Mentoring Matters

by Don Rodriguez

Sometimes a person looking for advice only wants to talk with someone who has “been there.” That’s especially true in the technology community when entrepreneurs are trying to just get past the startup phase in the life cycle.

With that in mind, the Arizona Technology Council has launched VentureShip to provide mentoring by members who are startup founders. In short, the people who have been there. The startup phase is “certainly not as sexy as I think a lot of people think it is, and [the mentors] understand the real struggles such as the time away from your family,” says Lauren Witte, the Council’s director of marketing and communication.

The Council helped secure mentors for free one-on-one meetings staged at the recent Startup Week PHX, where mentees ranged from people in the idea phase to people in the scale and growth phase, Witte says. “I even mentored a student who was there to get a sense of what the startup community has to offer,” she says. The activity made it fitting that VentureShip was unveiled there during the Council’s appreciation mixer for the more than 100 mentors available during the week.

Actually, VentureShip is a relaunch of what formerly had been the Council’s Startup and Entrepreneurship Committee, only this time sharpening the focus toward serving an advisory board. “There are so many organizations in the Valley that are working to support the startup community, so we were trying to figure out where there might be some gaps,” Witte says. “We’re really trying to build a strategic and robust mentor network of true founders who know what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.”

The new direction coincides with the arrival of a new chair for the committee, Kimberly Roland, who is director of entrepreneurial programs at the Better Business Bureau of Central, Northern and Western Arizona. With Roland coming on board, Witte says, committee members felt the time was right for an update of the committee’s brand to help recruit more members.

The result is a new logo and even a tagline that is a slight play on the nautical theme implied by the word “ship”: No one should chart their course alone.

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