The science of mentorship

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By Ziad Matar, president of TiE Dubai and founding partner of Meditari & Ivan Fernandes, director of mentorship at TiE Dubai

The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), was founded in 1992 in Silicon Valley by a group of successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and senior professionals with roots in the Indus region. There are currently 15,000 members, including over 2,500 charter members in 63 chapters across 14 countries.

Mentorship is a developmental relationship between a less experienced person (mentee) and a more experienced partner (mentor) – someone who has “been there, done that”. It stems from the mentor’s creative abilities and inherent passion to make a difference to the mentee.

Mentoring is a science that can be traced back to the early practice of apprenticeship; a science that has since evolved in many ways to shape modern professions such as coaching, consulting and counselling. Well-designed mentorship programmes start with training (for both mentors and mentees) and establish clear programme goals; follow set schedules and conclude with an evaluation process.

The entrepreneurial journey goes through three stages: starting with the Motivation Phase where the startup is in its idea stage, and the aspiring entrepreneur is contemplating the possibilities while searching for motivation. The entrepreneur moves into the Startup Phase once they have committed to pursuing the idea and begin working on making it a reality. As the entrepreneur proves the viability of the idea, they shift into the Scale-up Phase, where they continue to grow the business and go through its related rewards and challenges.

Mentors should inspire their mentee to follow their dreams. While mentors can do that at any stage of the entrepreneurial journey, it is usually at the Startup Phase when mentorship is most needed, most effective and highly rewarding.

Practices vary widely and less rigorous approaches exist, such as one-off speed-networking sessions at events that bring together mentors and mentees. In such formats, the mentors and mentees get to spend less than an hour together, making it a transient relationship that rarely evolves beyond this one-off exercise. In every such networking event, both mentors and mentees end-up meeting a fresh set of counterparts, and in some cases, based on individual initiative or mutual interest, some lasting relationships do get fostered but in most cases little is accomplished beyond a fleeting moment of inspiration and some ad hoc advice.

Mentoring requires time and effort on behalf of the mentor, which typically conflict with other commitments such as family, work and social engagements. As such, it is key that mentors are able to set a level of priority to their mentorship efforts and keep that balanced with other priorities. Personally we limit our mentoring relationships to a maximum of three entrepreneurs simultaneously, and aim to spend a couple of hours per week on such activities, typically in late evening sessions during the week or breakfasts during the weekend.

Mentors have different skill sets, and it is important to leverage specific strengths in the mentorship relationship. Depending on the background, mentoring within the TiE ecosystem allows us to tap into a larger network of expertise not just regionally but globally, and we are able to bring in different experts to support the entrepreneurs in addressing specific aspects of their startups, focusing on supporting mentees to help manage their business in a systematic fashion, something they sometimes initially dislike but tend to see the benefits with time. We can build on the inherent startup flexibility to help the entrepreneur focus their efforts on a specific value proposition where they leverage their core competences, which they, in turn, scale vertically in the initial phases, and sometimes, expand horizontally to adjacent sectors and geographies once the business has established a solid foundation.

Effective mentorship requires a structured framework in order to foster the mentoring relationship and deliver value for both parties. In order to serve this ecosystem, TiE have a mentorship programme, based on best in class TiE global practices.


Tips For Entrepreneurs

  1. Don’t try to be everything for everybody, focus on your core competence and area of expertise.
  1. Try to address an untapped niche in a proven market (or model). Once you have mastered your niche, try to grow it to become a market on its own or horizontally into adjacent segments.
  1. The onus is on you, the mentee, to extract the most value of the mentorship relationship and to keeping the mentor vested in supporting you.


The 7 Best Practices of Effective Mentoring Programmes

  1. One-to-One Mentoring is considered the best form of mentoring.
  1. The duration of a good mentoring relationship typically lasts for 12 to 18 months.
  1. Structured screening and selection process for qualifying mentors & assigning mentees.
  1. Mentors and mentees are matched on skill sets and needs rather than industry.
  1. Most good mentoring programmes offer a mandatory training programme for the mentors.
  1. Mentors are committed and spend 2 to 3 hours per month for mentoring an individual.
  1. Most mentoring programmes have a well-defined Code of Conduct.


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