CED’s Venture Mentoring Service (VMS) is unique in this region. A proven and effective method of helping entrepreneurs address critical business problems, CED’s VMS pairs entrepreneurs with mentors who have experience and expertise to help guide a fledgling start-up. In a recent interview with one such venture, Allison Wood raved about the mentoring she received from CED VMS for her company, LCMS+.
Wood is co-founder of LCMS+, a company that started as an idea at Duke University in the early 2000s where her co-founder developed a software system to help manage healthcare education. She joined CED in April 2012 and became a member of VMS almost immediately, as a way to gain direct business advice to help her expand the company.
The mentors worked with Wood very much like an informal Board might, making themselves available and offering specific and actionable advice. When working on best business practices to help LCMS+ more effectively sell and service their enterprise software, she noted that her mentors were not afraid to “tell it to us straight,” yet underscored that they were always supportive and encouraging.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without CED’s VMS program,” she said. “The experience was fantastic. We worked on everything from product pricing to scaling our business, managing customer expectations, understanding investment options, licensing and contract negotiations, and even helping us find a new attorney and financial advisor. The fact that two of our mentors had led a startup software company made their advice particularly relevant and useful to us.”
VMS gives entrepreneurs practical insights relevant to the needs of each individual company. In Wood’s opinion, “Entrepreneurs will get a good match in terms of energy and enthusiasm. CED makes sure they’re able to give you the attention and guidance you need and deserve.”
The matching process worked well for LCMS+. First there was an intake interview with two CED representatives. When they took the company’s proposal back to the VMS group, they found matches at the first meeting. Along the way, the company was coached that they could part ways or add mentors to the team at any time.
“The process always felt very flexible to me, without being so loosey-goosey that I questioned the level of support. Clearly, CED had taken the time to find us a really good match,” says Wood
“Yet,” she continued, “While our mentors had valuable experience in our sector, I don't think that's entirely necessary to have a good mentor relationship. We needed mentors who had actually built a business to help us understand how to build a business. But, if someone needs a mentor just for legal advice, or market advice, they’re likely to find that in the mentor that CED matches them with.”
When asked if she’d recommend the program to another entrepreneur, she replied: “Yes, unequivocally. CED’s VMS was the best thing we ever did for our young company and has set us up for solid and sustainable growth.”