Talking about start-ups has become the second national sport after football but instead of the famous 60 million head coaches we are left with hundreds of thousands of CEOs. In short, people talk too much about it and sometimes without knowing aspects and basic features of this world, which many people consider as a fairy kingdom where there are no unicorns but easy customers and the monsters are not bad dragons and trolls but bureaucracy and taxes. We know that you would prefer to face dragons and so would we, we must confess.

The idea is not enough to create an enterprise

Let us return to the real world, the one made of enterprises and people with business ideas. The term start-up is often associated to a team working to turn an idea into a business, starting with a detailed business plan which should materialize into products / services production (previously tested for the launch onto the market) and meet the demand already identified.

When one of these start-ups is successful and when newspapers and television talk about it many think that the achievement is easily replicable, perhaps because the proposed business model proved to be effective immediately thanks to insights and connections easily available with a bit of luck. Probably in some cases that is true, but we often forget that start-ups are organizations and people with their lives and experiences that most of the time are not prepared to engage business challenges. The entrepreneur, in fact, has to have not only proven intuitive and professional abilities, but also other qualities that – put together – make a company successful.

Before creating a start-up, you need to create an entrepreneur, a leader who has the ability to:

  • “create the future”;
  • lead his/her team with character;
  • build through teamwork;
  • inspire commitment and passion;
  • get results.

In addition, the entrepreneur and his/her team should have problem solving skills and the ability to read contexts and information effectively (anticipating problems), to supervise processes, to implement marketing strategies, to build the necessary financial strength to get mortgages, loans and / or banking insurances and should not be risk averse.

Most of the time these characteristics do not lie in a single person but represent the capabilities of an entire team. Within each team, however, the leader must embody many of the characteristics listed above to guide the work group to success.

All this is enough to discourage many young people who have not yet clearly defined their skills, mainly because they lack experience. This is true both for young people and freelances guiding their development team for future start-ups.

A mentor for every aspiring entrepreneur

We believe that every aspiring entrepreneur should necessarily have an experience of entrepreneurial mentorship and should be supported by an experienced entrepreneur before starting their own business venture.

Logics dictates that once decided to take a mentorship path it would be better to choose entrepreneurs / mentors belonging to the same sector, but it would also help to imagine different experiences, perhaps with the support of entrepreneurs operating in different fields making the qualities that we want to train more evident.

Let us consider business incubators or acceleration paths as examples: mentors and tutors working as consultants in the process of incubation support teams and freelances benefiting from these services to develop a business idea. Excluding cases of undisputed success, most of the time incubation processes are not effective, especially for those teams of young people with little if any experience of self-employment. In these and other cases, an effective solution can be the support of a mentor / entrepreneur able to transfer the right enthusiasm, the right emotional condition and valuable advice on how to read contexts and markets in which they wish to operate. This helps teams to activate the strategic problem solving skill, allowing start-ups to survive after the initial impact with the market and to build a good foundation for a competitive and long-lived enterprise.

Finally, we are convinced that anyone who plans to start a business needs to be aware of his/her own limits as a natural consequence of an act of humbleness, which is to push all these people to search for a mentor or several mentors who can change their lives.

Infographic about mentoring

Infographic about mentoring. Source:

8 mentors for 8 great personalities

Below is a list of great personalities and their mentors:

Bill Gates and Dr. Ed Roberts

The encouragement and mental stimulation achieved by this partnership has ensured Microsoft the development of new bridges in the world of technology.

Steve Jobs and Robert Friedland

As we all know, Steve Jobs was essentially an open-minded thinker, but the encounter with Friedland allowed him to get out there and express his brilliant ideas openly and without hesitation.

To follow:
Mahatma Gandhi and Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Barak Obama and Michelle Robinson, Mother Teresa and Father Michael van der Peet, Woody Allen and Ingmar Bergman, Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson, Aristotle and Plato and many others (please click here for a great list of famous mentees and their mentors)


A start-up is the result of an idea and the team work of people sharing a dream. Although we were taught that the union is strength, that union often has to be maintained by a single person (the team leader) who in a thousand efforts should have – more than others – a clear mind and a deeper ability to read contexts. These capabilities need to be developed not only through professional experience in the field, but also by letting those people who have already gone down the same path support you.

The rest will follow: the ability to create a good team by choosing motivated people and the willingness to work effectively on the idea of enterprise will be the natural consequence of a good path of mentoring.

N.B. from January 2015 materahub will restart the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme, now in its sixth edition. Over 10.000 aspiring entrepreneurs across Europe have already participated and are currently involved in the program, which allows them to search for a mentor / entrepreneur in the 28 EU countries giving the opportunity to grow with a professional experience.

Are you also thinking of doing a work experience abroad with the support of an expert entrepreneur operating in your filed but in a different market?

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