Home > Uncategorized > Close-Mentoring a bit like A&R for Record Labels

Close-Mentoring a bit like A&R for Record Labels

As I have mentioned before, I am ‘close-mentoring’ a number of very early stage start-ups in Dublin City University at the moment. It started me thinking about what the process was like. When I was younger I managed a couple of rock bands, we were young and alas my lack of knowledge and their ego’s put paid to any future in the music industry. But there is a similarity with mentoring early stage technology companies. It is kinds like a cross between a band manager and the artists and repertoire (A&R) people that the music labels employ. Managers are meant to make the deals and sort out gigs for bands. Close mentoring tech companies can often mean getting them into potential partners, or help them make initial sales.

A&R people are meant to help groom the musicians for greatness, expected to understand the current tastes of the market and to be able to find artists that will be commercially successful. As a mentor in a university environment, my job is to help the researchers to clarify their vision but in a way that there is an immediate commercial application. In my life in the higher education sector, and previously in early stage venture capital, I saw several ‘we have built it so they will come’ technology ideas from labs of various Dublin universities. Of course the problem is that academics and researchers tend to think of technology as an end all and be all. They don’t start with the question of who will want it and what will they pay for it. This is because they are trained this way as this is how the academic research world works. Alas all these academically driven start-ups all those years ago all failed.

The ones I am dealing with now are different. They all came through the DCU Invent/Ryan Academy tech start programme, a series of mini-modules delivered by pracademic staff (entrepreneurs or those who dealt with entrepreneurs), with follow-up one-to-one meetings at the end, to see where their original idea sat with what they had learned. In most cases the ideas had developed in a different directions and since the mentoring (myself and others around Dublin) they have developed further again, to the point where the first start-up is currently in the process of actually setting up a company. Two more are probably going to be set-up in the next three or four months.

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