. The Boston Startup Guide is here to help you do that. 

In Part II, we're covering what to do when a new entrepreneur is looking for mentors and you can't help them yourself.  There are great things you can point them to and we're going to share them with you so you can copy and paste them in your next message, so you can say still help them even if you can't take that meeting. 

Helping Entrepreneurs Find Mentors

First, there are a handful of resources every new entrepreneur should know about. Here are the ones that come to mind (leave a comment if you have one that you think *every* entrepreneur needs to know).

Organizations *every* entrepreneur needs to know:

BostInnovation - The most comprehensive coverage of the tech scene in Boston.  Also usually the first to cover a new company, so you can probably reach out to them about your new startup when you launch.

Greenhorn Connect - Greenhorn (meaning "new to a way or place") is in our name for a reason. Point them to ourresources and events, and if they're hiring or looking, our job board.

Twitter.com - Get them on Twitter! So much of the conversation happens on there. It's the best way to keep track of what's going on in our community. Pick some of your favorites to follow. We like @ScottKirsner@Dharmesh,@DCancel@rSeanLindsay@DartBoston, @Bostinnovation@GWeber, and of course our account, @GreenhornBoston, but there are plenty of others. 

Now if they're specifically looking for mentors or advisors, here's what we recommend. 

 

Great posts on understanding mentors and advisors

We've also written about the topic here.

Boston Organizations that can help:

Founder Mentors - If an entrepreneur has a specific problem they'd love help on, founder mentors is a great way to get help. In multiple cycles year round, they accept applications which are focused on what help an entrepreneur needs most. They then match them with a great veteran entrepreneur. 

Boston World Partnerships - The goal of BWP is to help unite Boston across multiple communities, including our entrepreneurial community. They have hundreds of "connectors" who help tie our communities together and can help connect entrepreneurs to the person that can help them most. BWP has office hours and come to the Venture Cafe once a month.

Depending on the time of year, you can apply to one of the many "startup accelerators" in town, who provide mentorship and a whole lot more:

TechStars Boston - The TechStars program makes mentorship a key part of their 3 month program that runs March - June and includes modest investment ($6,000 per founder) and lots of hands on education. Applications are open in December and January, so that's the best time to point someone to the program.

MassChallenge - MassChallenge is a massive startup competition that also helps pair entrants with mentors and some education. It runs from the end of June thru September and provides free office space to the 100+ teams that are selected and awards no-strings-attached cash prizes to the top handful of teams. Applications are open from March to early May, so that's the best time to point someone to the program.

BetaSpring - Similar to TechStars, this nearby Providence-based program provides 3 months of mentorship, education and modest funding & in kind services to get a startup on the right track. The great thing about BetaSpring is that they have a Physical Products track, so if you meet someone with a physical technology, this is a great group to point them to. Applications are open in February and March for this summer program, so that's the best time to point someone to the program.

Summer at Highland - If they're a student, this is a great opportunity for them to get mentorship, a small financial stipend (for no equity) and a lot of help moving their startup forward from the VC firm in our community with one of the best track records for investing in young people.  Applications are open in March to early April for this summer program, so that's the best time to point someone to the program. 

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Next time you get an entrepreneur looking for help or a meeting, if you can't take the meeting, do your part as a good Boston Startup Citizen and point them to those that can help.

What organizations do you think are most helpful for mentorship?