Today I participated in a very exciting event which culminated with an announcement by Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts with an important funding milestone – a $1 million annual business plan competition called MassChallenge.
The essence of this announcement is to match the next generation of young aspiring entrepreneurs with numerous sources of capital, most likely local venture capitalists. The Governor has committed the State to match dollars committed by private sector investors to the top entrepreneurs who survive the MassChallenge screening process.
During the course of the events today, my good friend Andy Ory (CEO of Acme Packet) and I moderated a panel stocked with local success stories: Desh Deshpande, Paul Sagan of Akamai, Bob Hower of Advanced Technology Ventures, Scott Savitz of Shoebuy.com, and Brian Shin of Visible Measures. We explored what was and was not working in the region as we try to build great venture-backed companies.
One consistent theme which the panel identified was the lack of broad-based mentorship to help this next generation of great entrepreneurs get started. So here is the commitment that Andy and I made to the audience today: we will recruit 12 great successful CEO’s to work with 12 VC’s to mentor 12 promising young entrepreneurs to launch 12 new companies over the next 12 months. (Admittedly I stated to the audience that it would be 20 in the first year, but upon reflection the alliteration of “12” worked much better).
Office Hours: So what I will pursue over the next few months with Andy Ory is to see if we can establish “office hours” – that is can we get a dozen successful CEO’s in town to commit to open up their calendars and rolodexes to a dozen promising entrepreneurs. Ideally these CEO’s would serve as non-executive chairmen and possibly provide some initial capital, but more importantly, they would provide guidance and advice. VC’s get paid to see new opportunities so it should be reasonably straight forward for me to line up the investors (maybe I will lean on the board of New England Venture Capital Association, which I happen to chair). And working with organizations such as MassChallenge, and our own deal flow, we should be able to identify a dozen great opportunities which merit funding.
I will keep you posted on our progress.