02. May 2019
Would you rather have a mentor, or a dedicated co-pilot?
Can you imagine the startup scene without mentoring? No? Neither can we. However, we believe the founder–mentor relationship as we know it today can and should be improved, so we're introducing a new concept of co-pilots – highly skilled professionals that become a “direct component” of a startup instead of an external advisor.
Are you saying that mentoring is flawed?
Not at all. Let's face it, though. Mentors are extremely busy professionals who can only do so much. In most cases, they allocate a certain amount of time for a given project each month, and they must (understandably) shift their attention elsewhere at other times. The founder is then left to cope with their thoughts, insecurities and worries alone.
A co-pilot – at least the way we perceive such a role at UP21, becomes one of the core members of the startup's team.
With the concept of co-pilots, we're not trying to change the role of mentors. Quite the opposite. We're building on it, and we're moving the co-pilot to a position where they feel higher responsibility for the advice and recommendations they give to the startup. I believe that by strengthening the relationship between founders and co-pilots, we can help startups move forward faster and with higher efficiency.”
Vítek Šubert, co-founder and CEO UP21
Mentor vs. co-pilot in real life
Just like a mentor, a co-pilot must add certain value to the project. This can be years of experience in the given field of business, several successful exits, a well-developed network or relevant contacts, or anything else that the founder lacks and needs.
The main differences between the two are quite visible in the everyday life of incubated startups.
If we were to point out a few extreme situations to demonstrate it, it would be these:
- You'll see your mentor once a month, the co-pilot is in touch with you daily.
- A mentor talks about what the startup has done. A co-pilot talks about what the startup should and will do.
- The main reward for a mentor might be gaining deeper knowledge of the startup environment with its enthusiasm and energy. A co-pilot is more profit-oriented. When the startup thrives and profits, so does he.
- If something goes wrong, a mentor can say: I told them! A co-pilot, on the other hand, might say: This is also my fault.
How does the co-pilot concept work at UP21?
At the very beginning of an incubation process, every startup gets their own co-pilot. We choose the co-pilot based their on past experience, skillset, and main field of expertise, which should overlap with the incubated startup's weaker sides and help fix them. A personal fit is also a big deal for us. The cooperation can only work when the founder and the co-pilot get on well with each other from day one.