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Optimizing Mentor Relationships: The Key to Unlocking Acceleration Value



In this dual panel discussion from the NYC Innovation Collective, we'll take a look under the hood and see what makes a mentor-founder relationship work best.

  • Mentors can expect to learn how to quickly deliver the most value to founders

  • Founders can expect to learn how to best approach mentor meetings

  • Program Directors can expect how to best arrange mentor-founder sessions

NYC Innovation Collective members receive free admission. Check Slack for the code!

Panel 1: Mentors

Mentors share their perspectives on mentor relationship expectations, lessons, and tips.

Mentor 1 - Desiree Frieson


Desiree Frieson is the Assistant Director at NYDesigns and former Program Manager for Blackstone LaunchPad at NYU, focusing on matching startup coaches with NYU entrepreneurs.

Mentor 2 - Zvia Schoenberg


Zvia Schoenberg is the NY Director, of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, an organization that teaches entrepreneurship to young people. Previously, she worked in the public and private sectors in K12 education. From launching charter schools and charter networks, to EdTech companies, Zvia has held roles in legal, strategy, business development and operations. Her focus has been growth in innovation for K12 students. Zvia currently co-chairs the NYC chapter of 1 Million Cups, a monthly breakfast for entrepreneurs, and previously chaired EdTechWomenNYC, a networking group for women in EdTech. Zvia received her JD from the NYU School of Law, and her BA from Washington University in St. Louis.

Mentor 3 - Greg Castro


Greg is the Founder & CEO of Sparky + Hollywood, a full-service marketing & sales firm servicing high growth companies. Greg has actively participated in mentoring early start-up founders and has been involved in mentorship programs for Newark Venture Partners, TEP/New York International, FutureWorks, and GCT (Grand Central Tech). He takes pride in helping optimize both people and companies as they accelerate their entrepreneurial journey. Greg’s expertise lies in strategic consulting, digital marketing, and sales development. Greg is a former operating partner at Interplay Ventures and formerly co-founded a marketing agency, Varick North which he later acquired from his partner's at Interplay Ventures. Interplay is a successful NY VC firm with over 30 investments in high-growth companies. Prior to Varick North & Interplay, he founded four companies and was a marketing and communications consultant at AXA US.

Mentor 4 - Prasant Sudhakaran


Prasant is the co-founder of Aingel. Prior to co-founding Aingel, Prasant spent over 10 years in finance and consulting for firms across geographies. Starting his career as a fixed income trader, he moved on to management consulting, where he worked with multiple Fortune 500 companies, SMBs and not-for-profit organizations. Prasant’s interests lie in using Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in the areas of finance and marketing. He has a BA in Economics and Finance from De Montfort University, and an MS in Business Analytics from New York University.

Moderator - Ash K.


Managing Director of StartED and accelerator builder with 15+ years experience advising and building partnerships for organizations solving problems in education. Passionate about applying technology to solve challenges in education, and connecting with education innovators around the world.

Panel 2: Founders

Founders share their perspectives on mentor relationship expectations, lessons, and tips.

Founder 1 - Shawn Vo


Shawn's the CTO / Co-founder of Axle Travel. The company provides long-distance travelers with fast and affordable ground transportation using private shuttles for the long haul and existing ride-sharing services for the first and last mile. He graduated from UVA with degrees in commerce and economics but is a self-taught developer. After graduating, he worked for a couple of analytics startups. One was acquired for a billion dollars, and the other was small enough that he reported directly to the CTO. During that time, he realized the value of finding a diverse set of mentors as a way to accelerate learning. When his company got accepted into MassChallenge and Techstars last year, he knew it'd be worth it to do both at the same time as long as they were smart about meeting and selecting good mentors. Since then, they have raised their seed round, launched the product, hired the founding team, and is currently working out of the WeWork Labs program where they continue to work with mentors to gain new perspectives.

Founder 2 - Kate Bradley Chernis


Kate Bradley Chernis is the Founder & CEO of Lately, which helps humans write better marketing content in collaboration with artificial intelligence and software automation. Prior to founding Lately, Kate served 20 million listeners as Music Director and on-air host at Sirius/XM. She’s also an award-winning radio producer, engineer and voice talent with 25 years of national broadcast communications, brand-building, sales and marketing expertise. Kate has been through ERA, GCT and is now part of SAP.iO. On the topic of mentorship, Kate is proud to be bit of a wild horse and "buck" against the mentor norms.

Founder 3 - Anastasia Cifuentes


Anastasia Cifuentes is the Co-founder and COO at Gatsby, a blockchain-based internet company that promises privacy, lightning-speed, and transparency. Gatsby graduated from Lair East Labs, and is currently based out of NYU Digital Future Labs. Prior to Gatsby, Anastasia co-founded a successful real estate fund in Central America. Anastasia received her B.A. in Political Theory and Certificate in Chinese Language and Culture at Princeton University. In her spare time, Anastasia mentors the next generation of tech leaders at Built By Girls.

Moderator - Arthur Godiva


Arthur Godiva is a freelance venture consultant launching venture programs like incubators, accelerators, and labs for companies like Techstars, Samsung, NYU, and WeWork. After designing, marketing, and recruiting for awesome startups and program fit, Arthur directly advises founders on growth strategy in the four essential business pillars of product, marketing, fundraising, and team. Previously, Arthur was a management consultant and VP for Bank of New York Mellon's Fintech Innovation Division advising the firm and its clients on Technology Product Management and Business Architecture. Before graduating Baruch College in Computer Information Systems, he originally started his consulting career focusing on product for companies like EmployToy and Cablevision, and strategy/marketing for nonprofits such as Children’s Tumor Foundation, Yankees Foundation, UNCF, and the Mount Sinai Medical Center Foundation. As a native New-Yorker, you can find him networking at meetups or out volunteering, dancing, or doing x-sports. In his spare time, he volunteers for +Acumen and is the founder of the Tech For Good Society, a community of changemakers using technology to solve the world's biggest social impact problems.


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