iVentures: A New Road for New Ventures

Can anything match the excitement of watching a chance encounter evolve into something real?

What a thrill it was to stand in a conference room at the College of Business Administration and welcome leaders of the MIT Venture Mentor Service (VMS) to Florida International University (FIU). A group of 15 South Florida business leaders and staff members of the Pino Center for Global Entrepreneurship and the business school heard Jerome Smith, co-director of the MIT VMS, and Michael Foster, a skilled and experienced mentor, teach us the nuts and bolts of setting up a venture mentoring program. Over the course of our two-day training, we had an amazing conversation about MIT’s experiences in mentoring ventures as well as how these efforts could play out in South Florida.

Front row, from left to right: mentors Mike Tomas, Hugo Perez, and Ana Harris; Jerome Smith, VMS; and Irma Becerra-Fernandez. Second row, from left to right: Michael Foster, VMS; and mentor Andy Perez
Front row, from left to right: mentors Mike Tomas, Hugo Perez, and Ana Harris; Jerome Smith, VMS; and Irma Becerra-Fernandez. Second row, from left to right: Michael Foster, VMS; and mentor Andy Perez

When I first had the idea of bringing venture mentoring to FIU, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I am fortunate to have four outstanding members of the Pino Center Advisory Board and Friends of the Center who attended the training and will serve as the leadership team for FIU’s VMS. All seasoned entrepreneurs themselves, they’ll be taking the lead in shaping the direction of our program.

We also had the opportunity to invite our first group of prospective mentors to the training. They bring a diverse group of experiences from all walks of South Florida’s business communities. It was inspiring to see how interested they are in reaching out to venture firms.

In my life as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned the benefits of learning from the triumphs—and mistakes—of others. MIT’s rich experiences with venture mentoring gave us a great insight into both. We’re so fortunate to begin our efforts with such a great roadmap.

Yet we also know that South Florida is not Boston, and FIU is not MIT. We have a multinational population, with its own set of experiences and dreams. Just as MIT’s community shaped the structure of their mentoring program, we will contextualize our program to our community.

As we design our program, I’m interested in your feedback. What sort of mentoring do you think our community’s ventures need? And, if you’re further down the road: what do you wish you could have learned from a mentor when you started a business?

View all articles by Irma Becerra-Fernandez.

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