Few of us, recent MBA grads, just launched an incubator for start ups in consumer goods and B2B business services. Already have a small team and a few qualified companies in the first class of the program.
We are looking to expand the network of mentors and advisors for the program.
We need ideas for reaching out and gaining interest and support from mentors and advisors in the industry. Any ideas?
Welcome to the site. You've met Tim, who'll generally answer you in what many people view to be an insensitive manner.
Unfortunately, he's invariably right, so I'll dance around in a slightly more subtle and verbose way, or you could just re-read his comment to save yourself some time, on the other hand.
I've 8 years experience founding and running my own company and completed an MBA before that. I can safely say in retrospect the MBA is worth SFA compared to the experience. So I'm hoping that you can add a good number of years of combined startup experience to your qualifications?
Ultimately, there are two things adding value in your model, the startups and the mentors. Your role, as I understand it, is getting these two together. The problem is that a number of companies and organizations already attempt this. I personally think that a goodly amount of research by both parties would perform this task and doubt the value of a dating site for startups.
The place that a lot of mentors fit in is at initial funding, the mentors are linked to the funds. Obviously, your problem is lack of track record (which is why you're asking).
I don't see any USP over anyone else in this market. I'd suggest picking a specific niche of startup type and specialising in that. Then later expand into other vertical domains, but keeping the same focus within each one, to give both parties the feeling you're expert in this role for that field.
'Incubator' has about as many definitions as there are functioning operations. Sometimes it's just a description of shared or/and subsidized workspace. Sometimes it's value-added angel funding. Sometimes it's... well, it could be anything.
You have found a supply-side niche - startups in a space you understand who are looking for incubation. So you need to think seriously about what value you want to create, and where you are going to find demand to match (some of) that supply.
So in my view, take a step back from the question you're asking now. What you need to decide is:
For all its bad press, incubation still has room for new players. Many startups who need support will see the value in trading meaningful added value for equity. There's no reason at all why you can't succeed.
(And when you've done this, get in touch ;) )
back to getting those mentors/advisors... ;)
I would recommend you:
Who you know can be as important as what you know and in today's market connections can get you that vital 'foot in the door'
To clarify some of my comments:
I don't think it is a bad thing for people with so little experience to run an incubator. I think you need to clearly express your goals and WHY you are doing this.
Perhaps the best way to proceed is not to just go looking for mentors and the like, but make a name for yourselves by doing some things really well and executing some subset of what your end-vision is. There is no shortage of startups/entrepreneurs.
If your first programs only provide advice from 4 MBA grads, so be it. if it includes a small stipend or 200 sq feet of office space and internet activity, great. Start small and grow. Control the quality. Eventually people will seek YOU out. I understand that this is not the ideal situation - you want people who can help NOW, but until you put in your time and show your level of commitment to providing great stuff, you are not going to get commitment from others.
Focus on the things you CAN do and execute. Just by going through the process a few times you will learn and grow and create more value. And, like I said, you will be sought out.