Market matching mentors in Africa

African entrepreneurs are increasingly looking for mentorship. Locally, a study by the Silicon Cape initiative, revealed that access to business mentors was the second most sought after resource. Now,VC4Africa (Venture Capital for Africa), the African entrepreneurial hub, is launching the Mentorship Marketplace, a peer-to-peer marketplace where entrepreneurs can add “mentor requests” that are searchable and actionable by a pool of registered mentors.

Entrepreneurs looking for advice on how to grow their business in Africa now have access to a group of dedicated mentors, while Africans living abroad can get directly involved with venture creation.

Assisting promising entrepreneurs

Having a quick look at the type of mentorship being requested on the Mentorship Marketplace, entrepreneurs are looking for advice on things like fund-raising, strategy development, acceleration and business model proposition. There’s also the odd startup at seed-stage looking for guidance on making it past year one.

VC4Africa’s own research shows 45% of Africa’s entrepreneurs who registered on VC4Africa are looking for mentorship. 20% of the members have currently engaged in VC4Africa’s mentorship activities.

“When an entrepreneur faces a challenge we are convinced there are members within the VC4Africa network who have the answers and are willing to lend their insight, expertise and experience,” says David van Dijk, Head of Entrepreneurship Development at VC4Africa.

The service is free of charge. Mentors dedicate their time, network and expertise free of charge. After a match is made through the platform, the dialogue between mentor and entrepreneur continues through channels of their choosing — email, phone, Skype, instant messenger and so on.

To place a request the entrepreneur has to have a good (draft) business plan and related documents, and have a clear challenge that is well-defined and measurable. For entrepreneurs who are still in the earlier stages and not yet ready to receive a mentor, VC4Africa hosts a growing number of self-help tools like business plan templates and the VC4Africa Questions & Answers service.

Mentorship successes

The Mentorship Marketplace grew from VC4Africa’s dedicated mentorship group, started in 2011. The programme has developed over the last two years into the service it is today.

“The new service is designed to help organise the supply and demand from across the community. Most importantly, the tool recognises people’s participation and we are continually looking at ways we can recognise members for their contributions,” explains Bill Zimmerman, CoFounder of VC4Africa.

The VC4Africa community of entrepreneurs and investors has more than 10,000 members in more than 159 countries. Entrepreneurs have raised more than a US$1-million in funding through VC4Africa.