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Results from 2014 show the Skolkovo Mentor Program to be popular, with many resident startups urging the foundation to find more mentors.
The program was launched in the second half of 2014 with the aim of pairing successful, experienced businesspeople with protégés who have game-changing innovations but need help commercializing them. It is a pillar of the Skolkovo Foundation’s drive to create a culture of entrepreneurship in Russia by borrowing expertise from captains of industry.
“Our startups welcome the mentorship program but some have trouble finding the exact mentor they need,” said Evgeny Taubkin, director of the Skolkovo Investment Service. “This shows the program has huge potential and room for improvement.”
A survey of 38 resident companies conducted by Skolkovo’s acceleration department yielded very positive results, with all startups ranking the program at 3.9 or higher on a five-point scale according to three criteria: The usefulness of the mentor for the purposes of the project; how qualified the mentor is perceived to be; and an overall score for the program.
Since the first mentor-protégé match was made in August, 79 mentors and 68 protégés have signed up for the program, with 28 pairings and a 19 more awaiting registration.
Asked to give free feedback of any kind, many companies commented that there needed to be a wider variety of mentors from which to choose.
“We just need a bigger pool of mentors,” a representative from software company Simmakers noted. “And since most startups seek investors, it makes sense to attract more mentors from the world of investment. Business developers with experience are also useful,” the company said.
IT firm Aktualog asked for more mentors from the B2B sector, while space rocket innovators Lin Industrial craved a second mentor who could provide advice on attracting targeted investment.
Speech recognition specialists IBRiS would welcome more foreign mentors and those who have grown startups into big multinationals such as David Yang.
The program seeks to create useful and active mentor-protégé pairings, with meetings occurring roughly once a month.
Thirty-seven percent of respondents, the largest proportion, said they met at least every two weeks, with 26 percent getting together once a month. Sixteen percent of pairings saw each other at least once a week, while 21 percent met up less than once a month.
The overwhelming majority (79%) of meetings were organized at the behest of the startups rather than the mentors.
In 2015, Skolkovo hopes to double the number of mentors and overall pairings. The program is open to all-comers; the application form to become a mentor can be found on the sk.ru website here.