On June 29th we held an Entrepreneur Academe event at Thomson Reuters, in their wonderful conference facility in Canary Wharf. TR are very keen to get more of their staff involved in mentoring startups, so given the work we’re doing on Entrepreneur Academe it seemed like an ideal moment to talk about the opportunities mentoring can bring. The audience represented the hugely diverse range of skills within TR and included lawyers, salespeople, marketers, techies, finance and admin specialists, accountants, business managers and so on – a range reflected in the diversity of the questions in the closing Q&A session.

Dave Weller is TR’s Chief Enterprise Architect and a great friend to Angel Academe. He organised the session and introduced it briefly. He pointed out that TR has around 50,000 employees and that with the the best will in the world, and for all the talk of innovation, it could be hard for individuals within the organisation to keep on top of new technologies in particular. For him, mentoring early stage tech startups fed back directly into his day job, supplying him with inspiration and insight that he might not find elsewhere. He made the point that mentoring was not once-size-fits-all, either; it can be a one-off 20 minute phone conversation or an ongoing relationship that lasts months or even years… and all points in between.

sarahSarah followed Dave, introducing Angel Academe generally and Entrepreneur Academe more specifically. EA doesn’t seek to offer a set of structured mentoring relationships; rather it provides a mentoring “platform” that allows mentors and mentees to find each other and pursue the kind of relationship that works for them. For Sarah there are any number of reasons to get involved in mentoring, but chief among these were: exposure to innovation and entrepreneurial thinking (echoing Dave); to rediscover your own value, skills and insight; the networking and experience it brings and just because it’s fun.

Next up, Kate Toumazi, TR’s Global Head of Risk Data Services talked about her mentoring work with Suzanne Noble, who regular readers will know as the founder of Frugl, an app to help cash-strapped Londoners find things to do for under a tenner. (Suzanne was one of last year’s Entrepreneur Academe cohort.) On the mentoring spectrum, Kate is definitely at the truly “committed” end, often spending hours every month with Suzanne as FD to Frugl. That said, even here there’s an ebb and flow, not least when Suzanne and the team are in a deep dev phase. Kate feels that she’s able to share the kind of strategic insight that comes from spending time in a corporate and encouraged others in the seminar to consider what strategic thinking they could bring to a startup.

photo (4)Andrew Fletcher is TR’s Senior Manager, Data Innovation Labs; he’s also another good friend to Angel Academe and of particular help on EA. His experience of mentoring is very different to Kate’s. Underlining what Sarah had said in her opening remarks, he discussed how his interventions are more “piecemeal”; working with a range of startups, he’ll generally have more meetings and share, in particular, his experience of innovation within a large corporate.

photo (5)Sinead Mac Manus from Fluency was the first of our two entrepreneurs to speak (both are members of our the 2015 cohort). Fluency is a social business that trains young people in the kinds of skills that might enable them to work in digital businesses, including digital marketing, paid search, SEO and strategic social media. Sinead admitted to be strong-willed so said that what she needed from a mentor as to be really challenged: was her thinking correct, what are her priorities? That said, she said that sometimes you just needed someone to talk to when you were having a wobble. Finally, she enjoyed the extra accountability having a mentor brought – something that’s not always there for the founder of an early stage company.

photo (2)Dr Justine Setchwell gave the final presentation of the session. She’s co-founder of GPatHome, a secure digital platform that connects GP’s with their patients, anywhere in the world. Justine and her co-founder Dr Fiona Payne are both GPs whose direct professional experience informs everything they do; they’ve so far bootstrapped the whole operation but are now keen to explore ways to scale. Justine feels that they’re already benefiting hugely from the EA programme and from our wide range of mentors. In particular, what they were looking for from a mentor is: approachability, accessibility, advice & connection; and potential help with investment.

photo (3)We concluded the session with Q&A and networking between the TR team members present and our entrepreneurs (also present were Kat Farrants from Movements for Modern Life, Julie Walters from Raremark, Mendora Ogbogbo from Parlitraining and Tal Hewitt from Trubinkini). We hope some good connections were made and look forward to more people from Thomson Reuters joining us as mentors.

If you’re interested in signing up as a mentor, you can do so here. In the meantime a big thanks to Dave for organising such a great session and to the TR team for their continued support.