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Matching startup founders with Techstars mentors

The Problem

With the entire world going online due to a global pandemic, Techstars' portfolio company founders were having difficulty connecting with mentors to help them grow their businesses.

The Team

I was the sole designer on this project, and worked with a product manager to conduct user research & qualitative testing, along with with an engineering team to bring this to life.

Talking to Customers & Stakeholders

What we knew from previous research, is that founders ranked mentorship as the deciding factor when choosing whether or not to join a Techstars accelerator. You can get funding from anywhere, but access to our network is our main differentiator.

In speaking with founders we found that they evaluated mentors based on their industry & experience. Typically the engagement with mentors was either a one off quick question or a deeper, ongoing relationship.

We then spoke to several mentors to understand why they mentored in the first place and opportunities to improve the communication process with founders. The indicated that they genuinely loved to help, however the pain points they faced included getting buried with mentor requests in their emails, and founders not being specific in what they needed help with.

Defining The Vision

Based on our research, we saw a massive opportunity to improve the current mentor matchmaking process with Technology. There was a perception that covid-era virtual solutions were "less-than" stop gaps that augmented real life connection. We disagreed - one major benefit we saw was opening up founders to the totality of the Techstars mentor pool, instead of just limiting them to the mentors in their specific class.

In the end, the long term vision for what this would become was a streamlined mentor matchmaking app that allowed users to find mentors by company, accelerator, industry or skillset. Unfortunately we didn't have the luxury of time on our side so also had to design an MVP solution while working towards the larger vision.

MVP User Testing

I originally experimented with an alternate flow that would funnel the user through a multi-step form asking them to narrow down their search before seeing a list of mentors. We tested this with founders and there were too many steps in the process, founders typically new what they wanted and wanted to find it quickly.

Company

Techstars

Year

2020

Role

End to End Product Design

Methods & Tools Used

User Research, Information Architecture, User Journeys, Wireframing, Hi-Fi Prototyping, Visual Design

MVP Launch

We built a lightweight app that allows founders to search, filter and sort mentors by what is important to them. Once a founder has sliced and diced the data to end up with a customized list, they can share the restults with their co-founders, or bookmark for later. This also allows our corporate partners and managing directors to manage their own lists as well.

The Long-term Solution

We took learnings from the MVP solution and baked them into the experience for this native iOS app. We designed features that include a much more simplified search flow, in-app messaging and the ability to keep a running list of mentors that you're working with.

Let's Work Together

I'm currently at Techstars, leading our user and brand experience. If you have a project in mind or you just want to chat, please email hey@johnegan.io to get the ball rolling.