The District 3 business mentoring program has seen major growth over the past year
In the year since the National Bank donated $2 million to MentorConnect, the business mentorship program has seen continued growth. Housed at Concordia’s District 3 Innovation Hub, the initiative helps startups transition their companies into established firms with the support of experienced volunteer mentors.
The MentorConnect framework launched at District 3 in 2020 and now boasts 32 mentors, 17 active startup teams and 14 alumni small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME). Mentors have provided more than 1,000 hours of services this year alone.
The program provides an inclusive, collaborative environment for visionaries to scale up their businesses. Licensed from the MIT Venture Mentoring Service in Boston, MentorConnect’s unique pairing of three mentors with each startup ensures that their invaluable expertise and knowledge is shared with the mentees.
“MentorConnect is a very rich place in terms of knowledge because you’re bringing in the chemistry of the co-founders and their mentors,” says Xavier-Henri Hervé, BEng 87, DSc 11, co-founder and executive director at District 3.
The mentors are generally experts in their field and join the program with the desire to give back to the community without bias or self-interest. MentorConnect fosters a safe space that allows new ventures to maximize their potential as they collaborate with seasoned mentors who cannot take equity or invest in the companies they are mentoring. They are also bound by confidentiality agreements.
Since Marion Kressmann joined the MentorConnect team as director of program development in January 2022, she has seen a steady increase in applications from startups seeking to accelerate their journey to being established businesses. Kressmann says she came on board with the goal of garnering more visibility for the program and making it shine within the Quebec entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“MentorConnect is a rare opportunity for a busy entrepreneur to get some perspective on their business,” she explains. “More than an advisory committee, it allows for the entrepreneur to share every part of their journey with their mentors and receive the best advice in return.”
‘Invaluable for first-time entrepreneurs’
Cedric Piasco is president and co-founder of AzurDev, a patient engagement platform dedicated to improving experience quality in hospitals and seniors’ homes. “MentorConnect helps us to accelerate the development of our company by focusing more on market demand,” Piasco shares.
NameShouts is another company that has benefited from MentorConnect’s services. The online tool is simplifying the way people make first connections through an intuitive and universal name pronunciation service.
“MentorConnect is invaluable for first-time entrepreneurs,” says Naureen Anwar, CEO and co-founder of NameShouts. “You get personalized coaching from mentors who have been in the trenches – they can give you tailored advice regarding your company strategy and direction.”
Timothée Régnier is co-founder of RecharjMe, a company offering on-site rest cabins to re-energize employees at work.
“The work sessions with our mentors at MentorConnect allow us to develop a more strategic and long-term vision, which is necessary for sustainable growth,” Régnier says.
The National Bank’s donation has been pivotal in supporting the advancement of startups like these in the last year, especially during economically tumultuous times. Thanks in part to the donation, the MentorConnect team will continue to maintain and build its knowledge-rich environment.