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In The Media

Assigned Mentors

by Larry Chiang on April 12, 2013

By Larry Chiang

I study mentorship.

When a mentor is assigned, the mentee mentor dynamic is short-circuited. In school settings the mentor is assigned. Those mentors are often under appreciated by mentees.

In business, I see this also. Many startup incubators have entire pools of assigned mentors that are under utilized.

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

In the concept of assigned mentorship, the student isn’t quite ready. (Or rebellious) Thus, the learning dynamic is short circuited. I messed up my mentor relationship with Augie Garrido. He is a legendary baseball coach at UT. (I was rebellious) I did not mess up my mentor relationship post Augie Garrido: Mark McCormack.

Here are ideas to leverage the ‘assigned mentor’ pattern:

-1- Make the student pay a price for access

Students that pay part of their tuition do better in school. Compensate a student to be mentored and you get disastrous results.

In the mentee mentor dynamic, the mentee must be the one “selling” themselves as ready for mentorship. It brings me to my next insight

-2- The mentee should “pay” for access

Let’s say you are a VC and your kid wants to learn to be a conductor/composer. You as a VC could pay 100% of the price. But then your child as the mentee would get short-circuited. Instead, as a VC parent, you should teach your child to reach out via email themselves.

Thus, the ‘price’ here is the work of drafting an email, researching the email and the time to send the email.

VC is venture capital.

The VC I’m referring to is David Hornik.

DISCLOSURE: I pitched Noah Hornik to co-found a fund with me called July Capital. Get it?! It’s before August :-I

My last point in leveraging Assigned Mentors

-3- Pretend you paid thousands to get your mentor.

Have the mentee write on a notecard: “ok, I paid Larry Chiang 15k for this class. Now let’s get that money back”.

I mean if you paid tuition at that Top 50 engineering school, that’s true. Keep a journal documenting when you get that return on your $15k.

If you don’t think you get your $15k back, you won’t.

If you don’t think it’s worth 15k, you’re right.

If you think you can get your $15k back with one really good Gua Gua Guacamole recipe executed in all its technicolor detail, you’re right.

If you think you can get your $15k back by value addedly hijacking VentureBeat’s MobileBeat*, you’re right.

If you think you can get your $15k back by value addedly hijacking DemoMobile’s** April 17 conference at Mission Bay center, you’re right.

If you think you can get your $15k back by value addedly hijacking TechCrunch’s August Capital*** to launch your ENGR145 project, you’re right.

-4- Pretend you paid $10.oo.

Its scale. The dynamic is the same. In fact, the human brain knows no difference between getting ripped off $15k or 10 bucks. The brain just sees money in jeopardy.

-5- Free books versus 95% subsidized book.

If you want that baseball glove, you have to pay 15%. I know you’re my 7 year old nephew. If you want that baseball book, you are gonna have to pay 5%.

If you want to attend baseball camp eight summers from now with Augie Garrido (when you’re 15), you better start saving up buddy.

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