For the last few months Coworking O4 has completed two large mentoring projects: the support for Spanish start-ups as a part of the European Coworkings program and the support for innovators from the space industry as a part of the Space3ac accelerator. That interesting, inspiring and multidimensional experience let me draw a few conclusions. Especially as regards the sources of effectiveness in such activities. And not only that. Here are my conclusions:
- MOTIVATION IS DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL TO PERSONAL COSTS
Yes, this is a trivial statement. However, it is not voiced frequently enough: If we are giving something out for free and too easily it WILL NOT WORK! If the participation in a project requires a lot: leaving home for many weeks, paying a fee or efforts punishable by sanctions the mentored/trained person can do surprisingly more than if the participation in a meeting costs nothing or next to nothing. An interesting thing is that the fact that a mentor is a multimillionaire, a man with investor contacts worldwide or a potentially most important customer is of absolutely no importance in the latter case! Even this fact is not sufficient for most young teams to get prepared and put some effort! However, if they paid for it or, e.g. were forced to change the place of work for 12 weeks… the situation would be different.
- WE SHOULD LEARN MENTORING SINCE CHILDHOOD
Our education system not promoting the asking of questions, relationship full of evaluations, penalties and awards, taking the responsibility for their own development away from students, relationship devoid of the deep, authentic mutual trust while promoting fear and subordination does everything for us to be unable to take advantage of personal master-student relations in our adult lives. The process in which someone who knows more is able and wants to help while someone who is at the beginning of their path is able to and wants to accept that help is complicated only in our heads. Places where entrepreneurship flourishes (e.g. the USA) include it as one of the most obvious and common situations. And the most important thing is that it benefits both parties!
- STARS ATTRACT BUT DO NOT ALWAYS KEEP WARM or a lesson to be learned by mentors.
Many complaints refer to beginner entrepreneurs. The truth is that those who declare their support as a mentor are also to blame. Additionally, it sometimes happens that those most well-known who attract most people to a program do not commit themselves to it later. In such a situation, we have a paradox: unobvious people can really change a lot but their names are not too attractive for the media and do not attract people, while “media people” do attract but do not perform their mentoring function.
- PROGRAMMING AND ORGANIZATION are key components
Yes, “who” is particularly important. However, “how” and “when” are important as well. All these components combined offer an effective and interesting service. From the co-working perspective, offering access to unique, talented, wise entrepreneurs is a service, nothing else. And the way in which that mentoring is promoted, organized, what forms of training and meetings it supports is important. From my experience: offering something well-described, explained and realized to people is more important than a long list of experts whom you cannot meet.
- INDIVIDUATION – YES – HOWEVER, “WHAT I NEED” RATHER THAN “WHAT I WANT”
Start-ups are like people – each one is different but all of them seem alike. In principle, most of us avoid difficult truths, opinions that are uncomfortable for us, people we do not agree with or criticism. I often hear that “the only thing I lack is good promotion, this is what I want to talk about” and, in fact, something much deeper is lacking there: a correct business model, proper definition of the customer’s needs or someone else in the team. And this is when a challenge appears; how is it possible to persuade the mentored person that he or she should talk to someone who, according to their opinion, is unnecessary? It is a huge challenge but it is worth tackling because it is such meetings that cause most interesting changes. A moderator is a key person in the mentoring process; a moderator can save time (and money) to both parties.
- MENTORING IS A TWO-WAY PATH FULL OF PERSONAL EMOTIONS
Eventually, it all boils down to chemistry among people. I do not believe in the absolute objectivism. Liking someone (or, at least, not disliking a person from the very beginning) is the key. If someone makes us mad with his excessive nonchalance, yawning or green glasses our opinion will never change even if that person can make innovations comparable to a smartphone or write a business plan of another “unicorn”.
- AND THE MOST IMPORTANT THING – MENTORING WORKS!
When I saw some teams from the Space3ac accelerator on the Demo Day and remembered their beginnings several weeks earlier, differences were colossal. Those most motivated people who really want to develop their businesses made unbelievable progress. I do not know whether one can be 100% sure that their business will work out. I know that some of them surely will. And that their success will owe a lot to the mentoring and training program. I used to be sceptical about such relations before, they seemed a bit artificial, unnecessary and a bit incomprehensible. Perhaps it was because I used to misinterpret them as a combination of psychoanalysis and empty talk. Now, I know that well prepared and properly designed meetings can offer a lot of content and inspiration.
This is why I invite all business seekers to cooperate!