GE mentors and MENA entrepreneurs during the mentorship session (Images via Kamel El Asmar)
A little over six weeks after launching the GE MEMakers Mentorship Program, the closing day of the program arrived all too soon last week on November 25, at the GE Ecomagination Center in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi.
The intensive program, organized by Wamda between General Electric (GE) management and MENA startups, is part of a partnership announced by both companies in April 2015, and aims to offer professional support and mentorship for a dozen startups from throughout the MENA region.
During the first day of the program 18 managers and senior employees from GE were matched with 16 entrepreneurs. And over six weeks the teams organized mentorship sessions over Skype or in person.
Those sessions were designed to help the entrepreneurs solve key challenges and overcome hurdles related to managing their startups, in addition to getting exposure to potential partnership deals.
“We had the amazing opportunity to meet Mamar Gelaye, CEO of Omnyx LLC, a joint venture of GE Healthcare and UPMC, through our mentor, and we are discussing potential partnership soon,” said Baher Hakim, cofounder of Medicus.
The program wasn’t exclusively about mentorship. It also served as a way to introduce GE employees to the entrepreneurial mindset and put them in the shoes of today’s entrepreneurs.
Another group of GE mentors and entrepreneurs discussing solutions to specific challenges.
This time around GE employees suggested they invite some colleagues who would benefit from the program. Wamda also invited 5 more startups to build new mentorship teams.
The day was split into four parts during which each of the 13 entrepreneurs and 13 mentors took part of the morning pitching session that focused on main challenges. As entrepreneurs state their challenges, mentors would give them cards, volunteering to sit with them later in the day for one-on-one sessions and give them direct advice.
The second activity of the day had entrepreneurs and mentors sit together in small groups to discuss specific challenges such as corporate partnership building, B2B sales, marketing strategies, R&D and operations.
After lunch, one-on-one sessions were organized and entrepreneurs had the chance to dive further into their hurdles and tackle them directly with different mentors.
The day ended with a fireside chat in which all attendees shared insights about what they learned from the day.
Ending the day with a fireside chat.
GE mentors offered great and direct support to the startups, and felt personally involved and responsible. Here are some of the key results reached during the first round of this program:
GE mentors connected entrepreneurs to other GE departments for potential collaboration.
GE mentors connected entrepreneurs to experts in different corporations that work in the same industries, for more exposure to potential partnerships.
GE mentors shared their internal practices fore entrepreneurs to try and adapt to their companies’ cultures.
GE mentors completely placed themselves in the shoes of the entrepreneurs to help them solve challenges and reach new milestones in short periods of time.
Some GE mentors became customers of the startup they are supporting, buying their products, testing them directly, and giving tangible feedback.
- Knowing how GE internal policies and strategy decisions work, GE mentors advised entrepreneurs on products that GE would be interested in partnering on, and discussed the best ways to do so, either with GE or any other partner.