Entrepreneurial Mentoring Research Project

In 2016, the University of Michigan and EFN conducted a multi-institution empirical analysis of mentoring in startup ecosystems to determine what helps entrepreneurial teams and mentors thrive in mentorship programs. This research was funded in part by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Effective mentoring programs are very difficult to structure and execute, even with the best intentions and reasonable budget. In this report we find that university programs lag behind non-university accelerator programs along several important dimensions, when it comes to matching mentees to mentors and providing support during the program and following up after the completion of the program.

This is the largest study to date that examines success factors in mentoring.  Respondents included 820 people from university and private accelerator programs: entrepreneurs, founders, students, researchers, mentors, investors, company executives, university faculty and staff and program directors.

Download Mentoring in Startup Ecosystems
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Our analysis makes it clear that mentoring is fundamental to entrepreneurial success but founders must be committed to the process and mentors must be highly qualified and fit well with entrepreneurs. The vast majority of entrepreneurs believe that mentorship has contributed to their ventures’ success.  However, entrepreneurs benefit commensurate with their  perspective and commitment to learning (i.e., growth mindset) and capacity to establish and sustain mentoring relationships including frequent interactions and meetings.

The report addresses several key questions.

  • What is mentoring and what value does it contribute?
  • What constitutes an effective mentoring program and who is qualified to be a mentor?
  • What is really going on in these mentoring programs?
  • What kinds of assumptions and expectations do the participants have?
  • What are the critically important success factors that contribute to valuable outcomes?
  • How can the mentoring process be further improved?
  • How can mentoring and coaching be learned?
  • How can entrepreneurs and mentors be trained so they can benefit more from mentoring programs?

Research Leaders, Sponsors and Partners

More than 40 partners advised the team and sent out the surveys including universities, the National Science Foundation’s i-Corps™ and private accelerators including Techstars.


Leaders and Sponsors






Learn about the Leaders and advisory board members from top universities, the Kauffman Foundation and the National Science Foundation. Our authors and co-authors are Dr. Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, Dr. David Brophy, Thomas Jensen, Dr. Melanie Milovac, and Evgeny Kagan.

To help build the entrepreneurial community and implement the study, we have launched the Mentoring Excellence & Leadership (MXL) Forum, a Community of Practice.  MXL will give everyone in the community opportunities to share their ideas to improve high quality entrepreneurial mentoring.  To become a member of MXL, please access EFN Online and then MXL.

Read article about what the authors, and top founders and venture and accelerator managing directors say about the study.