The Past and Future of Our Mentoring Program

AbilityMatrix StartUp mentoring: Status and our plans for 2021–2023

As many of you may know or even have experienced, one of our business lines is to help startup founders with mentoring. Okay, it is not really a “business” amongst ourselves we call that charity, as most of the activities are just for fun. And, well, okay, we often avoid the term mentoring due to its possible hierarchical perception — we just discuss and share, right?

Free (pro bono) mentoring

Our expertise is available to anyone, for free, during our “office hours”. We have been dedicating Monday afternoons to open up our calendars for free bookings, on a first-come-first-serve and automated basis.

We just counted that in 2020, we logged 26 free mentoring sessions — a few founders also returning a few months later for a brief update. Actually, our biggest challenge at the beginning is typically to convince participants that yes, the session is free and no strings attached.

In addition to the office hours, we have supported another 15–20 startups through not public invitations, accelerator programmes, StartUp Safari events or within what we call our own “startup alumni”. Well, that’s another 150 sessions.

We may have helped a few startups identify dead-ends, accelerate a bit, gain insights about the many industries and regions we have a touch at — and of course we are also proud about a few of the founders raising new funds. Our mentored teams participated in 6 investment rounds… Which possibly makes AbilityMatrix the biggest independent startup accelerator. Meaning we are not biased by networks, government funds, VCs — just helping for fun. But it seems to be working.

How does a session look like and what is the value?

During the free office hours, founders can tap into a combined experience pool of our founders, Laci Kiszely and Akos Tolnai.

Honest, independent opinions with no strings attached. Like a mini mastermind group around growth and product-market fit, early validation. Or whatever slows you at the early phase. As particularly curious and experimental business people, we may have already experienced a few things already. Or can just share doubts — sometimes educated guesses.

Oh, and we like the company of smart people so enjoy all the sessions tremendously.

How does a no strings attached session look like?

You can book a free session through our website. All the sessions are online only. We have built a remote-first company, scattered around the world (read more about it here) so we are more than comfortable with video calls.

Make sure you come prepared with questions, your biggest problems. The session is 60 minutes long with a hard clock at the end. It is always good to have a pitch deck at hand, but it is up to you to decide whether the pitch is necessary to understand your situation.

As this is a free session we will come “as is”, so no preparation from our side is included. Yes, we mean it, sorry. But don’t worry and assume high empathy and intelligence on our side.

We try to be candid and get quickly to the point. As time is limited we might interrupt you where we feel we understand your situation. Our goal is to give you the most value in these 60 minutes. If we just listen for 55 minutes you will not get much out of the remaining five minutes. If you come unprepared, you will again take less with you.

As this is an online event, make sure you are not late by more than 3 minutes. After that, we’ll be out of the meeting and you’ll have to rebook.

If time permits, we usually ask, what is the biggest acceleration we can provide by connecting you with someone or making the impossible happen? We might be able to help you or get you introduced to someone that makes wonders happen. So be prepared with a big, goldfish-type wish.

Do not share information with us that you consider NDA worthy. We take this professionally and will not share your story or information with others without your permission. Such information is usually not necessary to provide you with help and guidance. However, we will not sign an NDA, so don’t even try that. The reason is simple: on the one hand, we provide this for free, without any strings, so why would you do this to us if we don’t do this to you. On the other hand, we have just too many sessions to remember the individual nuggets and would be breaching confidentiality unknowingly. If you insist on signing the NDA, we have a consulting contract with a retainer available to you that covers non-disclosure.

What’s next for our mentoring programme?

Lately, we have been discussing internally how we should bring this mentoring forward? We now have local, personal proximity to the Greater Toronto Area startup community and the Vienna Startup community through our subsidiaries in Canada and Austria, respectively.

We already supported companies like WindTak from Poland to succeed in the Smart Landing Program Canada and recently they became part of the MIT accelerator program in Europe.

For the future, we will keep the free sessions going as this is our way to pay it forward and help other entrepreneurs get off the ground.

We also decided to provide a special programme for more mature startups, but still in the early stage. We will narrow our focus and try to provide more value by selecting a few startups that we want to work within the long term. If you are in the B2B space — software or hardware, or in mental health, green tech, education or exponential technology, you might become one of the very few startups that we will guide and support for the next approx. 3 years. Due to our capacity limits, we can only take 1–2 new startups per year. This will include non-executive support for your startup in form of mentoring, counselling with regular check-ins for three years, with opt-out every 6 months. Hit us up if you are looking for such longer-term support, in exchange for equity.

If you think you are interested, you can book a free mentoring session here.

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AbilityMatrix

AbilityMatrix

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Customer experience strategy resulting in new or improved products and services. We measure customer experience and create strategies.