Mentor and panelist Guide: Role of 3 Day Startup Mentors and panelists
3 Day Startup is a entrepreneurship education program designed for university students with an emphasis on learning by doing. Our mission is to help kick-start new student-run companies and build entrepreneurial capabilities in students and their university communities. 3DS has run over 300 programs on 6 continents which have launched scores of companies receiving millions in funding. Many 3DS companies have been accepted to prestigious accelerators such as Y Combinator, TechStars, 500 Startups, and Capital Factory.
At 3 Day Startup, participants are encouraged to share their ideas with as many people as possible to get feedback and learn about their customers.
Roles involved in executing a 3 Day Startup
- Facilitator – an experienced 3DS veteran with substantial experience running programs, leading mentorship teams and connecting participants to our global network. The facilitator will represent the face of 3DS at the program.
- Lead organizer – a student or professor on the ground that has spent months executing and overseeing all daily operations. For our lead organizers, no job is too big, and no detail is too small.
- 3DS Program Manager – A member of the 3DS global team is helping every step along the way from our headquarters in Austin. The 3DS model has been fine-tuned from years of experience, and our program manager works closely with the lead organizer and facilitator to make sure that every component of the program is in place and running smoothly.
Now that you understand the roles involved in running a 3 Day Startup, what is the role of mentors and panelists? Your role is to provide guidance to students to help them create and deliver an investor pitch and potentially a working demo at the end of the three days. There is no “winner” and there is no prize money; these elements tend to encourage short term thinking at the expense of the education of the entrepreneur and successful long-term company creation outcomes. Your interaction with the students should echo the larger goals of 3DS: demystify the startup process, encourage them to charge ahead on their entrepreneurial endeavors, and engage and support their university entrepreneurship community.
The following are great questions to focus on when mentoring student teams or asking questions as a panelist:
- What does your venture do? What problem are you solving? (Ask this question to start every mentor session. This helps keep teams focused on the big picture, not just the details)
- Do people want this service or product? What feedback backs up your theory that people want this?
- Who are your initial customers? How well do you understand their needs?
- How will you generate revenue (doesn’t have to be massive profits, but should have something)?
- What are your benchmarks (early indicators of whether your startup is viable)?
- What can your team accomplish at 3DS?
Most 3 Day Startup programs intentionally de-emphasize:
- Business plans
- Long term financial planning
- Legal questions (definitely important, just not now)
- Rapid scaling plan
What to watch for:
- Are teams asking hard questions?
- Are teams focused on a minimum viable product that solves a problem?
- Are teams getting sidetracked?
- Are teams getting bogged down by features rather than making something simple and effective that solves a problem?
- Are you (in your role as a mentor) over-emphasizing your area of expertise? For example, we encourage CFO mentors to avoid focusing on 15 year financial plans and we encourage legal experts to avoid going into extreme depth on the merits of LLCs vs. C-corps. At a 3DS program, the most effective mentors focus on the here and now of creating a product that users and customers want.