Microsoft Ventures: Make the Most of Startup Mentors

One of the most significant reasons a startup will join an accelerator is for the network and access to mentors. The quality of mentors in the program will often make or break an accelerator’s reputation throughout startup ecosystems. Brad Feld, who created Techstars, has shared his thoughts on how accelerators must be mentor-driven and should surround the startup founders with a very large network of quality mentors. The Microsoft Ventures program seeks to provide mentors from within the Microsoft organization with the additional benefit of the access to a diverse network of business leaders, investors, and successful entrepreneurs.

According to the Digital Work program guidelines, “Microsoft does have strong competencies in both the technology and the business of building scalable software products, services and platforms and these mentors will be available. But mentors will also be engaged from across industries in both business and technology. There is no intent to constrain the mentors to one field or one set of companies. Our goal is to create an exhaustive, broad industry and investor support for the selected companies.”

One of the most important things for startup founders to remember while participating in accelerator programs is to make full use of the mentors available and reach out directly to the mentors themselves. Ben Yoskovitz shared this post on how to make the most out of the mentorship program within an accelerator. In it, he points out these key points:

  • Understand their specialties.
  • Get to the point.
  • Engage with them on social media.
  • Take the training sessions seriously.

The Digital Work Accelerator has featured dozens of mentors to aid founders in the Digital Work Accelerator. Notables among them include:

Teresa Stigler Director, Corporate Development at Starbucks Corporation with broad experience in financial technology including payments, mobile, loyalty, wealth management, and capital markets. Specializes in helping earlier stage companies manage revenue, funding, and expense management issues, recruiting talent, board formation.

Vamsi Sistla CTO at OfferBoard, with a focus on technology entrepreneurship, especially in social and impact work and education.

Todd Terbeek Business Development and Alliances Leader at Citrix, having had five successful exits for venture-backed startups. More than twenty years of experience starting and leading companies in Mobile, Cloud, Virtualization, Enterprise Software, Network Management, Security and E-commerce, from startups to Fortune 200 Public Companies.

Rebecca Norlander from Health123 and Member, Mentor and HealthCare Transformer at StartUp Health Technology Access Foundation Academy (TAFA) and multiple social good organizations across the Pacific Northwest.

Michael Mott Strategic Business Development & Operations Executive at Sonos, an entrepreneur with the drive to achieve bold business goals and the operational skill to catalyze action and lasting results, having started new ventures, expanded businesses, and scaled up profitable operations. Specializes in business development, strategy development, partnerships, negotiations, acquisitions, new business creation, and international management.

Rebecca Lovell Startup Liaison at City of Seattle and entrepreneur enthusiast. Mentor, coach, and matchmaker. Instructor and operator. Startup yenta as a mentor for several accelerators, board member for UW Foster School of Business, instructor in the UW MBA program.

Dan Lieberman Senior Director at SmartThings, responsible for platform strategy and experienced in working with developers, makers, and partners to bring new devices and meaningful experiences to the Physical Graph.

Adam Benzion Adam is the co-founder of Hackster, a global community for hardware hackers and starters. A Microsoft alumni and a hardware entrepreneur, Adam moderates The Hardware Startup group on LinkedIn and writes for The Next Web.

Brad Burke Chief Technical Officer at Networked Insights with more than 18 years of technology development and leadership experience, Brad has a proven record delivering results for data-centric companies. As the CTO of Networked Insights, Brad has over seen the development of the next generation platform for data consumption, aggregating, and analysis, with specialties in big data, hadoop, storm, elastic search, solr, lucene, technology start-ups, technology leadership, cloud platforms.

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