Ventureprise Associate Director Devin Collins recently attended the U.S. Department of State’s 2018 Young Transatlantic Innovative Leaders Initiative (YTILI) Opening Summit in Portugal as a U.S. mentor.
Selected for a second year, Collins will share his expertise with young European entrepreneurs who were chosen for the fellowship program. Seventy entrepreneurs from 45 countries will participate in a year-long series of projects designed to strengthen their businesses by learning best practices from established U.S. entrepreneurs and organizations.
Collins leads UNC Charlotte’s Ventureprise Launch I-Corps site program, supported by the National Science Foundation. The focus on customer discovery, getting out of the office and talking to potential customers before “perfecting” the innovation, is the best practice approach to innovation-based entrepreneurship.
This model has been successful for U.S. startups, and with Collins sharing this model through several previous international mentoring programs, it has been implemented in other countries. As reported in the Jamaica Gleaner, Dave Oakley, founder of Crimebot Limited, who visited Charlotte as part of another fellowship program, commented on Collins’ customer discovery mentoring focus.
“The traditional models of working are fast becoming obsolete, and we need to embrace this change,” said Oakley, who was in the United States in 2017 as part of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows program, also funded by the U.S. Department of State.
“The Ventureprise initiative at UNC Charlotte primarily serves emerging entrepreneurs from the University and metro community,” stated Paul Wetenhall, Ventureprise executive director. “We are pleased that our customer discovery expertise can build connections benefiting global entrepreneurs and the Charlotte venture community.”
Collins has successfully paired UNC Charlotte researchers with startups not only in the Charlotte region but internationally, highlighting the relationship between entrepreneurship and university research. Another of Collins’ previous mentees, Matteo Forte with ADPM Drones (Rome, Italy), is currently working with Terrence Fagan, a faculty member in UNC Charlotte’s William States Lee College of Engineering.
Three other Charlotte entrepreneurial leaders were chosen as U.S. mentors and traveled to Portugal with Collins: Betsy Hauser Idilbi, Tech Talent South; Alexandra O’Rourke, Womble Bond Dickinson; and James Walker, Informative Technologies. These Charlotte entrepreneurial leaders have been paired with seven young European entrepreneurs, based on business and startup needs.
“The visiting entrepreneurs are hungry for access to the U.S. market and to learn our business practices, as mentors we are helping build mutually beneficial relationships within the Charlotte community,” Collins stated.
In October the YTILI fellows will visit their mentors in Charlotte to learn about the city’s startup ecosystem, build network connections and gain resources to strengthen their business.
“Charlotte can offer these entrepreneurs exposure to a close-knit and empowering entrepreneurial community alongside a thriving financial hub, with Southern hospitality to boot,” said Idilbi.
The city of Charlotte will be working with the mentors to welcome the fellows in October.
“Opportunities like these, when we are able to have one on one relationships, help Charlotte stand out and spotlight how competitive our companies are on a global scale," stated Alexis Gordon, international business manager, city of Charlotte.
Photo: Devin Collins and members of the 2018 Young Transatlantic Innovative Leaders Initiative.