Great ideas emerged from the Markham Region Town Hall. We heard creative solutions to a wide range of entrepreneurial challenges from K-12 curriculum, to mentorship, to risk aversion, to the need to support new start-ups to reach new international markets. Let’s jump right into three of the most interesting and unique ideas.
Excel Ventures envisioned the creation of a brokering service that would connect entrepreneurs and new start-ups to the complete range of services and support that they require to successfully launch and sustain their business. Key services to connect to would include accounting, marketing, logistics, web development, legal, etc. Unlike previous groups who had suggested a similar solution, our Markham group took the idea further and noted that they would negotiated preferred group rates from these service providers for their start-ups, and would assemble these services into a complete startup package – with all critical services bundled together. The group also noted that they would carefully vet the service providers to ensure that new start-ups were getting top quality support, which would also help to de-risk the acquisition of these critical services for new firms operating on a shoestring who really can’t afford to “learn” which firms aren’t good, before getting connected to top levels of support and guidance.
Mentor Up was another standout idea that focused on creating a national, no-cost, by-entrepreneurs-for-entrepreneurs network. This group noted that although they have agreed with the outcomes from past town halls, focused on creating local community-oriented mentorship networks, they really believe that a nationally coordinated and web-delivered mentorship network could be highly effective and valuable to Canadian entrepreneurs, especially since it would enable new start-ups to connect to the top experts and advisors in their specific business areas from across the country.
One of the most impressive elements of the Mentor Up pitch, was the realistic role out plan that they presented to the crowd, which gave a real sense that this activity could get up and running quickly and with minimal additional resource requirements. In month 1 Mentor Up would create the Linkedin community of mentors and advisors that would serve as the starting foundation for the network, and would work with this Linkedin community to define the framework for Mentor Up delivery. By month 6 Mentor Up would create a basic web application using an open source program like WordPress, that would allow mentors to create an online profile documenting their areas of skill and experience and their mentorship interests, and where mentees could create a profile documenting the nature of their business, and the advice they are looking to get. Then Mentor Up, at this early stage, would take advantage of programs like Skype to connect mentors and mentees together, so that the initiative could be launched quickly, and from the resources entrepreneurs already use. Later in the life of Mentor Up, surveys would be delivered to the community to validate the program and to determine areas for improvement, and a mentor rating system would be introduced to recognize top mentor talent.
And a new idea that emerged for the first time in the tour, Globalize, suggested the creation of a support network entirely focused on helping companies engage international markets, through the provision of market intelligence services, international connections, etc, and likely by leveraging groups like DFAIT’s Trade Commissioner Service and network.
Overall, the Markham Region stepped up to bat and knocked a few entrepreneurial solutions right out of the park. We can’t wait to be part of the new Mentor Up initiative.