Understanding the Venture Mentor Network

Who can use the Venture Mentor Network (VMN)?

All current NYU students, faculty and staff are eligible to use VMN. In addition, all alumni of the Stern School of Business, regardless of your year of graduation (yes, even if it was from the School of Commerce) are also invited.

Is the VMN only for technology start-ups or is any type business eligible?

We are completely agnostic in regards to industry, products or markets. Whatever your idea or passion is, we’ll try to help.

What type of help can I get?

Our mentors have deep functional expertise in marketing, finance, operations and management. They also have experience in many fields such as life sciences, computer science and many different industries such as fashion, retail, manufacturing, food, etc.

What exactly is mentoring?

Entrepreneurs are faced with many challenges and must make many decisions almost always with less than full information and often very quickly. Being able to tap the expertise, resources and insights of those who have “been there, done that” can help accelerate your growth.

Mentors are not meant to be a substitute for a venture’s own management team, board of directors or paid advisers (e.g.,lawyer, accountants, etc.). Their role is simply to fill the experience and resource gaps hampering a venture’s growth.

Mentors are not magicians and they’re not miracle workers. The VMN should be viewed as just one tool at your disposal to help grow your business. While the VMN will do what  we can to help you succeed, the heavy lifting will fall on you and your team. Our job and the job of our mentors is simply to help lighten the load. Your success is ultimately your responsibility. Their focus is on helping you get from one mutually agreed upon milestone to the next.

Who are the mentors? What are their backgrounds?

Our mentors are successful entrepreneurs, executives and investors, with great depth and range of experience. They work with the VMN because they want to give back to the entrepreneurial community. They’re passionate about startups and find it interesting and exciting to work with high-potential firms.

How are mentors assigned?

They’re not. Mentors volunteer to work with those entrepreneurs with ventures that interest them and for which they feel they can add significant value through their know-how, industry experience, resources or contacts.

How long can I continue to get help?

As long as you want help and are willing to do the work and show progress, you are welcome to use the resources of VMN. It is likely that as your venture grows and conditions change, the skill set you need in your mentors will shift. When that happens, we help identify new mentors in our network to work with you.

Does it matter what stage my venture is in?

The Berkley Center works with ventures at all stages, from preliminary idea stage up though exit. However, access to the Venture Mentor Network is reserved for those ventures best positioned to take full advantage of the mentoring process. Entrepreneurs must be ready for mentoring and in a position to act on mentor suggestions. Based on past experience, traits that we typically look for but which are not required, include:
  • Committed, capable founder
  • Clarity of market position
  • Clearly-articulated business model
  • Demonstrable technology (if tech-based company)
  • Proof of concept
  • Customers and some revenue, even minimal
  • A written business plan
  • Founder/team’s ability to execute its vision
  • Willingness of entrepreneur to be coached

What if I don’t meet these requirements? Will the Berkley Center still help me?

Absolutely. Entrepreneurs deemed not yet ready for mentoring usually just need to more fully develop their venture ideas. The Berkley Center offers a variety of educational programs, help desks, resources, tools and technical assistance that will help you do just that.