Mentor Hot Seat – Mike Kirkup

In this series of posts we’re “grilling” the mentors of the Startupify program with the hope of discovering who is best able to answer a standardized set of questions. Points for accuracy and un-originality will be assigned. Actually we’re just trying to learn more about them .. the kind of stuff that doesn’t appear in boilerplate bios.

Let’s get going and welcome our fourth contestant: Mike Kirkup

What qualifies you to be a Startupify mentor?kirkup

I want to learn from you as much as you want to learn from me. I truly believe that mentors should establish peer based relationships. On top of that, I get to work with some of the best startups in Kitchener-Waterloo every day running the VeloCity program. I have over 10 years of experience in the mobile space and understand how to build a marketplace given that my job at RIM/BlackBerry was to build an effective developer ecosystem.

What hurdles/failures/lessons have you encountered along your professional journey that early stage entrepreneurs could learn from?

Your problems will come in all shapes and sizes but the hardest ones tend to be your team. Finding the right team members is hard on the best of days but ensuring that the team continues to be the best is even harder. On top of that, changing your team is difficult because it is emotional, easy to avoid the problem and difficult to pull the trigger when so many excuses are available. Yet, culture and team dynamics can kill even the best company if not managed effectively.

What excites you most about the Startupify program?

I am a big fan of Brydon. Need I say more?

What characteristics have you seen in the startups you’ve mentored in the past that you feel are indicators for success?

  • Strong technical aptitude with a desire to learn the business side. That is partially (or largely depending on your perspective) due to the types of people I hang out with every day.
  • Coachable. Do you listen when someone gives you advice? Do you get defensive and shut down? The best teams take into consideration all of the advice and make their own best decision.
  • Resourceful. Some of my favorite success stories are using multiple programs simultaneously. Every good startup story includes some life “hack” to help work around a limitation.

BONUS: Which Startupify mentor are you most excited to collaborate with and why?

Tough question. I have worked with many of the mentors already so if I had to pick a new name it would be Zak Homuth. Upverter is doing some amazing things and in our own backyard (Toronto). Zak has a great reputation and looking forward to getting to know him better.

Note: Zak is the invited speaker at DemoCampGuelph21 (Wednesday, April 10).