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Entrepreneurship News

March 9, 2013

Sumit Suman '11: All You Have to Do is Ask

Sumit Suman '11: All You Have to Do is Ask


It might come as a surprise, but most people we surveyed said they'll help anyone who asks. Yet many of us still hesitate in asking for help, perhaps because we are apprehensive about causing inconvenience, or maybe because we fear rejection. Read how Sumit Suman ’11 solves this problem with Mentii, a platform that allows potential mentors to express their explicit intent to help, and in turn, helps advice seekers feel more comfortable and confident in their request for help.

Tell us about Mentii


Mentii is a career mentoring platform for individuals and their affinity organizations. Organizations create mentoring communities at Mentii - members get a mentoring profile, which records their intent, ability, and motivation to help. Members utilize this mentoring graph to find the best mentor for their career need.

What has been your biggest “A-Ha!” moment to date? How did it change your business?

We started out with building an innovative tool to practice job interviews. Users could record mock interviews, and send it to friends and experts for feedback. Having seen my business school friends spend countless hours in Watson, practicing mock interviews with each other, I firmly believed that this was an insanely useful tool.

In a testament to Professor Steve Blank, the “A-ha” moment came from taking the painstakingly developed product to real users. Not many people outside the business school environment took interview preparation that seriously. However, we learned that people LOVED the ability to access expert feedback. We latched on to that need, explored it further - and Mentii was born.

How have the classes you attended at Columbia Business School shaped your business/management approach?

Probably the most important lesson I learned across all classes at Columbia Business School was that the goal of most negotiations is not to get the best deal for myself, but to expand the pie for both parties. I live and die by this win-win philosophy -- it has been an incredibly powerful framework in every single sales and partnership meeting that I have had for Mentii.

The Columbia Alumni Connection: How have you used it?

I don't think we would be even operational without the alumni support.

Maneesh Sagar '03, supported us when we were just a fledgling concept and a crappy MVP. That support pushed me to go full time with Mentii. Vince Ponzo '03 helped us break the product-market fit conundrum just when we were beginning to get frustrated with the search for it.

I had no playbook on how to use the alumni connection -- I just went up to them and asked for help, and they went out of their way. I plan to use this winning strategy quite often in the coming days.

What advice would you give to a graduating Columbia student with entrepreneurial aspirations?

I'd say find an independently and incredibly wealthy significant other. It's hard to pay off the loan, and even harder to start a company.  Another tip of advice is don't try to innovate on the process of starting up. It's been battle tested – and Professor Steve Blank is your god -- innovate on the ideas instead.

An interesting anecdote on unknowingly following your dreams: I had written about doing something exactly similar to Mentii in my Columbia Business School application, and had completely forgotten about it. It somehow came back. Who says long term goals in business school essays are works of fiction!
 

Spring 2014 Events

June 17, 2014

Columbia Business Lab Demo and Mentor Appreciation Reception

 

May 27, 2014

Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Columbia Demo Event
6:00-9:00pm
Venue - Morgan Stanley

 

May 21, 2014

Commencement

 

May 8, 2014

Entrepreneurs in Residence Workshop #6
12:30-2:00pm
Uris Hall Classroom 301

 

May 6, 2014

Lang Fund Board Meeting
9:00-2:00pm
Venue TBD

 

April 28, 2014

Greenhouse Class Reunion Dinner
6:00-8:30pm
Felberg Space, Warren Hall

 

April 21, 2014

Spring Venture Showcase
6:30-9:00pm
Uris Hall Classrooms 301, 303, 329, 331, 333

 

April 17, 2014

Brian Cohen Workshop
12:30-2:00pm
Uris Hall Classroom 142

 

April 15, 2014

Entrepreneur in Residence Austin Okere Workshop
12:30-2:00pm
Uris Hall Classroom 140

 

April 14 2014

Columbia Entrepreneurs Lab Deadline

 

April 11, 2014

#StartupColumbia Festival
Columbia University
 

 

April 10, 2014

Entrepreneur in Residence Jim Moore Workshop
12:30-2:00pm
Uris Hall Classroom 332

 

April 8, 2014

Pitch Workshop with David Rose
12:30-2:00pm
Uris Hall Classroom 301

 

April 7, 2014

Spring Venture Showcase Applications Due
MIDNIGHT via Gust

 

April 3, 2014

The Ecademy Awards
3:30-4:30pm
Alfred Lerner Hall Auditorium

 

March 27, 2014

Entrepreneurs in Residence Workshop #3
12:30-2:00pm
Uris Hall Classroom 307

 

March 27, 2014

Columbia Entrepreneurs Lab Event
6:00-9:00pm
Calder Lounge, Uris Hall

 

March 25, 2014

Columbia Entrepreneurs Lab Event
6:00-9:00pm
Uris Hall Classroom 332

 

March 10-20, 2014

Columbia Business Lab Interviews
9:00-6:00pm
Uris Hall Conference Room TBD

 

March 7, 2014

A. Lorne Weil SharkTank Competition
1:00-6:00pm
Uris Hall Classroom 332

 

March 6, 2014

Entrepreneurs in Residence Workshop #2
12:30-2:00pm
Uris Hall Classroom 307

 

February 27, 2014

Entrepreneurs in Residence Workshop #1
12:30-2:00pm
Uris Hall Classroom 307

 

February, 2014 - TBD

Columbia Business Lab Application - Link opens for submissions
(closes Sunday, March 9)

 

February, 2014 - TBD

Columbia Business Lab Info Session
12:30-2:00pm
Uris Hall Classroom 140

 

February 6, 2014

Lang Center Info Session
12:30-2:00pm
Uris Hall Classroom 140

 

February 4, 2014

Columbia Entrepreneurs Lab Lunch 'n' Learn
12:30-2:00pm
Uris Hall Classroom 333

 

February 3, 2014

Entrepreneurial Sounding Board Begins

 

January 13-17, 2014

Lean LaunchPad Block Week Course