The following interview augments the ATPN feature story: "A Shark Tanks without the Sharks;
Peter McAlindon's fast-track for aspiring entrepreneurs (with disabilities)"
After his presentation at ATIA, AT Program News had an email exchange with Peter
McAlindon to learn more about how his online mentoring program for budding
entrepreneurs will work.
ATPN: Do you have a review committee to look at applications and match mentors
with mentees? Who are they?
Peter McAlindon (PM): Yes, we do have a review committee look at the applications to
help match mentors to mentees. I am a principal at venVelo -- short for venture velocity-- an Orlando based accelerator. We raised a sizable fund for early stage companies and have since inception a little over 6 months ago, invested over $250K in 3 startups here in the central Florida area. Much of what we do at venVelo translates nicely into what we are doing for the grant. The venVelo team and its mentors, as well as other community mentors, is diverse in its members backgrounds, experience(s), and industries in which companies have been built. More specifically, we have attorneys with various backgrounds (i.e., corporate, patent, etc.), finance professionals (i.e., CPAs, wealth managers, merger and acquisition specialists), professors (from engineering, business, psychology, and many other disciplines), successful serial entrepreneurs, marketing and sales professionals, and others.
ATPN: Are you developing software to analyze applications and generate curriculum recommendations?
PM: Yes, we are developing software to analyze applications and to help generate the curriculum. However, the software will only be used as a tool to aid a human mentor in analyzing the application and suggesting a curriculum. Over time, with the feedback from both mentors and mentees, the system should become smarter and become a better tool for analyzing the application and suggesting the appropriate curriculum development. We are also developing a system to match mentor to mentee and vice versa based on personality type, learning style, and a handful of other metrics. Again, over time, the system should get better at matching mentors/mentees. ATPN: Who are your marketing partners, specifically, to get the word out (I'm thinking you have a blend of disability/AT world entities but also, perhaps, connections in higher ed to find budding entrepreneurs ... who also happen to have disabilities)?
PM: You are correct. We have and will continue to reach out to many disability/AT organizations to promote and execute the program. The VA has thus far been a very receptive partner as has the Orlando CIL and the Central Florida Disability Chamber. Vocational Rehabilitation and Workforce Florida are others who have either helped or can help promote the program. The marketing partners who matter most however are the individual entrepreneurs doing great things…. This is definitely a entrepreneurial success begets marketing success type of effort.
ATPN: Is there a fee, at any time, for participating/applying? (How will it be funded beyond the grant?)
PM: Right now, there is no fee for applying or participating. I hope that there will never be a fee for people to apply or participate. Funding going forward will be via other grants through local foundations, through support of local programs like vocational rehabilitation, centers for independent living, and here in Orlando, the Central Florida Disability Chamber. I am also optimistic that once one company becomes hugely successful, it will want to give back to the program in some way -- and offering free service is a great way to do so.