The first UT Freshman Founders Panel of the year was comprised of a diverse group of panelists that represented the Austin entrepreneurship community. Panelists included John Arrow, founder and chairman of Mutual Mobile, Dr. Michael Patten, CEO of the Texas Medical Device Accelerator and Laura Kilcrease, McCombs Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Various other mentors were also present to have their brains picked at by the freshman founders for their entrepreneurial endeavors. UT’s own, Nick Spiller, fielded the Q & A portion of the night. The advice gained from the panelists was inciteful and helpful, so we thought it’d be a great idea to share it with you! Here are the main points…
Nick Spiller: Time for our Freshman Founders to do a little self-reflection. What are some good/bad traits of first-time entrepreneurs?
John Arrow: One of the best attributes I see of entrepreneurs is the desire to try something. One of the worst traits is the almost dogmatic approach of trying to raise capital…often times that takes over the mind of the entrepreneur.
Laura Kilcrease: The great thing about entrepreneurs is that they have a vision and are optimistic; minus side is that they are optimistic without optimization. A really great entrepreneur knows their strengths and knows where to go to get help.
Michael Patton: One of the great things is understanding why you want to do it. To make money, provide a service?…Key to seek out…the best mentors who have gone through area of interest you have gone through…listen to both good and bad experiences as you’re working w/ mentors or with companies….be as professional and respectful as you can. Sometimes you see entrepreneurs who might have too much of an ego.
NS: Tonight may be the first time a lot of our Freshman Founders have had interactions with such amazing mentors. What is some good advice for student entrepreneurs meeting with potential mentors for the first time?
MP: The realities of the mentor’s time, being prepared, being on time, following up…on things you were supposed to do.
LK: Come prepared. How much is an hour of time worth?…loss to you about what you can learn…come prepared w/ what you want to discuss. Respect the time with that person…we all have the same [24 hours] time. Understand that if your mentor/mentee relationship works out well for you, mentor can give you something more valuable than any money can give you (experience)…be serious about the time and have fun w/ the person who is going to be your mentor….at any point in life, you can’t have more than 5 serious mentors at any stage….meet with them regularly.
JA: Be upfront about your intentions…be skeptical of your mentor…advice for your specific venture might not be applicable…make sure that the mentor that you choose has already achieved your objective…already better at you at something.
NS: After making the initial connection, how should student entrepreneurs go about developing a productive relationship with the potential mentor?
LK: Determination of what you think is productive…understand that the path [to success] isn’t linear…to get value in that relationship…the best relationships have turned into long term friendships as well.
JA: Help them feel involved in your company. If you tried something and it worked…or failed, let them know…update them on the status of your business.
MP: Be genuine, go out of your way to show initiative…bring some value back…don’t push too hard [on company], listen to competitive analysis before you jump out there with both feet.
NS: Lets pretend the entrepreneur has now developed a great relationship with a mentor. They’ve been through some wins and some losses. The entrepreneur wants to make the mentor an investor in their new startup. How should that entrepreneur approach the mentor about backing their new startup?
JA: It should be like an evolution…mentor and entrepreneur should arrive at that place at the same time…if mentor is brought into your business, they’ll want to add value… the worst type of arrangement is using mentor meetings to get capital.
LK: There has to be a very strong friend relationship…think about 3 Fs (family, friend, fool)…anyone putting money in you is expecting a return…be aware that relationship might change a little bit.
MP: If you choose the right mentor, they can do a good job of…fundraising for you…the more you’re out there networking, get some press, it’s more natural to not appear so hungry.