I spend my professional hours meeting with entrepreneurs, consulting on projects and advising at a board level to companies across a deep band of online commerce and community, market development and branding.
It’s taken me a career of experiences to be effective advising executives and stepping in as a leader with impromptu teams. It’s a delicate poise between listening and advice, directing and doing, jumping in and stepping back.
With my work, I have vested interest in the success of my clients. Pride. Friendship. Re-upping the work. Equity. I win when they do.
Mentoring is a completely different ballgame.
The process and the end result are unique unto themselves.
Dreamit as an organization is a well-honed incubator. It has its own cadre of professional advisors and mentors. Legal, accounting, equity pool advice, market segmentation are all available for the start-ups. The professional mentors and advisors provide the core knowledge base that the teams need. Smart, experienced, tough and empirical in their advice.
My role was different.
I came in through a friend whose son was one of the team. They got to know me and my ideas first through my blog.
I was blown away by their diverse backgrounds, raw energy and talent. And as an English major, their visceral connection to literature, language and understanding of ideas like ‘marginalia’ as common metaphors for learning made it a no-brainer for me to volunteer my time.
“Friday sessions with Arnold” happened over a few months at the Dreamit workspace and random coffee shops.
The sessions were focused (and often intellectually exhilarating) brainstorms to find direction over learning behaviors, market dynamics, product design, business models, clarity in communications, market discovery, and getting focused and prepped for the incubator-ending Dreamit funding pitch.
Newquill originally started with the idea of collaborative elementary and middle school education on the iPad. Shared marginalia in a controlled and creative process to bring dynamics to the learning process was the starting vision.
The team had a core belief in disrupting education through storytelling. Significant expertise in ePub3 and HTML5. And a flexible, dogged determinism. They dreamed a new vision of education.
That’s not where they ended.
Limited market sizing of the iPad in public education prompted a shift. A huge one.
Nine weeks later in an almost Incredible Hulk-like pivot they emerged as Re-Vinyl.it. A merchandising and fan platform with serious potential to disrupt music merchandising and band/fan communities for the music industry.
Look at the final pitch video here. It’s clear and inspiring. This is also where to get to know the team members.
David Cohen recently posted the Mentor Manifesto. He lists what it means to be a pro mentor and what you need to pay attention to.
For me though, the learnings are more focused and personal.
Mentorship is commitment with no investment in the company’s success. Doing a great job challenging and encouraging them was my intent and payback.
The long view is my domain. The team was in their early 20s, less time than I’ve been working in my career. But my goal was not to get them to the goal post. Far from it. My role was to guide them on a path not yet determined. If we found a runway, to help them to make it their own
When I started, I thought of mentorship simply as giving back. Sharing my knowledge and passion for the social web with those who were equally inspired but with less real-world business, marketing and product experience.
Certainly, this is about sharing knowledge to a new generation of entrepreneurs, but this is a two-way path with value moving in both directions.
The exuberance of this team inspired me (and themselves daily). They were learning machines, gobbling up new technical languages and approaches daily, naturally. Change was par for the course to them, exhilarating yet rarely debilitating.
I never said to the team–“This is what I would do”. I often said–‘think of it this way’ or ‘that doesn’t work for me’ or ‘there is a huge difference between what you are thinking and saying and what people are seeing and hearing’.
And most surprisingly, I found myself pushing them back to their core passions and belief. They had so many inputs. So many talented people giving them good advice that it daunts…and I think it can dull.
I believe that passion is more important than preparation or professionalism. And that core entrepreneurial beliefs often trump established logic or business models. I took it as my role to channel that passion back to the center.
I also learned a lot about ePub and HTML5. They learned from my experiences and thinking about how to create something unique for a mobile, social, always connected population. And how to discover a market for it.
As a team and as the sum total of all of the mentors, Re-Vinyl was created.
Passions. Wisdom. Knowledge from experience all are important. The way they get mixed up together as a creative team discovery process is key. Especially in a mentorship relationship.
I relished this experience. I learned a lot. I challenged and was challenged. It was fun.
The team did as well.
And when I look at the pitch video ( Re-Vinyl Pitch ) and see ideas and direction, phrases and graphics that grew out of our Friday sessions. I’m super satisfied.
The Re-Vinyl team are out looking for funding now. If you are interested, please contact the CEO, Michael Morgan at email@example.com.
I hope (and I’m nudging them) that they keep at it and find the funds to take Re-Vinyl to market. They already have a few bands signed. The idea is a good one. The team is wondrously diverse.
These guys have the juice and I expect to see Re-Vinyl live and one of the change agents in the reinvention of the music industry.
For me, I’m certain that mentorship will be part of what I do from now on out.