Beyond the Pitch
What If: MentorcliQ
“What if everyone had a great mentor and we made it easy?” Phil George, co-founder of Mentorcliq.
If that had been the case when Phil and his brother Andy were growing up, MentorcliQ might never have been born.
Instead the George brothers would be running a thriving decorative stone business.
Entrepreneurship Arrives Early
When Andy and Phil were 10 and 12 years old, they painted rocks.
Not just any rocks—these are decorative stones that Andy, always an artist, was selling to local company Gift Basket Express in their hometown of Heath, OH.
The idea had taken off. But even with both middle-schoolers working as fast as they could, Andy and Phil couldn’t keep up with demand.
The gift basket business eventually lost patience and fired the George brothers—their first lesson in the entrepreneurial challenge of creating a business that will scale.
The pair came up with other ideas and even got semi-serious about starting a t-shirt company, but in the end (or as it turns out, the beginning) Andy pursued a career in aviation and Phil joined the Peace Corps, followed by increasingly strategic roles in a Fortune 500 firm.
The brothers never lost that spark of “what if.”
The thing that links Phil and Andy, besides great childhood memories, is that they share a real passion for creating connections.
In the Peace Corps, Phil created a program called the Women’s Business Society that connected women with mentors outside their existing networks to help discover and develop career opportunities. He took that experience into the corporate world and created a mentoring program there. Andy’s career in aviation started with a gig as a flight instructor, where he discovered a love for teaching.
About two-and-a-half years ago, as Phil was shifting from his latest corporate role, he landed on the idea of connecting people with mentors outside their sphere of influence.
Just like when they were kids, the brothers were happy to work as a team. Along with Miles Ulrich, the CTO for MentorcliQ and former Peace Corp friend, they started building a prototype.
And MentorcliQ came to be.
“Starting a company here has been a pleasant surprise,” says Phil, who moved from LA back to Ohio to start Mentorcliq.
“There are the statistics,” he says, “for example Forbes just listed Columbus as the #1 Opportunity City. Then there’s the two degrees of separation from anyone you need to talk with. Columbus is big enough that there are resources and people in the different spheres, but small enough that we can quickly get access to information or people that would be helpful to drive our venture forward.”
Andy and Phil’s initial idea was to create a stand-alone, consumer-based network of individual mentors and mentees, but as they were socializing the prototype, the same question kept coming up from corporate executives—“Can you do this specifically for our company?”
So Phil and Andy, who learned the lesson of scaling a business back when their ages barely summed to 21, leveraged their technology to create a software service that manages corporate mentoring programs like never before.
One of MentorcliQ’s early adopters was Rev1.
“In 2014, we wanted to grow our Advisor network,” says John Sydnor, SVP, Venture Acceleration and Strategic Programs. “The program was there, and we wanted to scale the opportunity so that more startups could have greater access to the advisors who had signed up. R1’s goal was more than a sea of faces on a website.”
Rev1 asked MentorcliQ to facilitate meaningful interactions between companies and the advisors. “Now as we grow the number of advisors, we can also grow the number of engagements between those advisors and clients,” Sydnor says.
It’s working. The number of engagements has grown, with 35 companies currently engaged with 45 advisors.
Words of Wisdom
“Get off your idea,” Andy says. “There’s nothing precious about it. Share as many details as you can instead of trying to protect it. Get people around you that can help you as quickly as possible.”
It’s no surprise that both brothers speak to the importance of connections and networks. That’s one of the reasons why their product has been such a great fit with Rev1.
“Connect with others that are in your space,” says Phil. “If you haven’t started a company before you don’t know how much support you’re going to need in all the areas you don’t know about. You don’t know what you don’t know. The sooner you get advisors and build relationships with other entrepreneurs, the better you will understand what the next challenge is that you’re going to have to face.”
*McPherson, Susan. Jan 6, 2012. “Why CSR’s Future Matters to Your Company”. Harvard Business Review.
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