“Since UBS and Seif started their collaboration, UBS volunteers have coached more than one hundred social enterprises.”
This month we sat down and talked to Sean Winn and Michael Horn, whom we met as a participant startup of the SEIF Acceleration Program in Zurich. As a result of the partnership between UBS and Seif in their common aim to promote impactful startups, Sean and Michael provided valuable mentorship to volvero to accelerate the traction and improve our service.
5 min read
How did the collaboration between UBS and Seif come to be?
UBS offers a wide range of opportunities for employees to support the local community and wider society. The Impact Academy perfectly fits into this concept: On the one hand, impact focused startups with needs in areas such as business management, financials, sales and strategy development benefit from experienced experts with a wide range of sector knowledge. On the other hand, employees from large established corporations are able to pass on their expertise and knowledge as well as support startups with their innovative business ideas. Since UBS and Seif started their collaboration, UBS volunteers have coached more than one hundred social enterprises.
For how long have you been mentoring and what are the main challenges you face as mentors?
I’ve participated in the Seif acceleration program for the second time now. I would say the most challenging parts in the mentoring process are: Firstly, building an environment of trust – in a short period of time and largely through digital communication – where open and candid discussions are possible.
The second big challenge is getting a clear view of the startups’ strategic priorities and among these, identifying the ones that are most critical and for which we, as mentors, can create the biggest value.
I would echo a lot of what Michael said. I’ve mentored people outside of work, but this was my first opportunity to practice mentoring skills formally in the workplace and it was a very interesting and engaging change from my everyday tasks. Pairing up with Michael to do this was a very positive experience as well.
I think the most challenging part of mentoring is to pinpoint where we can add the most value in the short amount of time that is available to us. The mentoring process lasts four to six months, so making the most out of that half-year is crucial. What I’ve noticed while mentoring Marco is that entrepreneurs and startups in general have a lot of different things on their plates simultaneously. Consequently, I see mentoring as a process of trying to balance all these priorities and challenges with our knowledge and skills and align the focus in such a way that the greatest possible value can be generated for the entrepreneurs.
“A challenge startups have in common is the prioritization of their own time and company resources to ensure they get support in important and time consuming areas outside their expertise and have quality time to think about long-term strategic issues.“
In your opinion, what are the most common challenges startups tend to face?
Based on my own experience and on what I hear from other mentors, startups and the organizers of the acceleration program, the specific topics that you end up discussing or helping the startups with vary greatly and are very much driven by the immediate needs of the startup. It’s possible that a startup is just getting ready for a funding round or is trying to establish a proof of concept or perhaps enter a new market. So the most pressing problems that they’re struggling with usually differ.
I think a typical issue that Sean alluded to as well is that the founders have to juggle a lot of different things at once, and a lot of those things are outside of their area of expertise. In addition, startups typically have limited resources to delegate. So a challenge they have in common is the prioritization of their own time and company resources to ensure they get support in important and time consuming areas outside their expertise and have quality time to think about longer term strategic issues.
I would agree that capacity and prioritization are the most common problems that I have recognized among startups. While volvero is the first startup that I personally have mentored, I talk to a lot of other colleagues who themselves are mentors as well. The two issues that come up time and time again are capacity and prioritization in a way that the entrepreneurs are able to triage their tasks and so that they can maximize their time as well as maximize the value they get out of their time.
What’s your opinion about volvero and the mentoring process?
I really enjoyed the experience. It was very interesting to see the types of challenges and struggles that startups face and to walk through the ideas and potential solutions. Some of which have already been implemented since. An example for such a solution is the introduction of a promotion and incentivizing model for first time users to help grow some traction.
It was a very pleasant experience for me as well. I think Marco is a great person to work with. You can see he’s on a mission and he’s determined to make volvero a success. For me, coming from a large and mature organization, it’s refreshing to work with smaller startups such as volvero which can move things forward much quicker and are just at the beginning of a hopefully steep growth trajectory.
What’s your opinion about shared mobility?
I think shared mobility has a big future. It is one of the strongest growth segments in the transport sector. Not only is it commercially attractive, but also clearly aligned with global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and promote responsible consumption.
I think it is a really good solution for what will continue to be a growing problem. The population and the number of vehicles on the road is increasing globally. Society as a whole is increasingly adopting the shared service model for various utilities and services, which is beneficial for modern society.
volvero is helping to solve a part of this puzzle providing access to vehicles and mobility, which in itself hopefully helps to relieve some of the congestion on the roads. And I think volvero is tapping into a fairly good resource pool of dealerships and larger companies that have fleets of cars which are often sitting idle. They are trying to maximize the time that those vehicles are being used rather than just creating new vehicles which in turn aren’t used to their full extent.
Ekaterina Efimova @volvero