The Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) and mentors at QUT Entrepreneurship support QUT students, staff and community that are interested in developing entrepreneurial skills. This week, we hear from EIR Wes Huffstutter.
A serial entrepreneur with over 20 years of global startup experience, Wes was most recently the CEO and Co-founder of SecuritySnares a cybersecurity tools company and the Co-founder and CEO of QuadMetrics (acquired by FICO), a cyber risk analytics company. His experience spans research commercialisation, entrepreneurial ecosystem development, and corporate innovation.
What is your role?
My role as an EIR at QUT is to be a resource for students, academics, and alumni starting ventures. One of the most important things I do is mentor. I have been the beneficiary of great mentors, and I feel obligated to pay that help forward. It is incredibly enriching and also incredibly effective.
Personally, I recognize it is a privilege to help entrepreneurs along their voyage and take it quite seriously. I am energized by the founders’ passion and excitement, but as mentors, we have to challenge budding entrepreneurs and ask questions they have not asked themselves. We do not tell them how to run their company, but we offer the patterns of innovation and business models we have seen and guide and support them. We share our industry expertise and connections and educate them on the process.
Mentoring is a crucial part of entrepreneurship because mentored companies last longer. A survey from the US showed 70% of mentored businesses survive more than 5 years. (As reference 90% of startups fail with an average lifespan of 22 months.) The well-known 2011 report from the Startup Genome Project showed that companies with effective mentors raised 7x more capital and saw 3.5x more user growth.
How can I find a mentor and what should I expect?
For the QUT community, it is easy to find a mentor: go to Orbit and request time with a mentor or EIR. When engaging a community mentor, look for someone who has deep experience in your industry and/or experience successfully starting a company like yours. When requesting mentorship, always communicate the type of help you need and be respectful of their time.
Come prepared to openly discuss your idea and with an “ask” of how you need the mentor’s help, but be open to re-examining aspects of your idea that you thought were solid. It is often the case that where an entrepreneur thinks they are a lot further along than what is reality. Avoid asking for an investment, and a mentor should not ask for remuneration. When your session is done you will undoubtedly have action items for yourself. Follow up when you have gathered more information or worked through the mentor’s questions/concerns.
QUT Entrepreneurship identifies and solves commercial and social problems. Our programs, courses, mentoring and events are designed to teach skills and processes, develop capabilities, and foster a community within QUT and the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
We need more mentors! If you have startup or deep domain expertise and are willing to volunteer some time, please sign up to become a mentor.