Western Mass Founders Network

Vision

The Western Mass Founders Network supports high-growth start-ups in Western Massachusetts with a curated peer-to-peer and experienced mentor network.  The network is designed to create a virtuous cycle for scaling executives where they have access to resources in Western Massachusetts, embedding then in the local economy.  The shared experience of the peer-to-peer network creates an anchor for fellow entrepreneurs and contributes to a robust and diverse mentor network with rich experience.

Contact Information: foundersnetwork@westernmassedc.com

Objectives

Western Massachusetts will achieve its vision and will:

  • Assist local high-growth potential companies in growing
  • Expand job opportunities
  • Establish supplier/vendor relationships in Western Massachusetts
  • Educate mentor network with key competencies to develop their skills
  • Create a peer-to-peer learning environment
  • Provide specialized expert mentors to regional startups normally only available to startups in global tech hubs

Project Team

 

Team

Structure the Foundations for Growth

 

Strengthening the Foundations for Growth

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  • Identification and recruitment of mentors willing to manage communication between program and founders
  • Identification and recruitment of expert mentors to address immediate need of companies and founders as needed
  • Programs to improve mentor skills and grow founders understanding and access to experts
  • Identification and recruitment of Western Mass Companies who are ready to scale
  • Recruitment of initial cohort
  • Development of MOU that supports participation and manages expectations
  • Collegial participation in program activities
  • Build a peer support network for founders in Western Massachusetts that rivals those found in greater Boston
  • Organize meetings around issues of critical concern to Western Mass founders

The core components of the WMA Founders Network is a peer mentorship program which includes the following:

  • Creation of a mentor network in Western Massachusetts that enables local entrepreneurs to have access to world-class expert mentors.
  • Primary mentor(s) that meet briefly with participating companies at least once a month. Meetings are designed to identify the potential mentoring needs of the founder and quickly support them with resources and connections to keep moving forward. Primary mentors can provide expert mentoring and conduct ongoing needs assessments. Scale Up seeks to find additional mentors who can address the specific needs of the founders.
  • Mentors are volunteers screened to ensure that they understand the goals of the program, and do not sell advisory services to Scale Up participants.
  • Value add expert mentoring will occur 4-6 times over the course of the nine months for each founder participant.
  • Training and ongoing professional development sessions are scheduled for the primary mentors, with expert mentors invited to participate. Sessions seek to provide a network among the mentors, enable the mentors to improve their skills, and for founder participants to come to the mentor monthly meeting to practice presenting and brainstorm opportunities for their business.
  • Monthly topics for strengthening mentor skills include the following:
    • Diversity and Inclusion
    • Goal setting
    • Active Listening
    • Providing feedback
    • The entrepreneurial ecosystem and how to assist participants to leverage programs within the community
  • Monthly peer-to-peer meetings including a speaker on topics chosen by the participating founder and a facilitated discussion on issues individual members are facing (see identified topics below). We have found participation in peer-to-peer sessions is highly valued by founders and positively correlated to entrepreneurial success, and we hope will add in the “stickiness” of companies to Western Mass.

Program Dates

 

October 2021 – End of June 2022

Founder Meeting dates third Thursday of each month 4-7 PM [1]

  • October: Kick off, Introduction, Process Agreement
  • November: Process, Documentation, and Training
  • December: Refining Strategy & Building Dream Team
  • January: Part 1: Preparing to Raise Your Next Round (Financials)
  • February: Part 2: Preparing to Raise Your Next Round (Pitching VCs)
  • March: Customer Acquisition/ Sales
  • April: How to Leverage Your Board and/or Advisors to scale with you and work for you
  • May: Hiring: Navigating Stock Options
  • June: Celebratory Event w/ Founder Demos[2]

[1] Dates and speaker content are subject to change depending on the schedule and ongoing needs of founders.

[2] June 2022 is intended to be inclusive of mentors, founders, and ecosystem partners. We are planning this to bring many members of the entrepreneur ecosystem together to celebrate progress.