Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Powerful and Direct Mentoring: A Big Benefit for icimo from CED’s VMS

Written by Ann Revell-Pechar as part of CED's Venture Mentoring Service: Stories from the Front Lines Series.

ryce Gartner is CEO of icimo. A success now, but in the  summer of 2012, when he first joined CED, he wasn’t where he wanted to be. Reviewing CED member offerings, saw the CED Venture Mentor Service and decided to look into it.

“We were talking to people about funding and it wasn’t going where we wanted it to go,” he said. “Our message was not getting through. We wondered if we were missing something.”
The company had no investors except the founders. There were clients, but getting investors to buy in was more difficult. Great consideration had been given to changing the current path, but the founders both felt they needed an impartial perspective, someone to offer guidance for strategizing for the future.

Gartner wondered if the service-based business model was holding them back. But even with solid technology, investors were not seeing the potential. Without a board of directors or any outside investors, it was hard to get the kind of market validation they needed. They turned to CED VMS to find mentors that could validate their direction.

“What fantastic mentors we have,” said Gartner. “From the get-go they wanted to understand who we were, what we offered, how we were different. It is powerful -- they are very direct about day-in and day-out aspects of running a new business. These meetings are our external checkpoint, making us face things you sometimes need to force yourself to do, like getting serious about where we want to be in a year.”

At each meeting, icimo mentors address critical operational topics, asking what’s going on and highlighting wins like revenue success, product tweaks, and clarification of what’s on the horizon for the next 30/60/90days.  These meetings helped the founders uncover their own Holy Grail: they didn’t need to focus on just a single vertical, and indeed that was holding them back.

“Our mentors helped us identify that our process - what we let people do across multiple verticals - is our differentiator. The dialogues with our mentors help us focus on key markers, when everything ‘else’ seems like a higher priority. Our mentors remind us:  you need to celebrate wins – every win. Gart Davis and David Rose were a great fit for icimo.  They are both smart, experienced businessmen and we have a lot of respect and appreciation for them.  They invested time in icimo and it helped us be more successful."

Gartner says CED VMS should be considered by any startup once they’re beyond the proof of concept stage – but before looking for funding. Be prepared to communicate the business model, and then take the free advice from someone who can advise you on how to approach the business from a different perspective.  Welcome being asked the tough questions – even if you don’t have an instant answer.  This kind of objective review is critical to growing as a company.

"We wasted a lot of time networking and scheduling meetings in hope they’d connect me to funding,” said Bryce. “Our CED VMS mentors cut to the chase and told us: you’re not getting funding with the current model. Oddly enough it was encouraging, because they helped us identify the kind of people we wanted to align with, and continue to help us focus on what we are doing right.”

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