Mentors are a key ingredient of the Startup Weekend formula: they act as catalyzers for teams, helping everything happen faster. Mentors are seasoned professionals who go from team to team and give feedback on the business models and, most importantly, ask questions. Asking questions forces teams to explore every aspect of their business idea. Speed in this context is measured in terms of the number of iterations the business model goes through over the course of the event.
The business model canvas is a great supporting tool here. Not only does it provide a common language to talk about business models, but it also acts as a visual map for making sure every aspect of the business model is questioned: activities, partners, resources, customers, channels and value propositions. One question though trumps all the others: Who Is Your Customer?
The organizers came up with an impressive line-up of eighteen mentors. Some come from large companies who sponsor the event, others are business leaders at local mid-sized firms, others freelance business management or innovation consultants. All volunteered the time on this rainy Saturday afternoon to help Startup Weekend participants succeed, and succeed quicker.
I was very happy to have alongside me four distinguished mentors from SAP. Friedrich Bandulet and Michael Koegel, from SAP and Hans-Heinrich Siemers and Andreas Wuest from the SAP-supported InnoWerft startup incubator. Thanks again to all of them for volunteering their time. In their day jobs Friedrich is Global Lead Platform Ecosystem Business Models at SAP while Michael is a Design Strategist driving customer & strategic design projects through Co-Innovation and Design Thinking. Hans-Heinrich is the Managing Director of Innowerft where Andreas is Innovation Manager. You can read their short biographies in the Mentors section of the event web site.
Mentors will also be available throughout the day on Sunday but this time will focus on helping teams focus on the 3-minute final pitch they need to deliver on Sunday afternoon. This means working with them on what degree of fidelity they can build into their prototype given the time left, and above all making sure they have a great memorable story to tell. Dont’t forget you can watch the final pitches live at http://stuttgart.startupweekend.org/live/