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.
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.