What's the best way to mentor early stage startups? Since Loyola University Chicago landed in 1871 a year ago, it's been aiming to find out.
Over the last year, Loyola has been tinkering with the mentorship model, finding the best methods to get early stage startups the resources, network, and ongoing support they need. Though still under construction, the model takes a more structured approach to mentorship, which they hope will help Loyola grow as a resource for entrepreneurs at 1871.
It started last year when Loyola joined 1871 as a partner university. At the time, the innovation hub was exploring ways to increase resources for minority founders. So Loyola's team decided to connect their university resources with minority founders through a more purposeful mentorship program.
"1871 is not lacking in mentors, they have tons of them," said Ugur Uygur, an entrepreneurship professor at Loyola involved at 1871. "How can we do something a little bit different? We came up with the idea of a structured mentorship program."
Loyola recruited several startups to work with six Loyola faculty members, each startup meeting with each faculty member four times over two months. Professors came from Quinlan School of Business and the School of Law, offering legal advice, marketing tips, and more.
Uygur said feedback from the initial five startups who completed the program (Food Hero, Hire Ground, PretripMaster, Sustollo, and TraknProtect) was positive because of the recurring nature of membership.
"Yes, the first half hour will be about who you are, what you do, and what can I do for you," said Uygur. "But if I see you again in two weeks, I'll remember. The third time is see you we are talking about something concrete in your business and if I can really help you with something, and move toward solving a complex problem."
Sagar Patel, cofounder and COO at TraknProtect, an inventory and assets analytics platform, said the mentorship program was particularly helpful for marketing and drafting contracts, which set them up for success.
"Without them, we wouldn’t have made the strides we did over the semester which included signing a long-term agreement with Hyatt Hotels, working to implement our solution into another property, launching into a car dealership, being accepted into Travel Startups Incubator and getting Women Business Enterprise and Minority Business Enterprise certified," he told Chicago Inno over email.
It's not perfect, yet. Uygur aims to recruit more professors to join in mentoring to increase their capacity, but said academic schedules can be tough to work around.
The next round of mentoring will either be in March or August depending on professor availability. He said interested startups can follow him on Twitter for more news on upcoming programs.