How to work with startup mentors - notes from Microsoft Ventures Accelerator

Microsoft Ventures Accelerator (MSVA) in Berlin has a small but quality network of mentors coming from different backgrounds - corporate employees, suppliers, former or current founders. If you choose your mentors right - as we did with Portadi - it can make all the difference. Portadi is a SaaS product for B2B customers and a strong mentor network was key for us when we evaluated various accelerators.

Each startup in our MSVA Spring 2015 Batch works with one to three mentors. Mentor matching happens within the first two weeks. It is set up as a speed dating event, you meet with each mentor for about five minutes. Afterwards each party writes down their preferred choices and — if there’s a match — you have a mentor. The mentor works with you during the entire program and often stays in contact after the program has completed.

You obviously have access to the entire mentor network but you may run into time constraints with those who already help other teams.

Stefan Jørgensen, co-founder/CEO of Itembase

Stefan Jørgensen
Through the accelerator we connected with two excellent mentors. One of them is a Viking and a serial entrepreneur Stefan Jørgensen. While the Danes can’t make up their minds about the letters they would like to use in their names and cross out some they don’t like, they are really determined to win — and Stefan is no exception.

Stefan is a co-founder and CEO of Itembase. He is a sort of a celebrity in the Berlin startup scene. He is also a really cool guy who doesn’t shy away from using a swear word. Stefan is a big expert on customer acquisition strategies who helped us focus on the right metrics.

Jochen Hummel, founder/CEO of ESTeam

Jochen Hummel
We also work with Jochen Hummel, founder of Trados and CEO of Coreon and ESTeam. Coincidently, in my prior company, I introduced Trados to our development team.

Jochen is the type of a mentor you wish you always had by your side - few answers, just questions. He keeps asking the right questions — mainly those that hurt and often start with How or Why. After a little while you’ll see what he wants you to see and eventually you are able to ask your own questions and find your own answers. Jochen’s guidance on our go-to-market, operations and management was simply excellent.

How we worked with mentors

Each team in Batch #3 had a different system for working with mentors: Quantified Code met mostly over Skype, Tripdelta had most meetings in person and some over the phone. The quantity varied based on the availability of mentors; Tandemploy and Skoove had about 5 sessions over the course of three months.

We had in-person meetings with each mentor every other week. We decided to do early morning breakfasts, well before the daily rush started for all of us. Every Wednesday evening we sent our mentors a weekly report with our KPIs, goals and challenges. The mentors essentially formed our board which turned out very useful.

Stefan, Jochen — Thank you guys!

You can see all of the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator Berlin mentors at

Other blog posts in the series
Behind the scenes of the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator
Daily life at the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator Berlin
How to apply to the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator
Key learnings from our first month in Berlin
Every company needs a garage. We found ours in Berlin.

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