It takes a village to grow an early-stage company into a thriving business; that’s why VentureClash has launched a new Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program to provide competitors with a mentor who can advise them through the process. Each VentureClash semifinalist is carefully matched with an EIR mentor who can provide invaluable advice, resources and connections that will allow the company to succeed during and beyond the competition.
An Entrepreneur in Residence has experience commercializing technologies as an entrepreneur, board member, adviser or investor. Our mentors are passionate about helping entrepreneurs succeed by sharing their knowledge and expertise. They can also leverage their networks and connections to help early-stage companies expand their reach.
Mike Driscoll joined Connecticut Innovations in 2013 as an Executive in Residence, working with CI portfolio company leaders to improve operations, cash management and strategic planning strategies. Mike has been helping portfolio companies successfully navigate strategic business issues and assisting CEOs with the growth of their businesses for five years. Mike’s career spans 35 years in manufacturing and management; prior to CI, Mike served for more than 10 years as an executive officer in several capacities for Connecticut-based Winchester Electronics, a global leader in the design, development and deployment of interconnect technology.
Q&A with VentureClash Mentor Mike Driscoll
Why did you decide to become an EIR?
As a retired president and CEO of my own corporation, I felt it important to help other companies and startups with the lessons I have learned over a 30-year career in an effort to keep them from making the same mistakes that I made. Mentors are EXTREMELY important to everyone. To this day, I stay in contact with my own mentors and from time to time still look to them for advice and input.
Did you have a mentor who contributed to your success?
Yes, in fact I had several who helped shape who I am today. Each mentor had a different skill set; one was financial, one was operational and one was focused on organizational development and industrial psychology.
What role do you play with VentureClash competitors?
I am a resource for the VC competitors to use as they navigate the VC competition itself, and I help them make connections here in Connecticut with potential customers as well as to develop a U.S.-based network of support to grow their businesses.
How do you help early-stage companies grow? What connections or resources can you offer them?
That’s a tough question to answer—every company has different strengths and weaknesses. My first job as a mentor is to assess where they are as a management team and if they have a business strategy that hangs together. From that point, we determine a plan of action and begin executing the strategic mission. As far as connections are concerned, I have a global operational network that can be tapped as well as one inside Connecticut and the United States.
As an experienced entrepreneur, what experiences or struggles did you face that allow you to connect with new entrepreneurs?
The single biggest and most common struggle for any business professional is cash management. Determining how to execute a business strategy while managing cash is, without question, the most difficult thing any entrepreneur has to face. I have faced it many times, and it’s what allows me the ability to help most new entrepreneurs—I’ve walked in their shoes.
What have you learned by being an EIR?
What I’ve learned is that even though the companies, the products and the markets are all different, the basic problems remain the same. How we’re able to execute their respective business strategies may differ, but getting the job done while managing cash is always the same.