If you spot a blur speeding through the bright, airy space occupied by Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars, it’s probably Danielle Cohn.
She’s the Executive Director of Entrepreneurial Engagement and the Head of LIFT Labs for Comcast NBCUniversal, and she moves fast. Officially, she’s the corporate liaison, but her true role is so much more. As she explained, “Really, our team was side by side with the startups the whole time they were in the program.” She and her team met with the 10 startups in the program every week, helping them refine what they were looking for from their other mentors. “We helped them hone in on the outcomes they were interested in. We’re about getting results.” She also helped them connect with business units within Comcast NBCUniversal that might be interested in giving them feedback.
Danielle is an entrepreneur, as well. “I’ve had a couple of startups myself,” she said. “I’ve always had a side passion project because I’ve found it keeps me fresh.” She’s the first to say how much she learns from other startups. “I work with startups every day, and it gives me a reality check when I have my own. You have to be extremely nimble; you’re doing it all for yourself!”
Her experience on both sides of the startup-corporate divide makes her the perfect bridge between these two such very different entities. She is determined that both the startups and her corporation get the most out of the accelerator—and during the 13 weeks of the program, eight startups got a pilot off the ground, an exceptional success rate. By the end of the calendar year, three companies had additional contracts with Comcast Cable, NBCUniversal, or DreamWorks, and all the rest were still working with some part of the corporation. Three of the companies now have a presence in Philadelphia.
How does she do it? She has four rules for herself—and other mentors. Here’s how to mentor—and Give First—like Danielle does:
1) Have fun doing this.
“Mentoring shouldn’t feel like a burden. It should feel like something you want to do,” Danielle says. If you don’t have the time, be honest—with yourself and with the founder—and bow out. Otherwise, let yourself enjoy the craziness of watching—and helping—a startup grow, change, and find itself over the course of 13 weeks. Or even beyond… Some mentors stay involved with the companies well after the accelerator program ends.
2) Be responsive.
“They only have 13 weeks. You’ve got to be responsive,” Danielle says, and you know she means it. Fortunately, she has some additional advice on how to do this well. “If you need to, bring someone to do your follow up. You’re going to walk out of the meeting with a to-do list of asks.” Someone has to do them—if not you, then your designated representative can look up names, make introductions, find that elusive bit of data that wasn’t at your fingertips when you wanted it. The important thing is that if you say you’ll do something, it gets done—fast.
3) Set expectations.
“Part of your responsibility as a mentor is helping the founder realize that 10 asks just isn’t realistic. They have to pick one to move forward with.” At least one at a time. Yes, you’re a mentor, but that doesn’t mean you have endless bandwidth. You can also help them understand which of their asks is going to do the most to get them where they want to go.
4) Be ready to learn.
“Mentoring is a very rewarding experience, and I highly recommend it.” Along with the pleasure of sharing knowledge comes the very real experience of learning from the entrepreneur you’re supposed to be mentoring. “I learn from startups all the time,” Danielle says.
Techstars connects the world’s largest corporations with the most promising technology startups. Learn more about becoming a Techstars partner!
Join us for the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, Powered by Techstars Demo Day in Philadelphia as our companies take the stage to present their businesses!
6:00 pm Cocktail hour & networking
7:00 pm Opening remarks & company presentations
8:45 pm Cocktail hour & celebrations
9:30 pm Closing
*Even though this is a free event, you must RSVP to attend. Also note that this event is by invitation only, so do not register for more than one ticket. If you would like to recommend someone to attend or have any questions, please contact Rachel Greenspan, Program Manager at Rachel.Greenspan@techstars.com.
RSVP NEEDED BY SUNDAY 10/7 at 11:59pm LATEST
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Applications are open now through April 8th for the first cohort of the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars! The program will take place July-October in Philadelphia, PA. Join us on March 7th to learn more about the program and the companies we are looking for. We’ll welcome Techstars alumni as they share their experiences, followed by a fireside chat with Burt Herman on his journey as an entrepreneur co-founding Storify (acquired by LiveFyre).
Get Funded: How to Pitch
Sunday, March 11th from 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Maya Baratz – Managing Director, Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator Powered by Techstars
Learn how to craft a compelling pitch for investors that will help your company get funded. This class will focus on teaching participants how to structure their pitch, how to build a complementary deck, and how to deliver the pitch to get the right result.
- Understand the different elements of a pitch, which elements are required and which can be left out
- Learn how to build the perfect deck to enhance your pitch
- Learn how to pitch in a variety of different settings
- Gain tips and tricks to make your pitch memorable
About the Instructor:
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Check out the full schedule of GA + SXSW 2018 Programming.