Chris Etherington

Written by:

Chris Etherington

Partner

Mentoring in the tech sector

  • January 2020
  • 3 minutes

The UK tech sector is in a period of unprecedented growth, and with that comes new and varied challenges. Mentoring is increasingly becoming a way for new tech entrepreneurs to take these obstacles head-on, and ultimately expedite the growth of their firms. 

With the launch of RSM’s and NorthInvest’s Yorkshire based mentoring programme, Tech Mentors: Yorkshire, we felt it was time to identify the key challenges start-up and scale-up tech firms are facing and look at exactly how mentors are helping to address them. 

What is a mentor?

Mentor: an experienced and trusted adviser

Many forms of mentorship exist, in the context of a ‘business mentor’ we are typically describing an accomplished business leader that uses they’re acumen and experience to assist a new founder in quickly overcoming obstacles and putting in place a robust business plan. 

In a nutshell, a mentor’s role is to help their mentee develop the tools they need to ensure their business succeeds. 

Planning

Having a proper business plan in place is vital to establishing clear goals that will drive the growth of a business. 

Many Tech founders start to develop their product in university or while working on a technical team within another firm, meaning there can often be a business management experience gap which leads to planning and strategising not being a priority for the start-up’s or scale-up’s leader. 

A good mentor will have this experience. They will be able to assist their mentee with a high-level plan that ultimately guides the direction of their business. In addition, they can offer support on creating day to day guidance in areas such as developing a clear marketing strategy and route to market, or assisting with more long-term planning considerations like recruitment and talent requirements. 

A mentor will understand that while creating a business plan is a challenge in itself, a bigger task is ensuring it’s adhered to. As a ‘critical friend’ to their mentee, a mentor will make sure that any actions that have been agreed are followed up on, they create accountability and ensure that the founder they work with is exhibiting all the right behaviours to make their business grow. 

Funding

Software is a lucrative product, but it’s costly to produce and the talent, time and tools required for its development can see overheads quickly rising. This will inevitably impact revenue for the first few years that a firm is in operation, making it difficult to access traditional funding methods when looking to scale-up.

A mentor as an experienced business leader, will likely have been through funding rounds themselves. They will understand the process, options for alternative finance and the kinds of tools required to increase the likelihood of making a successful pitch. This will often include both an elevator pitch and a full pitch deck for use in proposing to potential investors; mentors will work with their mentee to refine and perfect these tools throughout their relationship. 

Equally importantly, mentors will have developed a network of fellow business leaders and professionals over their career. Introducing their mentee to this network can help to significantly increase the odds of making connections with individuals who could have an interest in providing funding. 

Mentoring carries a host of benefits for both the mentee and the mentor. If you are the founder of a tech start-up and you are interested in becoming a Tech Mentors: Yorkshire mentee, or are an experienced business leader and would like to try your hand at mentoring, contact Chris Etherington to find out more about joining the programme. 

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