The FLOW Mentoring Program

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Thank you for volunteering your time and expertise to help these young entrepreneurs realize their dreams in starting a company. You will be joining over 70 experts from industry, finance, Academia and the service industry.

Program's Mission

The FLOW mentoring program achieves two goals:

Provide contestants with expert guidance in starting a viable enterprise
Grow companies and encourage young innovators to become the entrepreneurial leaders of tomorrow

Mentors are expected to work closely with teams to help them define their business model, formalize their business structure, acquire resources, build their team and in general, help them align their approach towards meeting business goals.

Competition Expectations

The winner of the FLOW competition will be as close to investor ready as possible. By the final round, it is expected that contestants should have defined their product prospects and target market, talked to customers, possibly incorporated or be in the process, defined their IP strategy, and begun to file patents, prepared a workable business plan and be practiced in giving a winning presentation.

However, FLOW projects range widely, from transformational ideas to business ready companies. Many of these young people are new to the world of business but intensely interested in the entrepreneurial process. Mentors typically find it rewarding to guide these young innovators, and to foster their excitement about eventually starting their own technology business. With this in mind, the mentor's role here is to counsel, not direct. Mentors serve the teams well by acting as a sounding board and questioning assumptions, and helping them to define priorities.

Mentoring Areas of Expertise

Mentors may be asked to help with any of these areas:

  • Lean approach to building a business model
  • Refining the business model/plan
  • Product validation
  • Refining the pitch presentation
  • Team building
  • Introduction to investors
  • Market and customer identification
  • Implement the sales process
  • Seeking investment, capital use
  • Intellectual property
  • Technology development and validation
  • Connecting with customers
  • Prototyping, scale up and manufacturing

FLOW Mentorship Roles

There are two types of FLOW Mentors and you may select your preferred category:

Lead Mentors will be assigned to one team for the duration of the competition and we ask that you try to meet at least once, to set goals and milestones, and in general get to know each other. Mentors then should give a minimum of two hours a week for the duration of the competition, although this is a matter of the mentor's choice. Lead mentors provide general support and feedback across all areas of the business. Every effort will be made to match lead mentors with teams in your locale.

Mentors will be matched as soon as possible after the close of submissions.

Your role as a Lead Mentor:

  • Coach Teams through business model development and business plan and presentation preparation
  • Provide feedback on all aspects of the business
  • Make connections to key resources
  • Liaise with specialist mentors to provide a cohesive program of support for the teams
  • Help team develop product concept and identify market
  • Time commitment: (recommended) a minimum of 4 hours a month.

The Matching Process

After a team is accepted as a semi-finalist they will be required to seek mentorship by filling out their profile. FLOW will use a matching system to pair mentors with student teams based on the mentor's expertise and field of interest, the cleantech sector, geographic location, the team's stated needs, and company stage of development. Teams will be drawn from throughout the Western Region, which includes Alaska, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, American Samoa and Guam.

Typically FLOW teams need most help in business modeling (including a risk mitigation strategy), defining the company's initial minimal viable product and customers, and making a winning pitch.

In joining, the FLOW mentors commit to supporting the program throughout the FLOW competitive process.

Rules and Guidelines

  • For the duration of the competition you must not contact any of the competition judges.
  • The Mentor can only sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) on their own behalf, not the competition's
  • Mentors cannot become officers of the company, act as employees, join a company advisory board or acquire a financial interest in the company during the competition. However, once the National Competition is completed, the teams can form any business arrangement that is appropriate for their business.
  • Mentors are required to recuse themselves from mentoring a team if they are active advisors or investors in a potential direct competitor.
  • Lead Mentors cannot advise competing companies in the same category

Mentoring Tips

  • Set an agreed period for working together, to avoid the mentorship becoming an open-ended arrangement. That is unfair on your time!
  • Every effort will be made to match you with a team near you but if your team is not local then consider setting up a Skype of Google Hangout meeting.
  • Help teams recognize when they need to bring in other resources, including other mentors. This will be an important to help them understand their own limitations and how to build a supportive network.
  • Help teams set and meet goals and milestones.

Contact FLOW for Additional Information

Address Stephanie C. Yanchinski
Executive Director, FLOW
California Institute of Technology
Earle M. Jorgensen Laboratory, Rm. 141
M/C 132-80
1200 E. California Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91125
Phone Office: 626-395-1968
Cell: 626-818-5092