Venture Capitalists and Industry Leaders Unite to Support Startup Community in First-of-Kind Mentoring and Charity Fundraising Campaign

18 May 2020 | Gratitude Mentor for Hope

SINGAPORE -- Venture firms, accelerators, incubators and other members of the startup community in Southeast Asia are coming out strongly to support a community-led charity fundraising campaign aiming to raise the equivalent of 50,000 meals for those in need, by offering mentoring and virtual classes to founders and startups affected by the COVID crisis.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 41% of startups globally are struggling, with a cash runway of  3 months or less (via venturebeat). There are at least 20,000 jobs attributed to 3,800 startups in Singapore alone, according to the Singapore Department of Statistics’ data as of December 2018, which are now at risk due to the pandemic.

Vertex Ventures, Sequoia India, Big Idea Ventures, Saison Capital, Qualgro, e27, Golden Gate Ventures, Insignia Ventures Partners, Openspace Ventures, AntlerNUS Enterprise, BLOCK71, SGInnovate, Hustle Fund, Accelerator StartupX, SoGal Ventures, STRIVE, NTUitive, Asia Institute for Mentoring, Wantedly, and other investment professionals and corporate leaders have banded together to organise Mentor for Hope. It is an unprecedented month-long fundraising campaign where mentors donate their time to help provide mentoring to founders affected by the COVID-19 crisis and raise funds for charity at the same time.

All donations raised during the campaign, from 18 May to 16 June 2020, will be dedicated to two beneficiaries, namely Beyond Social Services and Willing Hearts Soup Kitchen. Founders and members of the public are encouraged to donate. Public donations will enable founders who face financial challenges to benefit from investors’ mentoring sessions or experts’ coaching classes during the campaign.

Interested founders can sign up via the FutureLab e-mentorship platform and make a request for the mentors they wish to meet. They will then receive instructions on how to make or raise at least a SGD 50 donation. Founders also receive a Mentor for Hope Care package (worth SGD 500 in total), comprising a one- hour mentoring by a suitable mentor, free virtual coaching group classes led by professional experts and access to VentureCap Insights, an online venture investment database for two months. For founders facing financial difficulties, they may apply to reduce or waive the donation recommendation.

Mentor for Hope evolved from the “Gratitude-COVID mentoring initiative” started by Elise Tan Yee Ling in Singapore when her role at a venture firm was made redundant a month ago. Elise shares her motivation: "I might have lost my job but I thought that with the time I had on hand, I can help others keep theirs." She was later joined by Sharon Yeo Mei Ching and Gwen Sim, both final-year students at National University of Singapore.

Over 120 introductions have been made between founders and mentors since 1 April 2020.

One of the participants, Benjamin Gabriel, had to postpone all live events in March which his event-ticketing and vendor booking app, Orgeva, was supporting due to the pandemic, leaving him fearing the worst for his company and its survival. That was when he signed up for the mentoring initiative via Linkedin and was matched to Jeffrey Paine, Managing Partner of Golden Gate Ventures. In spite of his busy schedule, Jeffrey has provided him with useful, actionable advice.

“What we have created in a short time is a mini accelerator programme for founders across all stages to receive 1-on-1 mentoring with industry leaders, group mentoring with senior investors and masterclasses organised by experts, with a purpose to give back as well.”, shares Elise. The main organisers for Mentor for Hope are Elise Tan Yee Ling, Janet Neo, Sharon Yeo Mei Ching, Gwen Sim, Aparna Saxena, Jeng Yang Chia, Minh Vu Hong, Clinton Swan and Dr. Dalal AlGhawas, all of whom met through the Gratitude-COVID mentoring initiative.

"It is imperative for all of us to work together to help our community navigate this challenging period. By participating in programs such as Mentor for Hope, all of us at Sequoia India are happy to reiterate our commitment to founders in Singapore and to those in the startup ecosystem most impacted by this crisis," said Abheek Anand, Managing Director, Sequoia Capital (India) Singapore.

Joo Hock Chua, Managing Partner of Vertex Ventures SEA, adds: “This Mentor for Hope community fundraising initiative is a great effort to help founders and support charity. I am happy that Vertex is playing our part to help. Vertex is working with Beyond Social Services whose 3,000 members are mostly employed in low-paid, daily-rated precarious work.”

Shiyan Koh, Managing Partner of Hustle Fund shares, “What the COVID-19 crisis has illustrated is how interconnected we all are as a society. We are happy to be able to contribute in a small way to Gratitude’s efforts to simultaneously help entrepreneurs and those in our society who are suffering.”

Pocket Sun, Managing Partner at SoGal Ventures remarked, “Entrepreneurs are vulnerable in the pandemic. As the largest global platform for diverse entrepreneurs and investors, SoGal and our SheVC community are glad to support Mentor for Hope which brings access to high quality support to founders in Southeast Asia.”



Mentor for Hope

Mentor for Hope is a first-of-its-kind donation campaign in South East Asia, supported by venture capitalists and members of the South East Asian startup community to mentor founders and raise donations for vulnerable groups adversely impacted by the COVID crisis.

Gratitude-COVID mentoring initiative

The Gratitude-COVID mentoring initiative is a ground up, non-profit initiative founded by Elise Tan Yee Ling in April 2020. It aims to bring together investors and corporate leaders together to mentor startup founders who face dire challenges due to the COVID crisis. The mentoring areas span across remote team management, cash flow management, and fundraising during COVID-19. The goal is to bring the SEA startup community closer together and help each other so that we may emerge more united, stronger and more resilient after the crisis.