Digital Nashville launches innovation mentorship service
By Milt Capps Last Updated 6:33 AM Oct. 27, 2009
Digital Nashville has launched a mentorship program for corporate innovators, freelancers, entrepreneurs and others.In an announcement Saturday to the Digital Nashville community of about 2,000 registrants, DN Co-Founder and Managing Director Elin Mulron notified Digital Nashvillians the service is "up and running," with about 20 mentors already enlisted.
In subsequent e-mail exchanges with VNC, Mulron stressed that DN is launching its mentorship program "at a nimble scale [enabling DN to] improve the program continuously as we move forward." She said DN is "not announcing the mentor list at this time." There is no charge to participate in the mentoring program.
She also emphasized that DN mentorship is intended to complement, rather than compete with mentorship programs that are now or might in future be offered by other community-centered organizations; and, that the DN program is decidedly not weighted toward helping entrepreneurs recruit investment capital.
Mulron's fellow DN volunteer David Corts told VNC, "the program is designed to provide mentorship to all members of the digital community in Nashville. While we think it will provide great value to entrepreneurs in the digital space, it's in no way exclusive to entrepreneurs or folks actively seeking capital. In fact, we expect a great deal of interest from freelancers, corporate folks looking to learn more about digital, etc."
Corts' day-job is that of chief operating officer for Nashville-based StudioNow, which maintains a large and strategically important network of freelance talent.
Further, Mulron (at left) said, "In digital, we also have folks embedded in companies who need guidance in getting a handle on opportunities created by digital and the ways they can be innovative within their companies. Our mentorship program is therefore not just focused on mentorship for entrepreneurs, but also will offer mentorship opportunities to non-entrepreneurs trying to advance success or innovate for their employers."
Mulron also said, "Nashville needs good mentorship – it doesn’t matter who’s providing it, just that it’s being provided. We’re piloting our program in a way that could grow quickly if other organizations wanted our help with their mentorship programs, but is also on a scale that if other orgs want to go it alone there will still be plenty of room for them to do so. Either way, we just want to see the need filled well, as soon as possible. And we’re trying to do our small part in helping make that happen."
"Our program is designed to be educational," Mulron added. "It’s not about connecting capital; in fact we expect many of our mentees might be bootstrapped or already funded or for other reasons not even care about getting funding at this time. What our mentorship program is about is mentorship (guidance, advice, education).
She continued, "We want mentees in the program who really need good advice (not just seeking money), and we want mentors who really care about giving good advice. We also want our program to be about trust: a mentee needs to feel they can open up to their mentor about real problems he or she is facing, and get sage advice on how to handle those challenges. If the mentee is hoping to get capital from the mentor, that kind of honesty would be counterproductive to getting funded; but honesty is needed to get good advice. We’re focused on the latter."
VNC research suggests that among other local groups known to be considering mentorship programs are Nashville Entrepreneur Center (in formation) and Nashville Technology Council. Other recent discussions of the mentoring topic have also included Nashville Capital Network (NCN) and Tennessee Technology Development Corporation, among others.
NCN Executive Director Executive Director Sid Chambless (at left) told VNC this morning that "most people who come to us are actually seeking capital, and they wind-up getting coaching or mentoring," as well.
Chambless said, "Mentoring has always been a key part of what NCN's doing. Mentoring is a key part of angel investing," largely because "angel investors are typically entrepreneurs who have had some success" and are looking to share their experience and skills with other entrepreneurs who need their help, as well as their investment.
Representatives of NEC, NTC and TTDC have not yet responded to VNC queries placed this morning regarding their mentorship interests. This story will be updated, as warranted. ♦