In Praise of Good Mentors: The Accelerator Centre

When you are an entrepreneur, there are so many paths that you will walk for the first time. Sales process, marketing, payroll, funding: just a few things that were new to us at eleven-x. And while I’d call our co-founders quick learners, there is immeasurable value in the wisdom of those who have done it before.

Affectionately (and efficiently) known as The AC, we’ve been proud to call this our home since the beginning of the year. Waterloo Region is a hotbed of innovation and entrepreneurship, and The AC’s mandate is to transform big ideas into thriving businesses. I have worked in the networking area of The AC, and over the course of the day I’ve witnessed the mentors in action. They are engaged, insightful, and caring. They come armed with a distinguished arsenal of accomplishments, and clearly love to feed that back into the start-up system.

(Pictured above: Ryan Hickey (our CEO), Kevin Hood, Kevin Elop, Fraser Gibbs (our CTO), Bob Rushby, Steven Fyke. Sadly missed were Jackie Lauer and Ellyn Winters-Robinson)

Jackie Lauer advises on Human Resources, Leadership and Culture. And while she’s helped us with the nuts and bolts of HR, what makes Jackie special is her passionate stance on good leadership. She’s like a (much!) younger version of Yoda, sharing practical philosophies on how our needs as human beings inform the way we want to be led. Though we’re just 8 people now, Jackie shares our cultural belief in “protecting what’s awesome now” and nurturing it as eleven-x grows.

Kevin Hood is the Sales and Marketing guru, and given our engineering-heavy origins, Kevin has helped us navigate this learning curve. A good idea doesn’t magically translate into a successful product, and that market validation process is crucial. We have been learning to conduct the vital research that indicates whether we need to modify, adapt, or pivot our product concept. In addition to this enormous undertaking, Kevin has provided practical methodologies for the sale process.

Bob Rushby mentors on the Technology front. He has been brilliant at challenging our technical ideas, asking the types of valuable questions that can only come from a knowledgeable-yet-neutral third party. Bob is also a skilled hand when it comes to strategic partnerships. With so many ties to the tech community, Bob exemplifies that spirit of collaboration and sharing one’s expertise.

Kevin Elop provides a wide range of guidance under the Finance umbrella. As the CFO of two high-tech start-ups, and with a deep history of blue-chip experience, Kevin understands a company’s needs at every stage. He’s clarified the complex world of funding options available to us, and the equally-complex legalities of a shareholder agreement. Most recently, we relied on Kevin’s support for an asset acquisition project.

Steven Fyke is devoted to making products that provide a rewarding user experience. As the Design Strategy mentor, Steven has taught us the importance of workflows as we flesh out our product ideas. He demonstrates the importance of asking good questions, and making the customer an integral part of our product story. He loves to dig into a problem, in the interest of developing the right solution.

Ellyn Winters-Robinson is like a walking toolkit for all things PR and Communications. In short order, Ellyn grasped our vision for the eleven-x brand. With that in mind, she encouraged us to demonstrate thought leadership in our industry by publishing original technical content on a regular basis. She helped re-model our pitch deck so that it told a more compelling story. She has advised on newsletters, business cards, social media, and SEO – always with enthusiasm.

And this is only our first four months at The AC. The word “accelerate” is an accurate description of what happens here. We are amazed by all that we have learned in this time, and by how much The AC feels like home. Every morning when you walk in the door, you are surrounded by people who love to roll up their sleeves and get stuff done. Thank you to the mentors at The Accelerator Centre, who have fostered this invigorating place to build our business.

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