The Young Entrepreneur Council with funding from Citi today launched #StartupLab, the beta version of a free online program that will engage age-40-and-under business founders to mentor fellow entrepreneurs.
The program, developed in partnership with dozens of colleges, business organizations, and government agencies, will offer aspiring and existing business owners access to online mentorship via interactive video chats, how-to content, and weekly email lessons. Participating organizations will be able to request in-person mentorship events with young entrepreneurs.
Young Entrepreneur Council founder Scott Gerber says the program aims to disrupt and democratize the delivery of business mentoring. "We need to get smarter about how we connect with people at the right stage to ensure the right outcome. This is the beginning of a new trend in the digital dissemination of mentorship resources," Gerber says, adding that the initiative is also a step toward alleviating youth joblessness and underemployment.
Among the successful young entrepreneurs who will serve as mentors on the Facebook-based platform are Catherine Cook of MeetMe, Jennifer Fleiss of Rent the Runway, Slava Rubin of Indiegogo, Jason Nazar of DocStoc, Ryan Allis of iContact, Matt Mickiewicz of 99Designs, and Rahim Fazal of Involver.
A long list of organizations that have already agreed to integrate #StartupLab into their own Facebook pages includes Junior Achievement, Georgetown University, George Washington University, MassChallenge, Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, Veterans Affairs Innovation Initiative, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, Venture for America, Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda, and many more universities, nonprofits, entrepreneur and small business organizations, government agencies and co-working spaces.
YEC says the connections will enable entrepreneurship organizations across the country to create stronger online communities for their members quickly and effectively at no cost.
Gerber founded the YEC two years ago to spur more entrepreneurship among his peers—the generation known as Millennials. More than 500 entrepreneurs under age 40 are now members of the organization, and Gerber says they have collectively generated tens of thousands of jobs and over $1 billion in revenue.