Fresh off launching a new mentorship program for female founders, Startup Victoria is set to open Office Hours. Similar to a lecturer’s office hours at university, Startup Victoria is allowing members to book some one on one time with a number of founders, investors, and industry experts.
The initiative was first launched as part of Startup Week last year, with Startup Victoria looking to bring a sense of Silicon Valley’s pay it forward culture to the local startup community. Now turning it into a permanent fixture, Startup Victoria hopes to lower the barriers to entry facing new founders, and accelerate the learning of experienced founders.
Thomas Anbeek, head of business operations at Startup Victoria, said the organisation was inspired by Y Combinator’s open office hours initiative, which allow founders to meet one on one with YC’s partners. The Above all Human conference, of which Anbeek is a cofounder, then trialled the idea onstage, and it was taken on by Startup Victoria.
“It was surprisingly easy to get mentors on. I was expecting it would be a lot harder, especially with the types of mentors we were going after. Last year, we had people like Collis Ta’eed from Envato and Mark Harbottle from 99Designs, an entire list of very impressive people who were very willing to offer their own time to help out some people who were early on in their entrepreneurial journey,” Anbeek said.
Last year’s run saw 241 meetings organised with 31 founders, investors, and experts. Morgan Ranieri, founder of YourGrocer, set up a meeting with Ta’eed which led to Ta’eed and his cofounder Cyan Ta’eed becoming active investors in and advisors to the startup.
In this sense, the mentors can get something out of it too beyond just giving back to the community.
“For some it’s a good way to generate a little bit of deal flow, especially around investors and people who want to become advisors and mentors of startups,” Anbeek said.
A number of experienced mentors have already signed on, including Scott Handsaker, cofounder and CEO of Attendly; Alex Holmes, head of creative marketing at Envato; Sarah Hamilton, cofounder and CEO of Bellabox; Adrian Stone, founder of AngelCube; and Laura McKenzie, CEO of Scale Investors.
There is no set minimum for the number of meetings mentors must conduct, but Startup Victoria hopes they put in at least two hours a month, with each mentor listing their hours on the organisation’s online platform, through which those interested can also make bookings.
The launch of Office Hours comes as Startup Victoria also begins to set up this year’s Startup Week. The 2015 event saw almost 1,100 attendees at more than 20 events, and Anbeek hopes that the 2016 event, to be held the week of 20 June, will help introduce Melbourne startups to the mainstream.
He said, “We want to give people their first touchpoint with, and get them excited about, the startup activity in Melbourne. We’re working out some ways to generate some mainstream attention and hopefully that will mean we get a spot with some high foot traffic to put up some stalls, so people who normally wouldn’t get a touchpoint with startups get it now.”