Mentor & Panelist Guide

Mentor and panelist Guide: Role of 3 Day Startup Mentors and panelists

3 Day Startup is an entrepreneurship education program with an emphasis on learning by doing. 3DS has run hundreds of programs on 6 continents, with many students launching companies that have received millions in funding. Many 3DS companies have been accepted to prestigious accelerators such as Y Combinator, TechStars, 500 Startups, and Capital Factory.

At 3 Day Startup, participants are encouraged to share their ideas with as many people as possible to get feedback and learn about their customers.

As a mentor or panelist, your role is to provide guidance to students to help them understand their venture, the market, their customers and more.

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There is no “winner” and there is no prize money.

The following are great questions to focus on when mentoring student teams or asking questions as a panelist:

  • What does your venture do? What problem are you solving? (Ask this question to start every mentor session. This helps keep teams focused on the big picture, not just the details)
  • Do people want this service or product? What feedback backs up your theory that people want this?
  • Who are your initial customers? How well do you understand their needs?
  • How will you generate revenue (doesn’t have to be massive profits, but should have something)?
  • What are your benchmarks (early indicators of whether your startup is viable)?
  • What can your team accomplish at 3DS?

Most 3 Day Startup programs intentionally de-emphasize:

  • Business plans
  • Long term financial planning
  • Legal questions (definitely important, just not now)
  • Rapid scaling plan

What to watch for:

  • Are teams asking hard questions?
  • Are teams focused on a minimum viable product that solves a problem?
  • Are teams getting sidetracked?
  • Are teams getting bogged down by features rather than making something simple and effective that solves a problem?
  • Are you (in your role as a mentor) over-emphasizing your area of expertise? For example, we encourage CFO mentors to avoid focusing on 15 year financial plans and we encourage legal experts to avoid going into extreme depth on the merits of LLCs vs. C-corps. At a 3DS program, the most effective mentors focus on the here and now of creating a product that users and customers want.