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The successes of Stone & Chalk's MentorMatch program

Ryan Yan (R), Director & Co-Founder of NoahPay, with his mentor Karina Kwan (R).

MentorMatch is Stone & Chalk's flagship 3-month mentorship program, which brings together experts from established parts of the financial sector with promising individuals from high potential startups. The program transforms how new and innovative businesses gain experience from and learn about traditional industries.

While most Stone & Chalk founders are likely experts in their field, the MentorMatch selection process creates matches that specifically complement the founder's skillset and industry requirements - often providing the mentor with opportunities for learning and growth as well.

We asked a matchup from the past year (2019) to reflect on their experiences.

Ryan Yan is Director & Co-Founder of NoahPay, one of the 28 start-ups accepted into the Sydney Hub's MentorMatch Program. Together with his mentor Karina Kwan, they make up one of the 113 person-to-person connections created last year.

Karina described the match-up process as “a bit like speed dating,” where each mentor is matched to four potential founder matches by Stone & Chalk's Head of Community Programs. For about 20 minutes, founders state their value proposition, run through their pitch deck, and explain what kind of help they want. Mentors then outline their experience, knowledge, and skills and discuss how they can best help the founder flourish.

Karina, whose father was a small-business owner, has always had “a keen desire to see a small business, with a great product, find success.” Having recently stepped down from a long career as a CFO and finance executive, Karina was given the opportunity to help a small business thrive, using her accumulated expertise in finance, strategy, risk, and corporate governance to advise Ryan on how he and his start-up should engage with banks.

Ryan's app, NoahPay, enables Chinese tourists visiting Australia to continue paying in the Chinese Yuan currency through the app WeChat. The Australian merchant then receives the payment in Australian dollars. Karina immediately saw the potential of Ryan's business and advised that he revise the focus of his pitch deck to better explain the benefits of his app. Additionally, Karina encouraged him to customise his pitch depending on each individual audience.

Seeing as though the MentorMatch Program matches mentors with an individual from a startup, rather than with the entire team of a startup, the mentor relationship focuses on personal as well as professional development. By creating a strong personal relationship, mentors and founders build mutual trust that enables more honest, open, and effective communication. Ryan appreciated the importance of a good mentor-founder relationship, saying that “there must be complete trust in any mentoring partnership, and Karina repeatedly showed that she was someone whose trustworthiness was guaranteed. For her to help us, she needed to be told honestly about our business, no matter how sensitive that information was. I knew that unless she had the full picture, she could not help us find the best solution. I told her everything, knowing it would never be disclosed to any outside source.”

Karina also found her involvement with the MentorMatch program to be highly valuable, summarising the experience by saying, “it was an extremely rewarding experience for me to be able to help someone take their first steps toward commercial success with a high-potential product into which they have poured so much time and energy.”

If you're interested in becoming a mentor please contact General Manager of Stone & Chalk Melbourne, Annie Le Cavalier via annie@stoneandchalk.com.au

December 2019

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