Being a startup founder can feel isolating, but with the right support, you’ll never be in it alone. A core component of Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS (JLABS) is to support early-stage innovators through JPALS, our JLABS Mentor Program.
With the support of JPALS, companies can connect with industry leaders across the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies to help accelerate their growth. Each JLABS company is paired with a dedicated JPAL who shares a passion for their potential solution. Companies selected to join BLUE KNIGHT™, our joint initiative with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), also gain access to mentorship from BARDA, offering twice the expertise and potential for expanded, cross-sector input. But twice the mentorship power is only impactful if the mentor-mentee relationship is successful.
Through joining BLUE KNIGHT™ companies on their mentorship calls and my own experiences as a mentor and as a mentee, I’ve come to recognize some best practices that I feel make mentorship successful.
It’s Not Just About the Science
Success in mentorship draws parallels to success in founding a company: neither are just about the science. When building a company and working to bring a new product to patients, the science is only the foundation – without a strong business and marketing strategy, manufacturing partners or regulatory expertise, it may never reach the patients who need it. Mentors are not only available to discuss the science, but can provide guidance across all stages of the development pathway, and can connect you to the right advisers and subject matter expertise along the way.
Initiating mentorship is like beginning a new relationship; it starts with building trust. In a mentor-mentee relationship, presenting yourself as respectful and reliable is an important place to start. Reach out proactively; be organized and efficient; and show value for your mentor’s time by scheduling meetings promptly and joining and closing on-time. You should also be prepared to share relevant information, ask questions and follow-up. This may sound basic, but a successful mentor-mentee relationship relies on strong, respectful communication.
Not Every Update Means a Call
Zoom fatigue? Mentors feel it too! It’s important to stay connected – and it’s your responsibility to keep your mentor current on your company, but not every update requires a call. Finding the right meeting cadence is often trial and error in the beginning. For some, meeting on a quarterly cadence is sufficient, and sharing meeting recaps and intermediary progress via email helps them to stay on their mentors’ radar in between.
Mentorship is More Than a Path to Funding
While opportunities for future investment may exist, the heart of mentorship is providing insights and guidance that can help your company navigate the path to market. A candid mentor relationship provides an unparalleled chance to learn from the experiences, successes and failures of a veteran innovator. By putting their guidance into practice, you may avoid or efficiently overcome obstacles to success, which – in the long run – could be more valuable than monetary support.
Do Your Homework and Show Your Work
Remember when your teachers asked you to show your work on a test? By demonstrating how you arrived at an answer, partial credit could be granted. The same is true in mentorship: always share your thought process so that your mentor can offer input on both your strategy and result. By approaching your mentor prepared and ready to brainstorm, your meetings may be more productive.
Interested in putting these tips into practice and gaining access to robust opportunities for mentorship through JLABS or our BLUE KNIGHT™ initiative? We encourage you to apply for the chance to join us today.