New mentor programme for pre-startups launched at DTU

Tuesday 12 Mar 19

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Jens Friholm
Senior Innovation Officer, Business Development
Office for Innovation and Sector Services
+4593 92 82 42

A new mentor programme for pre-startups was officially launched at DTU last month. The programme will help young DTU entrepreneurs turn their inventions into successful businesses by facilitating early stage mentor meetings. 

The initiative is made in collaboration with DTU Science Park and draws upon 75 active industry professionals.

DTU’s pre-startup mentor programme has gone live with its first round of mentor runs for DTU teams. Each mentor run begins with matching the pre-startup with the best available mentors. This is a key part of the programme where the wide range of the 75 industry professionals’ competences and ability to work with the teams come into play. Each team will be assigned three mentors to cover different aspects of their start-up case.

Early mentoring to make stronger impact

The mentor programme aims to support the DTU entrepreneurs at an early stage in order to make a stronger impact and upscale the upcoming start-ups faster. Steen Skjold-Jørgensen is one of the mentors who will bring his experience with product development and upscaling business to the programme after over 30 years of management experience at Novo Nordisk and Novozymes.

"It makes perfect sense to start working with teams as early as possible"
Steen Skjold-Jørgensen

One of the mentors’ most important roles will be to bring new things to the table and steer the young entrepreneurs’ mindset in a more business oriented direction. “It’s the delicate balance of not creating more chaos, but bringing new potential solutions and opportunities to the table without dictating them. A lot of business strategies are common sense. We believe the teams will be ready to take it on even if they are working with an early idea”, says Steen Skjold-Jørgensen about working with early teams.

“It makes perfect sense to start working with teams as early as possible. I expect they will be more open to feedback early in their processThe earlier the start-up team, the more of a difference a mentor can make”, says Steen Skjold-Jørgensen. The mentor programme will help the teams make the right calls and sometimes that involves a change of course. In those cases, it is invaluable to have mentors who can help them in the right direction.

 

It’s all about people

The diversity at the mentor corps is among the things that makes the programme professional. Each team will have a customised combination of mentors designed specifically to meet their requirements. And when it comes down to it, mentoring is all about people and mutual trust.

“A good mentor team has mentors that represent the specific industry and mentors who know what a team means as well as how to work strategic and tactical with people and teams as a resource. We must focus on meeting the teams on their own turf, and help them to find out when they perform the best”, says Dorte Krogh who has several years' of mentoring experience from working with more mature start-ups at DTU.

As a mentor, Dorte Krogh primarily works with business culture and helps the pre-startups put the best teams together and create the best environment for building a business. Starting a company is all about bringing the right people, with the right skills and ideas together, and making sure they work as a team.

“In the pre-startup mentor programme we aim to work through mutual trust to reach a common focus. A good mentor knows this by heart, but there is also such a thing as a good mentee. It’s about being willing to reflect and willing to listen”, says Dorte Krogh while explaining the finer details of mentoring.

Dorte Krogh draws on some of the things she wishes she knew as a young entrepreneur. She explains that, “a part of being a mentor is to teach the teams that they don’t have to do everything themselves. It’s about identifying strengths and outsourcing the right thingsIt’s often an enormous relief for start-up teams to discover that they are not on their own”.

The ultimate value

A collaboration in the form of mentorship is advantageous for both the university and the industry - great things can happen when academia and industry work together.

“The DTU pre-startups get experienced and professional business advice that provides an insight into the real world and eliminates some of the naiveté that exists in universities about what things are actually worth. Meanwhile industry has the advantage of bringing DTU’s enormous knowledge on the market and into society”, Steen Skjold-Jørgensen concludes when asked about the value of the programme. 

The DTU pre-startup mentor programme will start out with 25 teams in 2019, and is expected to scale up quickly from there. A new co-founder programme is also in the pipeline and will be developed throughout 2019.

 

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