Mentor+ Project is a new Canadian startup that wants to help get your questions answered. Sure there are other startups out there which offer the same proposition. For instance Quora. Mentor+ offers a new more intimate platform to get questions answered from people who have been screened to make sure that their backgrounds support giving out information on the topics.
Quora is great but one of the major pain points for users is that the big talent and “celebrity” answerers post infrequently and in their absence arm chair quarterbacks start moving questions up and down often watering down the advice they’ve been given.
The other place where Mentor+ differentiates itself from other platforms is their person to person collaboration verses messaging and BBS style threading. They also have a video chatting platform to generate closer communication between mentor and mentee.
We got a chance to talk with Mentor+ Project’s co-founder Greg Johnston. Check out our interview below:
What is the Mentor+ Project?
Mentorplus.me is a social media forum to get answers to questions, share ideas, and search for helpful resources, as well as the Mentor+ Daily online newspaper, and person-to-person collaborations via messaging or video chats.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Greg Johnston – Product and Marketing Professional with over 20+years experience in the IT, Healthcare and Communications industry including 2-startups.
Board of Advisors
Jamie McClelland – Chief Marketing Officer at BLACKFISH, a disruptive new California VC start-up.
Derek Smith – Executive in Residence at Communitech(Waterloo, ON). Former Managing Director, Apple Canada and VP, Hewlett-Packard
Gary C. Bizzo – CEO at Bizzo Management Group. Strategic Management Specialist in a wide variety of business applications
Christopher Willard – Alliance Manager at IGLOO Software
Where are you based?
Toronto, Ontario, CA
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
The startup scene in Canada is flourishing and it’s never been a better time to setup shop in Canada. Canadians graduate world class talent from the best business and technical schools in the world. There is also a ton of available funding mechanisms from government programs to savvy investors interested in Canadian startups. I am also a member of Communitech in Waterloo, ON which is a startup incubator and has a network of more than 600 companies and organizations that believe in building a strong tech cluster in the region.
Most recently Andrew D’ Souza from Top Hat Monocle published an article in Mashable on 5 Reasons to Found a Startup in Canada.
I highlight some of the excerpts from this article below…
A wave of recent exits to high profile U.S. buyers has put Canada back on the radar of investors. It’s hard to go to a startup or VC event these days without feeling an iron ring on the other side of a handshake. But then that’s part of a growing trend of big money coming Canada’s way. Here are five other reasons why entrepreneurs should consider setting up shop in Canada.
1. Talent – Canadian universities consistently graduate some of the world’s top technical talent, but the competition to attract them is much less intense.
2. Investor Interest - Too much money chasing too few good ideas and teams in Silicon Valley has led savvy investors to look elsewhere for promising investment opportunities. As a result, many high-profile Silicon Valley and East Coast investors have recently placed big bets on Canadian companies.
3. Immigration – Canada’s economic growth has been built through immigration and its immigration policy reflects that. Canada doesn’t arbitrarily limit the number of qualified people allowed into the country to 65,000 per year.
4. A Launchpad for the World – Largely a function of Canada’s immigration policy, the demographics of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal are about as heterogeneous as they come. This means that your early customers often have a variety of biases, so consumer products which do well in Canada often don’t
One look at Quora for opinions on the hottest Canadian startups yields many strong B2B players: Shopify, HootSuite, Wave Accounting, FreshBooks,
5. Government Support – Canada’s government does more to support innovation than any other developed country. The government has allocated $400 million to bolster the VC ecosystem in Canada. While this may seem like a drop in the bucket (the equivalent of one mid-sized Silicon Valley fund), if allocated wisely, it could have a tremendous impact and effectively signal to the world that Canada is open for business.
How did you come up with the idea for the Mentor+ project?
Becoming successful takes a lot of dedicated hard work, and sometimes it helps to have a little guidance from someone who knows. Someone who has been there, someone who has achieved the things you want to achieve.
From my own personal and professional journey to become successful, I understand more than most the importance of a positive, intentional, mentoring relationship. When I needed someone who could relate to his issues, answer his questions, provide wisdom and push me along to get to the place I wanted to go, I found the solution in mentors.
And I thought, why shouldn’t everyone be able to reach out and find the support of a mentor? So I created The Mentor+ Project and the first service is Mentor+me – an online community that provide useful content, connect people and form mentoring relationships.
I am very passionate about people helping people leveraging online and mobile social media.
What problem does the Mentor+ me solve?
The idea came together based on three realizations:
1. People need people
2. Social influence is changing everything and;
3. Individuals, organizations, business, Start-ups, in general, are struggling immensely with gaining “traction”. What I mean by traction is gaining momentum and overcoming issues like personal, financial, career, education & training, struggling what to do next, etc.
Mentor+me provides a list of industry leaders who want to help individuals and organizations get personalized and actionable advice.
It’s a unique approach to digitally monetize the $30B career counseling, training and self-improvement markets for consumers and businesses in North America.
What’s your secret sauce?
It’s a secret… just kidding. We are building a mechanism for individuals that need advice to come into a non-threatening community where traditionally it would be difficult for them or time consuming to find someone willing to help them in a certain specialty. Some like to communicate with email, IM or Video Chat. We have the collaboration tools they need to manage their time and what makes them most comfortable to make that initial contact.
It’s about people helping people.. giving and getting great advice.
What’s one dilemma you’ve encountered in the startup process?
Funding is the most difficult and trying to keep a startup going. I have managed the past year to invest in my own time and resources to launch. I have 3-jobs right now just trying to support my family and this business.
If I can get a second, customer acquisition (or call it growth hacking) has been the toughest and what is the best way to acquire users. Competing for individuals time and getting individuals to see value and the vision for our service is tough. You have to make customers want it.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
We found the technology and platform tools at a low cost required to get us a MVP(Minimum Viable Product) and launch the Mentor+me service. We are doing things that support and test The Lean Startup methodology.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
The individuals I have a on my board of advisors. Jamie, Derek, Gary and Chris are very supportive and also straight shooters when it comes to giving advice. I like that! They ultimately have my back and want me to be successful both personally and professionally. It’s nice to have the “security blanket.”
Business role models are Warren Buffet, Jack Welch, Peter Senge and Michael Hyatt. Startup mentors Eric Ries and Dan Martell.
What’s next for Mentor Plus?
Mentor+ will always be a free service and used for content and connection. The service is available both as a web- and mobile- based tool. The next step with be the launch a online application for work and fees where mentors/advisors will be able offer private mentoring sessions with a Mentor+ member and manage their relationships. Packages will include day, month or a year worth of mentoring.
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