• Tan Elise

Tough Times bring out the Best in People

(Edited from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/tough-times-bring-out-best-people-elise-yee-ling-tan published May 22, 2020)

COVID-19 has taken us by surprise and changed the lives of many, often for the worse.

I started Gratitude-Covid Mentor for Hope on 1st April 2020, just wanting to do my part to help advise startup founders who may be some of those hardest hit by the crisis. I wasn't sure what to expect when I reached out to my network to ask if they would like to help as well. It seems that everyone around me is busily adjusting to remote working and the other changes in their lives. Who might have time to spare a thought for others who may be struggling?

I'm glad to share that I was proven wrong. Within 2 days, 60 mentors from across different industries, venture capital, ecommerce, fintech, healthcare, logistics and others, signed up to pledge an hour of their time weekly to mentor startup founders in need. Within 2 weeks, we have over 120 mentors on the program. Over a month, we made 120 introductions between mentors and founders.

Encouraged by the favourable responses from the startup community, a few of us decided to launch #Mentorforhope, to give back to the vulnerable and less fortunate groups. These are individuals and families whose household income has dwindled even further due to their family members' loss of jobs or reduction in work hours. We wanted to launch within two weeks so that we may be able to help founders before the situation deteriorates further.

Those two weeks flew by in a flash as we were recruiting more mentors, bringing onboard partners and planning for the launch. I'm not sure how many of us on the team slept enough those two weeks.

And then five days since the official launch on 18 May 2020 -- We have raised S$11,460. Over 200 individuals who are investment professionals, C-suites, head of functions, professionals and subject experts have committed at least four hours of their time to mentor and help founders across South East Asia during the month of campaign. Several even volunteered more than 100 hours of mentoring, such as Retno Dewati from Access Ventures, Kelly An from Paypal and Amarit Charoenphan from Techsauce.

Our mentors pitched in to publicise about the campaign as well. If you type #mentorforhope on Linkedin and facebook, you will find many mentors sharing about Mentor for Hope.

In addition to mentoring, Puiyan Leung from Vertex Ventures have canvassed her friends and family to donate as well.

Despite their crazily busy schedules, these VC partners have volunteered their time to mentor founders too -- Yinglan Tan who leads Insignia Ventures Partners, Hian Goh who leads Openspace Ventures, Genping, partner at Vertex Ventures, Yen-Lu Chow who leads Asia Institute of Mentoring, Chris Yeo who leads Grab Ventures, Chris Sirise, partner at Saison Capital, Shiyan Koh who leads Hustle Fund and Jeffrey Paine who leads Golden Gate Ventures.

Several of the mentors, Steve Melhuish, Andrew Tan 陈廷豪 and Vedant Mour, have even stepped up to help raise funds on give.asia, contributing to our overall #mentorforhope campaign.

Over the past five days, 16 mentoring sessions have been completed and 18 future sessions have been booked. Interested startup founders across Asia are welcomed to sign up for the program at https://bit.ly/Mentor-for-hope-founders

Together, we will make a difference. Together, we are #unstoppable.

Mentors, on behalf of our organising committee, I appreciate the time and effort you have committed towards this campaign.

At the end of the campaign, I'm glad to share that we have organised more than 500 mentoring hours and raised more than $43,000 for Beyond Social Services and Willing Hearts Soup Kitchen.

Lastly, I would like to thank you and recognise my wonderful teammates who have worked day and night to launch Mentor for Hope and keep it going. Kudos to all of you!

It's quite unbelievable how none of us knew each other prior to this, yet banded together anyway to make Mentor for Hope happen. None of us gets paid for this, yet we invest all our time and connections into this. It has been undeniably tough to get everything organised within two weeks. Yet we managed to get most things (:p) done and organised remotely. It's amazing how well we have supported each other, be it revising the copy for our campaign shoutouts on the social media or editing my bad writing :)

One of my teammates, Janet Neo, has worked tirelessly to coordinate with our beneficiaries (Beyond Social Services and Willing Hearts Singapore) and make sure our donors recognise the work that our beneficiaries are doing for the less fortunate. With her breadth of experience raising funds for charities, such as having served as the former Head of Secretariat for the Singapore President's Challenge, she guides our team in executing the plan to achieve the fundraising target. Janet is a board director of Temasek Foundation and making all this happen has meant endless back-to- back meetings and calls everyday, including weekends.

Sharon Yeo - She has been working 2 jobs since she started supporting this initiative from the second week of April. In the day, she supports the COVID operations at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and after she knocks off, she would run the operations at Mentor for Hope, all the way till nearly midnight. She is even working weekends to make sure everything goes smoothly.

The same goes to Gwen Sim, who's interning at Burda Principal Investments in the day and working on Mentor for Hope in the night. The beautiful designs that you see in our email banner, event posters and slides such as these featuring several of our mentors are also painstakingly created by her. (Special thanks to Yina Chan who have helped created our poster template too!)

Another, Aparna Saxena, is partnering several of our mentors and launching masterclasses that would impart valuable insights and knowledge to our founders. Be it questions around fundraising, leading remote teams or even growing their online business, she makes sure that our masterclasses will help address them. In her full time job, she wears many hats: supporting an educational startup and a b2b logistics startup as well doing impact advising. She will soon be taking the role of acting CEO at a social enterprise in June.

Minh Vu Hong is making sure that both our founders and mentors have a great mentoring experience on the mentoring platform, sponsored by Futurelab. Minh is also an investor at Qualgro, covering Southeast Asia and Europe, so he has been pulling late nights to make Mentor for Hope happen seamlessly.

Clinton Swan has helped to spread the word about Mentor for Hope across social media and has been instrumental in making sure that our initiative gets featured on Business Times, Strait Times and e27!

Jeng Yang Chia lends us his powerful social media influence (there are 10k followers on his linkedin profile!) and organises and speaks at the Fundraising 101 panel with Aparna. His experience of running B-school admission advice and raising charity donations for the last 2 years (good-admissions.com) has also come in handy many times during our planning process.

Ajith Isaac has been looking through our founders applications to identify founders who are currently facing financial issues, so that we may be able to bring them onboard Mentor for Hope program nevertheless. In the day, he is an investor at STRIVE.

Last but not least, I'm glad Roy Ong has joined the team. I know Roy since 2018, when we worked together at Entrepreneur First. Roy

Thank you so much everyone!! It is during tough times that we see the best in people :)

#covid19 #startups #mentorforhope #mentoringmatters #payingitforward

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