Are you interested in becoming a WHAM mentor but have a few questions?
"I don't have a lot of free time"
That's why we suggest one hour per week for two months. We find this is easy to commit to, enough for a good thorough review of a strategic plan or of a funding pitch. Longer programs often lose both the momentum and focus required for action and impose too many engagements. However, after the first meeting Mentor and Mentee can certainly organize themselves as they wish.
Is there any legal risk if I become a mentor?
To make sure the relationship is clear from the start, we have drawn up the following charter for the mentor and mentee to sign:
"The mentor-mentee relationship is a relationship of trust. All participants should take necessary steps - both at the start of the mentor-mentee relationship and throughout the relationship - to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest or other reasons why they should not take part in the mentorship program. In addition, participants agree not to disclose or use any information of a commercially sensitive or confidential nature that they may receive in the course of the Mentoring Program except with prior approval.
The mentor-mentee relationship is an informal relationship. Participation in the mentoring program does not create a legal relationship between the participants, impose any obligations or duties upon them, or create any rights. Should participants wish to engage in a professional relationship beyond the mentoring program, they are encouraged to explore defining their relationship with legal counsel.
The mentor-mentee relationship belongs to the mentor and the mentee. The Wharton Club is not involved in or responsible for the mentor mentee relationship beyond the initial contact."
Are there any formal deliverables?
This is not paid consulting so no need for formal deliverables. Also startups have such unique needs that every situation will be different. We do expect however to get feedback, issues faced, success stories … at the end of the 2 month period.
"I am employed, is there a risk of conflict of interest?"
It is best that Alumni employed by an organization do write to their HR to declare that they are doing unpaid mentoring for a startup, giving details about the startup activity. They should do the same if they become an investor (even if just receiving sweat equity). Equally they should never represent themselves as acting from their organization in dealings with the startup, only as a volunteer Wharton Alumni. Disclosure and proper communication is important to avoid any issues.
"What if I am offered a strategic board membership or sweat equity?"
Any formal relationship beyond the mentoring requires a formal shareholder agreement that is an opportunity to clearly define the relationship and should include a Hold Harmless clause for the new investor. If this happens, it's best to be part of an angel club that is familiar with such procedures.
"What happens if the startup I am mentoring requires specialist, payable advice?"
This can be part of the recommendation of a mentor as we do have several specific experts within the Wharton Alumni community. For instance communication or IT or M&A tasks are often contracted by startups. We aim to have a list of Alumni experts available and it is important to separate the mentoring from any commercial transactions.