Larsen is the Executive Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Dalhousie’s Office of the Vice-President, and Scheschuk co-founded telecom provider Wind Mobile, now owned by Shaw. Also backing the program are Ryerson University, Halifax consulting firm Davis Pier, startup incubator network I-INC and Scheschuk’s own Globalive.
MindFrame Connect, as the program is called, grew out of Scheschuk’s own experience with what he describes as “mentor imposter syndrome” while acting as a mentor for the CDL-Atlantic startup accelerator.
“In the afternoon, you find yourself in a room with 50 or 60 people, and there's John Risley, there are Sobeys, there are Armoyans,” he said in an interview “It's like, ‘Am I qualified to do this? And do I have the skills to do this?’
“And it kind of sent me on a little bit of a journey to determine what is out there, and can I get better at what I started to coin ‘the craft of mentorship.’”
Scheschuk’s first reaction was to research and write a book of advice for mentors, with input from other business luminaries.
“And then Jeff called me in early 2021, and he was pulled a little bit and he was seeing it himself, the need to do some upskilling of mentors in his region,” said Scheschuk.
The result was that he and Larsen began work in June on the discovery process that ultimately produced MindFrame Connect, with nationally recognized entrepreneurs like District Ventures Capital General Partner Arlene Dickinson weighing in.
Now entering its pilot phase, MindFrame will be offered for free to incubators and startup hubs like Halifax’s Volta. A public launch is slated for the first quarter of 2022.
The program will include two streams, one for mentors and one for mentees.
The mentor stream will train mentors in how to provide focused, actionable advice to greener entrepreneurs. It will also include coaching on how to help entrepreneurs become more resilient to stress, drawing insight from the world of sports psychology.
“Mentors often don't have great experience with how to help people along that journey in that regard,” said Scheschuk.
“And so we wanted to bring some of that thinking both to founders, but also as part of our elevation of the craft of mentorship, so [mentors] can recognize a founder who is wobbling, and they can help lift them up and they can walk with them through the dark times of entrepreneurship -- which is most of the time.”
The mentee stream, meanwhile, will help those same new entrepreneurs maximize the benefit they derive from time with their mentors by clarifying what they need to learn and seeking advice in a more focused and methodical way.
As part of the pilot, MindFrame hopes to sign up 15 accelerators who will pair five mentors and mentees apiece. Scheschuk and Larsen’s team is also working on developing an online platform to help host the program’s contents.
The workshops will be virtual, with details of the formatting being determined by feedback from the participating accelerators. What has already been decided, though, is that the content will be made available to entrepreneurs and mentors both live and asynchronously.