Leading Entrepreneurial Mentoring Research

The purpose of this research is to study what helps entrepreneurial mentoring programs be most effective and to gain insight into mentee-mentee relationship dynamics.

This research project began when the Kauffman Foundation partnered with the University of Michigan and EFN to bring together a group of partners to conduct a large scale study on Entrepreneurial Mentoring.  33 partners advised the team and sent out the surveys including universities, the National Science Foundation’s i-Corps™ programs, and private accelerators including Techstars.

The 2016-2017 survey resulted is the largest U.S study to date on entrepreneurial mentoring – “Mentoring in Startup Ecosystems” -that examines success factors in mentoring.  Respondents included 820 people from university and private accelerator programs: entrepreneurs, founders, students, researchers, mentors, investors, company executives, university faculty and staff and program directors.

Engage with the team and research on Twitter and LinkedIn. Read articles, testimonials, and see the full list of universities and accelerators that participated.

The 2018 surveys update the 2016-2017 instruments.   The 2018 research has engaged several hundred respondents so far from more than a dozen universities and private accelerators.  Please contact EFN to inquire about using the surveys.

The big takeaway from the 2017 study is clear!  Mentoring is fundamental to entrepreneurial success but founders must be committed to the process and mentors must be highly qualified and fit well with entrepreneurs. The vast majority of entrepreneurs believe that mentorship has contributed to their ventures’ success.  However, entrepreneurs benefit commensurate with their  perspective and commitment to learning (i.e., growth mindset) and capacity to establish and sustain mentoring relationships including frequent interactions and meetings.

The study addresses several key questions.

  • What is mentoring and what value does it contribute?
  • What constitutes an effective mentoring program and who is qualified to be a mentor?
  • What kinds of assumptions and expectations do the participants have?
  • What are the critically important success factors that contribute to valuable outcomes?
  • How can the mentoring process be further improved?
  • How can mentoring and coaching be learned?
  • How can entrepreneurs and mentors be trained so they can benefit more from mentoring programs?

The 2018 survey reflects findings and lessons learned from the 2017 study.  For instance, the 2018 surveys do not delve into research questions resolved in the 2017 study, such as preferred methods for mentor selection and matching. The 2018 surveys focus more on helping programs evaluate satisfaction, performance and outcomes.   Additional focus areas further investigate prior research, such as, on the interpersonal qualities and factors that contribute to developing and strengthening strong and ongoing mentoring relationships.

The study and continuing research gives universities and private accelerators powerful new insight on mentoring program design, structure and training.

Learn about the Leaders and Advisory Board members from top universities, the Kauffman Foundation and the National Science Foundation. Our authors and co-authors are Dr. Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, Dr. David Brophy, Thomas Jensen, Dr. Melanie Milovac, and Dr. Evgeny Kagan.

To help build the entrepreneurial community and implement the research findings, we have launched the Mentoring Leadership and Excellence (MLX) Forum, a Community of Practice.  MLX will give everyone in the community opportunities to share their ideas to improve high quality entrepreneurial mentoring.  To become a member of MLX, please subscribe to EFN Online and search for MLX.

Download the Report – Mentoring in Startup Ecosystems

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