Oklahoma Mentorship Program — MIT Venture Mentoring Service
The renowned MIT Venture Mentoring Service (VMS) is coming to Oklahoma as a special new initiative of Creative Oklahoma to expand their educational offerings to further spur creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship in the state. Creative Oklahoma is building upon ten years of success as the first statewide initiative in the U.S. to advance creativity and innovation in education, commerce and culture to improve the economy and life quality of its citizens. In 2015, the Oklahoma Business Roundtable encouraged the board of Creative Oklahoma to build upon existing programs and develop strategies over the next ten years to support the growth of entrepreneurs and creative industries in the state to help diversify Oklahoma’s economy.
After roundtable discussions with the statewide entrepreneurial community and one-on-one conversations with entrepreneurs, two important gaps were identified. One was the need for an Oklahoma Innovation Network Ecosystem which would identify existing statewide resources and link those individuals and resources across the state. The second was the need for a high quality mentorship program to assist any individuals in the state interested in startup business ventures. Dave King, a Creative Oklahoma board member, CEO of Oklahoma City based startup, Exaptive, and MIT VMS Fellow, suggested that Creative Oklahoma pursue bringing the MIT VMS program to Oklahoma.
The MIT VMS program supports innovation and entrepreneurial activity around the world by matching prospective entrepreneurs with experienced and successful volunteer mentors. They use a team mentoring approach with groups of three to five mentors who sit with the entrepreneur in sessions providing practical, professional advice and coaching. VMS mentors are selected for their experience in areas relevant to the needs of new entrepreneurs and for their enthusiasm for the program. Mentors are required to sign a Statement of Principles that govern their behavior, outline their responsibilities, guard against conflicts of interest, and control financial involvement with the entrepreneurs and their ventures. Relationships between mentors and entrepreneurs are formed based on the needs of the entrepreneur and the interests of available mentors.
The VMS mentors provide assistance across a broad range of business activity including product development, marketing, intellectual property law, finance, human resources, and founders issues.
Quick Facts about the MIT VMS program
- Over 165 experienced mentors in the MIT program
- Over 1,450 ventures started over 10 years
- Approximately 2,500 entrepreneurs mentored
- Over $1.44 billion in funding (investments + grants) raised by VMS ventures
- Over 50 organizations worldwide have participated in the VMS Immersion Program and have started mentoring programs based on the MIT VMS model
The MIT VMS mentoring model is based on the following key concepts:
- Focus on team mentoring
- Best practices for selecting and retaining highly qualified and committed volunteer mentors
- Strict guiding principles that assure unbiased advice to entrepreneurs
- Formalized processes and procedures
- Long-term commitment to entrepreneurs and their ventures
MIT VMS has attracted inquiries and visits from academic institutions, economic development organizations, and entrepreneurship programs worldwide. In response to that interest, MIT established the Outreach Training Program with the mission of helping other organizations establish their own formal venture mentoring programs based on their experience.
MIT VMS provides organizations comprehensive assistance in establishing a formal, sustainable and scalable mentoring program based on their model, with significantly reduced startup time and greatly enhanced effectiveness and quality. Through the MIT VMS Immersion Program — a 2 ½-day program delivered at MIT — MIT VMS shares all the core knowledge, processes and best practices underlying its team mentoring methods to help communities start up their new mentoring program towards excellence.
Other complementary programs from MIT can provide valuable ongoing support based on the coordinating organization’s specific needs — from early-stage planning and building support in the community, to training founding mentors, to establishing, improving and scaling up the mentoring program. The programs are delivered to each organization individually, taking in consideration the organization’s specific objectives, entrepreneurial environment, mentoring resources and strategic challenges. MIT VMS is a self-sustaining organization and the Outreach Training Programs are provided on a participation fee basis.
Every organization participating in the Outreach Training Program becomes a member of the MIT VMS Users Group, which exchanges ideas, shares experiences, and engages in group-learning. This program has been in existence since 2006, and the learning and relationships established among the organizations have been of great value to all participants.
The Oklahoma Opportunity
Oklahoma’s two cities, and many of its smaller towns, have the opportunity to grow entrepreneurship at a pace unmatched by cities and towns in other states. With the current downturn in traditional commodities, now is the time to grow the entrepreneurial base and capitalize on Oklahoma’s assets — the lower cost of living, growing millennial base, and ease of entry into the startup space. The Small Business Administration research states that startups with mentors succeed 70% of the time, as opposed to the 10% success rate of startups without mentors. By developing a high quality mentorship program Oklahoma can accelerate success and encourage entrepreneurial growth across all sectors. Currently, there is no place where individuals with marketable ideas can go for face-to-face mentorship by experienced business leaders, regardless of their sector or entry level. Oklahoma has a growing community of young entrepreneurs with great ideas who need guidance and are searching for mentors to grow their ideas into successful companies. Oklahoma does not currently have a platform for budding entrepreneurs to share, or grow, their ideas. A mentorship program provides hands-on learning, encourages ideation, provides a path to implementation, and feeds existing statewide incubators with small businesses ready to scale and grow at a record setting pace.