AS A HOUSTON NATIVE WITH A 35+ YEAR RECORD OF EXPERIENCE IN TECHNOLOGY (PRIMARILY SOFTWARE, INCLUDING IBM®, ORACLE® AND BMC SOFTWARE®, WHERE I HELD EXECUTIVE POSITIONS IN SALES AND MARKETING), I RECOGNIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORING THE NEXT GROUP OF TECH LEADERS. I WANT TO SEE HOUSTON BECOME MORE OF A TECHNOLOGY HUB, AND THAT’S WHY I GIVE MY TIME TO STATION HOUSTON AND ITS MEMBERS.
Station Houston has 400 members currently, made up mostly of technology start-ups in the Greater Houston area. Houston is more focused than ever on bringing together entrepreneurs and creating an environment where they can get advice, share ideas, raise capital and ultimately sell their products/services. I have mentored at Station for the last year, meeting with entrepreneurs and giving them advice.
The reality is, most entrepreneurs have blind spots – areas of starting a company that they either aren’t aware of or they have little experience with – for example, raising money, selling, marketing, creating a business plan, etc. As an entrepreneur, I have experience in most of these areas or know people who do. Most of my mentoring sessions are focused around my strengths that I can advise them on: strategy, selling, marketing, messaging. I think the best piece of advice you can
give a start-up is centered on how they ultimately distribute their product and reach scale.
When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s always good to test your ideas on many people, see what they think and to constantly evolve to have the best chance to build something that will be desired by the market. Many entrepreneurs need to “pivot” their companies because the market they were going after and the solution they envisioned weren’t aligned. I view my mentoring sessions as one of these tests and hopefully I can convey some ideas that will help progress the companies I meet with…that is certainly the goal.
At Station Houston, I’ve been working with ANDREW BRUCE, the CEO of one of the organization’s member companies. He says, “The mentoring at Station Houston has provided invaluable advice to my company, Data Gumbo. There is a huge range of expertise available that a start-up could never afford on an hourly basis. Without the mentors at Station Houston, we would not have landed our first sale, and we would not have closed our round of funding. There are mentors for every stage of a company’s development. It’s up to the members to take the initiative, determine the right potential mentors from the well-published schedule and take advantage of the program.“
ALEX CHANDY of 2DA Analytics agrees. “We have found mentoring programs to be a tremendous resource for us as we started to grow our idea into a fully functioning business. Like many start-ups, we have expertise in the domain where we are seeking to sell technology solutions, but we had our blind spots across many dimensions of organizational development – from sales strategy, contract negotiation and financing to employee acquisition and retention. These are critical aspects of commercializing technology and can impair a start-up’s ability to scale to first revenue.”
He adds, “There is no shortage of advice available from consultants, financiers or online in the startup ecosystem. The danger is a lot of it can be distracting. Working with mentors such as Leland has been invaluable. His advice on where to invest time and effort pays dividends not only in the present but for the longer term and has been one of the keys to our success to date. Such guidance only comes from those that have had the experience of walking the same path we are on currently.”
For more information, or to get involved with Station Houston as a mentor or mentee, visit www.stationhouston.com.