Student entrepreneurs need mentors

The end of spring term at VeloCity marks my one full year at the residence. What a way to end it. I can’t say enough about how good the students are at the University of Waterloo but this term I got to work with a few students from the University of British Columbia and Queens. There is no question in my mind that the future for Canada is bright but we (the community) need to do all we can to cultivate the talent and encourage them to think big.

Canada has a lot of naturally talented young entrepreneurs but…

…we don’t have a big enough community to support them naturally. We have a lot of young people that need to be given the opportunity to try something. In order to try something the support needs to be there to help them accelerate quickly to either failure or success. We have a government sponsored system in Canada that can offer life support to enable a long process of building a company around a product (with tax credits, etc), what I don’t think we have is a system (or community) that can help people with the development of ideas into product. Some localities have communities that are decently strong but they aren’t big enough to meet the need that I believe is there.

Canada has lots of great young entrepreneurs that figure it out regardless but I see way too many talented U of Waterloo students that could be incredible entrepreneurs given the right community support that would encourage them away from the incredible job opportunities they have right in front of them. They don’t need money, they need a realistic chance of getting a product to a customer, receiving feedback, and trying again. They need the support of their peers and a place to meet new people with new ideas.

What is needed the most are really good mentors

My focus at VeloCity for the next year will be cultivating the mentor/student relationship. We need mentors that connect with what a particular group is doing, help them with their product, and get them to their first sale. That isn’t an easy task but if the right connection between an eager student team and a mentor happens, I am certain both the mentor and the students will learn a lot from each other.

What I want to see from a mentor/student relationship is a team given the opportunity to test their product on people that they think would pay for what they are building or service they are providing, along with help identifying when to pivot or when to walk away. As a mentor, you provide a sense of hindsight which is invaluable to any young entrepreneur. VeloCity is working towards building this student/mentor relationship through democamp style events where the teams pitch or demo their ideas, receive feedback and the mentors can get an idea of who they are and if they can help.

VeloCity will help a little to formalize the relationship but I would hope the connections happen naturally at these events. If you are interested in being a mentor please get in contact with me (jrodgers at uwaterloo.ca).

posted on my blog as well.