What is NAV? After years of research and months of planning, the Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED) launched the North Atlanta Venture Mentoring Service (NAV), the 90th sister program of MIT VMS, on July 1, 2019. Based on the MIT VMS program, NAV is built on the foundation of team-based mentorship and the principle that a venture is far more likely to thrive when an entrepreneur can draw on the advice and guidance of a group of mentors with proven skills and experience.

How does the program work? NAV is overseen by The Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED) and otherwise built completely on the volunteer time of our mentor community. Both mentors and ventures apply to the program and go through a rigorous onboarding process including interviews, training, and orientation sessions. After receiving acceptance into the program, ventures pitch to all NAV mentors and are matched by the NAV team to a group of mentors based on the venture’s needs and the mentor’s skills and interests.

Why is NAV based on MIT’s VMS? | Since our Opportunity Cherokee Strategic Blueprint in 2015, they knew mentorship would be a key part of building an entrepreneurial ecosystem and culture in Cherokee. After years of research, field trips to neighboring cities, countless meetings and comparing programs, they landed at MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service.  MIT VMS has a 20-year proven track record of success in both higher-ed, economic development organizations and startup innovation hubs. The unique selling point of this program is the team-based approach to mentorship versus the traditional model of one-on-one coaching. After digging into their sister programs and model, COED was convinced it was the best program they could offer North Atlanta based entrepreneurs.

How can I become a venture? | North Atlanta based entrepreneurs with a business that is beyond the working concept stage in one of the following high growth target sectors can apply to be a venture: Advanced Manufacturing, I.T./Technology, Healthcare, Makers/Inventors, Corporate Operations, Culinary, and Film and Media with preference given to ventures that are scalable. To become a NAV Venture, follow the “Apply Now” button to fill out a venture application. Venture applications are reviewed quarterly.

What does a ‘working concept’ entail? | During the early operations of NAV, we are laser-focused on scalable ventures from our high growth target sectors that are beyond the working concept stage of development. These target sectors include: Advanced Manufacturing, I.T./Technology, Healthcare, Makers/Inventors, Corporate Operations, Culinary, and Film and Media. We give preference to ventures with at least a working prototype, business plan and/or customers with revenue. We hope to open up NAV to earlier-stage ventures in the near future.

How can I become a mentor? | To become a NAV Mentor, follow the “Apply Now” button to fill out a mentor application. Please submit at least one reference with your application. Mentor applications are reviewed quarterly. 

What type of mentors are we looking for? | NAV values diversity and inclusion. We are looking to intentionally include a myriad of mentors from a host of diverse backgrounds, skillsets, industries, and genders from around the Metro Atlanta region.

How much time can I expect to commit as a mentor? | NAV mentors can expect to commit to a total of 5-7 hours per month aggregate including the monthly mentor meeting, their mentoring sessions with ventures and any meeting preparation and communications in between. We expect a mentor to attend at least 75% of all monthly mentor meetings as these are an integral part of our program and the primary way we are able to build our mentor community. 

What is a NAV mentor specialist? | NAV mentors who have a niche skill and expertise have the option to serve as a mentor specialist when the need arises. Specialists are able to serve on their primary venture team, but are also available to temporarily serve on other teams as the needs arise. Examples of specialists are legal experts, brand experts, web designers, app developers, accountants, etc. Specialists may also be asked to offer office hours if their specialty is highly requested by NAV ventures.

What are Office Hours? | Office hours are available to NAV ventures when they have a specific need that is best addressed with one-on-one time with a specialist. Office Hours are offered in 30 minute blocks of time with NAV specialists only.