UAlberta Venture Mentoring Service

FAQ

What are the goals of the program? What makes a mentorship relationship “successful”?

What are the requirements for participation as an entrepreneur? What is the intake process?

What are the requirements for participation as a mentor? How does the selection process occur?

How is VMS different from other mentorship programs on campus?

How is VMS different from other entrepreneurship programs?

How are the mentorship relationships formed? What will the mentorship sessions actually be like?

Where and how often do mentorship meetings occur?

Is there a limit to how long a venture can participate? 

What stages of ventures are eligible? Are any types of ventures ineligible?

Is there a cost associated with VMS participation?

 

What are the goals of the program? What makes a mentorship relationship “successful”?

The main goal of the VMS is to create excellent mentorship experiences for entrepreneurs, and therefore our measure of success will center on the development and satisfaction of the entrepreneur. The success of the venture, while important, comes second to the development of an entrepreneurial way of thinking that is useful to entrepreneurs, not only in the venture they are currently involved in, but, also for future endeavors. Failure can be a learning opportunity and even a success in terms of entrepreneurial growth - as long as the entrepreneur learns something, leaving them eager to take on the next challenge.

What are the requirements for participation as an entrepreneur? What is the intake process?

There are three simple requirements to take part in the UAlberta VMS program.

First, you must be a University of Alberta student or alumnus. You must also have a reasonably well thought out idea (or a very well thought out idea that has become a functioning venture), and you must be passionate and committed to the venture’s success (working on it full time, potentially in addition to studies for student entrepreneurs, or prepared to do so in the near future).

You must be ready to put in the work to develop your venture, bringing new issues and questions to your mentorship team.

Step 1: Fill out the application form

Step 2: If you meet the criteria of being a UAlberta student or alumni, you will meet with the VMS Chair and/or Manager. At this meeting, the entrepreneur may be “accepted” – which means they will be “pitched” out to the mentor pool; or they will be given “homework” which means they will be asked to complete some tasks (such as doing some research or talking to some potential customers) before they are ready for the program. The goal is to get entrepreneurs ready for mentorship – coming in with problems identified and potential solutions already brainstormed.

Step 3: Those entrepreneurs who are “pitched” to the mentor pool must have enough mentors (minimum three) to form their volunteer mentorship team. We are recruiting a diverse group of mentors with varying experiences and interests to give entrepreneurs from all areas the best possible chance of having a mentorship team. If this does not happen, the venture will be given some “homework” from the VMS Chair and Manager to improve their pitch and they can potentially re-pitch to the mentors once these tasks have been completed. 

What are the requirements for participation as a mentor? How does the selection process occur?

To become a mentor you need to meet several requirements. 

You must have significant experience in business development (this could be as an entrepreneur, or within an established venture, whether that be for-profit, non-profit, or social enterprise), and be prepared to offer objective, actionable feedback to entrepreneurs across a variety of venture types and stages of development.

VMS mentors accepted into the program will self-select the ventures they would like to mentor – this decision can be based on your area of interest or expertise, or it could simply be because a venture or entrepreneur is of interest to you. Each mentor will be expected to volunteer for one to three ventures at a time. Each venture you mentor will require, at most, two hours of commitment each month.

VMS mentors should not approach mentorship with the goal of selling services or investment (i.e. the relationship must be founded on the pure goal of providing entrepreneurial mentorship feedback). VMS mentors are expected to maintain a high standard of confidentiality regarding information shared with them by mentees. VMS takes conflict of interest seriously, and all mentors must adhere to policies surrounding investment/sales and confidentiality.  

To apply to become a VMS mentor, please fill out the application form.

How is VMS different from other mentorship programs on campus?

The VMS program provides a formalized, team-centric approach to mentorship that focuses as much or more on the entrepreneur’s growth as on the success of their venture.

There are many excellent mentorship programs offered at the University of Alberta. Many of these programs are aimed at career mentorship, while VMS is strictly focused on entrepreneurial mentorship. All VMS entrepreneurs must come into the program with a venture, and all mentors must have experience in venture development and growth. Mentors will also take part in formal training (initial founding mentors will take part in a one-day Massachusetts Institute of Technology training course).

How is VMS different from other entrepreneurship programs?

First, VMS is open to non-profit, cultural/artistic, social ventures, etc. Second, VMS is open to idea/concept stage entrepreneurs. Third, VMS is a program built by University of Alberta alumni for fellow alumni and students.

There are other great resources available for entrepreneurs in these areas (and we’re happy to point them out to entrepreneurs seeking additional support).

VMS is complementary to other incubators or mentorship programs. We will encourage VMS entrepreneurs to take advantage of other entrepreneurship and mentorship programs in parallel with VMS. For early stage entrepreneurs, we hope that VMS mentorship will guide them to the point where their venture is ready for the more intensive programs, resources, and funding opportunities available, which they can participate in while still being involved with VMS.

More resources, support, and options available to entrepreneurs will translate to greater chances of success for the venture, and greater chances of success for the entrepreneur as they build their venture, or move on to the next challenge, whether it be entrepreneurial or not.

How are the mentorship relationships formed? What will the mentorship sessions actually be like?

Entrepreneurs will first meet with the VMS Chair and Manager to make sure all of our requirements are met. At this meeting, the entrepreneur may be accepted – which means they will be “pitched” out to the mentor pool; or they will be given homework – they will be asked to complete some tasks (such as doing some research or talking to some potential customers) – before they are ready for the program. Those entrepreneurs that are “pitched” to the mentor pool must then have a enough mentors (minimum three) to form their mentorship team. A diverse group of mentors with varying experiences and interests will be recruited to give entrepreneurs from all areas the best possible chance of having a mentorship team volunteer. If this does not occur, the venture will be given some homework from the Chair and Manager to improve their pitch and can choose to re-apply once these tasks have been completed. 

Once a mentorship team is in place, a first meeting is scheduled. All subsequent mentorship sessions are organized by the entrepreneur, usually every one to two months. Meetings should last between 60-90 minutes and will be chaired by the lead mentor. This person will liaise with the VMS Manager about how the venture is progressing and to suggest any changes to the mentorship team, something we expect to happen as the venture grows. Before each meeting, the entrepreneur will send out an agenda listing topics for discussion and areas where guidance is needed. There is also an opportunity to discuss other matters as they arise. 

Each mentorship session must generate two to five actionable homework items for the entrepreneur – tasks that the mentors feel the entrepreneur should complete in the next several weeks to move the venture forward. It is up to the entrepreneur to either act on these recommendations or not. There is no requirement or expectation that entrepreneurs will act on the advice that they are offered. However, the mentorship team will expect to see progress, and new issues to offer advice on, at the next meeting. 

Where and how often do mentorship meetings occur?

Meetings occur a maximum of once per month on campus or downtown at Enterprise Square. Entrepreneurs submit a request to meet with their mentors to the VMS Manager, who then schedules a mentorship meeting that accommodates the mentors' calendars. 

Is there a limit to how long a venture can participate? 

No. As long as ventures are progressing, entrepreneurs are engaged and learning, and mentors are interested in mentoring them, the ventures and entrepreneurs are welcome to remain in the program. There are some additional responsibilities such as providing feedback, meeting reports, showing up for meetings, etc., required to remain in the program. 

What stages of ventures are eligible? Are any types of ventures ineligible?

All stages of ventures are eligible, as long as there is an idea, and some need for guidance and mentorship. We also encourage ventures to clearly identify how they can be differentiated or are novel in some way. Ideally the idea or concept must be something that isn't being done by many other people. 

Is there a cost associated with VMS participation?

No. The VMS program is free to University of Alberta students and alumni. Mentors participate on a purely voluntary basis and are not remunerated for their time.

If your question is not answered here please contact our VMS program manager.