Mentors are now becoming more accessible than ever. I personally have many mentors, and to some surprises, I never personally met any of them. The same thing applies in term of partnership. I network and partner with others online. The Internet has eliminate geographical barriers; but things can be better.
Kevin Holmes, CEO and Founder of Founders Network, takes thing a step further – he create a platform in which members can connect with others for mentoring and partnership. Mr. Holmes will shed some light with this interview.
Tell us about your business and what it does.
Founders Network offers lifelong peer mentorship to over 500 tech startup founders. Members solve tactical problems through an Online Mentorship Platform and address strategic issues through confidential Peer Advisory Boards. A professional staff facilitates member success through warm introductions to fellow members, affiliated angel investors and Venture Capitalists, and partners offering over $200k in discounts. Founders Network members are located in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and other tech hubs.
What was the original inspiration behind the idea for your business?
The vision behind Founders Network comes from my 15 years of experience within Silicon Valley. After those 15 years, I realized the startup ecosystem was missing a much needed service and set out to build an organization dedicated to founders.
Have you owned a successful business before? What were the characteristics that led to success?
Prior to Founders Network, I launched the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley. The Center was self-funded and successful thanks to a strong support network of alumni founders, investors and friends. Before the Center, I was on the leadership team of a $1M seed funded media startup which grew revenues to about the same, and eventually sold. Though it was by no means a successful financial exit, it was a rich learning experience that set me on the path to start Founders Network. I loved the creative problem solving and camaraderie among the team members, but in retrospect, we were very “heads-down” and focused on our product. Had we leveraged a network like Founders Network, I believe we would have had a more successful outcome.
How does your product and/or company stand out from its competition?
FN is uniquely focused on lifelong success through peer mentorship and has proven complementary to service providers, founder matchmaking platforms, startup accelerators and the investment community. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of interest from graduates of accelerators who are looking for a longer-term, proactive support network.
What is the most important lesson you learned in the early stages of your business?
“Don’t go it alone. Find others who are walking the same path as you.” Richard White, the founder of UserVoice.com gave me this advice, and even though I’m the founder of Founders Network, it is very easy as an entrepreneur to be heads down and not derisk and accelerate your decisions with advice and encouragement from your network. The best entrepreneurs leverage their network.
What are the key company milestones that you would like to achieve over the next year?
Every business has an imperative to grow. For us, that means full-time tech founders and partners, which include service providers, investors and really anyone who is looking to support startup founders. We also have some open positions on the team that can be found here.