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June 16, 2009

Start-Up Mentoring Program - First Growth Venture Network

We announced today a mentoring program for New York-based start-ups alongside a number of other VCs and Lowenstein Sandler.  More information can be found at:  www.firstgrowthvn.com

I was excited to be a part of starting this effort to provide more support and resources for fledging young start-ups in NYC and contribute to the start-up ecosystem.  I have been impressed with the quality of entrepreneurs and companies in NYC for a number of years now and have dedicated a day or two a month to get to know some of the players and leaders in the community.  When Ed Zimmerman of Lowenstein Sandler threw out this idea a number of months ago, it immediately resonated with me.  In many ways, it's taking a formula that has worked so well at MIT and Harvard - teaming former entrepreneurs, VCs and financial and legal advisors with young entrepreneurs - and applying it to NYC.

Anyway, very excited to be a part of it and it will be fun to see where it leads and to have a forum to collaborate with others to help contribute to the start-up ecosystem in NYC.  A nice article about the effort can be found at Xcomomy.

Anyone interested in joining the program can find information at the program's website at www.firstgrowthvn.com.


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This is good news for the whole startup ecosystem in NYC...there is a huge need for mentoring here. While Wilson Sonsini does a good job with their Entrepreneurs College, this sounds like it will be more from an entrepreneur and VC standpoint (as opposed to legal).

My family lives on the west coast and I constantly hear about all of the entrepreneur resources that are available there. I think NYC has a tremendous potential and this helps mature the startup ecosystem here. Thanks for helping to provide this service.

Thank you, Faraz. This program is definitely focused on putting the entrepreneur at the center.


How do you ensure that the VC's in your network respect the confidentiality of entrepreneurial ideas brought to them? Does first growth sign NDAs?

By putting a formal platform like first growth forward, you take on the responsibility of ensuring good behavior in its participants....

Otherwise, firstgrowth just becomes an el-cheapo deal/idea sourcing mechanism for most of its VC partipants...a majority (18 of 21 exec committee -- you're the exception) of whom have never even been startup founders...

It's a good concern. We won't be doing NDAs. I guess if someone is working on an idea whose very revelation might "spoil" it, they should proceed with caution - the minority of situations I'd think. The program may not be for everyone. One thing I've learned over the years is ideas are easy but execution is where value is created (as Edison noted - 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration!).

Thanks Jeff. But I expect more from a former entrepreneur.

"The ideas are easy execution is hard" is cliche used by people who have lots of money to throw around. If an entrepreneur had a billion dollars to spare, his execution would skyrocket and buying his way to execution becomes so easy. Excess capital is a resource so let's not spoil your answer with that particular cliche.

Seriously, how do you plan to avoid moral hazard?

Hi Jeff -- speaking of mentoring entrepreneurs, I just browsed over to the techstars boston mentor site and saw that you weren't on there. Do you have any plans to get involved in the mentoring wave here in Boston?

Also, I second the concern about confidentiality and NDA's. I'm guessing a lot of younger entrepreneurs are going to be a little wary of approaching older established ones without knowing that the mentoring is really that, and not something where they could potentially get burned.


JC - I have met a number of times with Shawn Broderick at Tech Stars Boston (we are old friends from Athena Design days) and we are excited to participate as mentors there. Our associate, Matt Withheiler, will probably play point.

Thanks for catching me on over simplifying, but I do think that to be effective mentors, VCs will need to be trusted. The program won't be for everyone. We tried to be careful in the particular investment professionals and firms we picked in joining the program to ensure high liklihood that everyone's priorities and ethics will be in the right place.


Thank you for your very valuable blog posts! I live in the sf bay area and have just launched a career transformation company. I am sure there are many start-up mentoring programs in my area but I would welcome a recommendation.

How has this program progressed since its launch?

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It’s been a huge hit. We’ve had 3 years of 4 “classes” and they’ve gone on to do great things, including BirchBox, BaubbleBar.com, Adapt.ly and many others.  The website is www.firstgrowthvn.com.   

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