What is NAV? After years of research and months of planning, the Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED) launched NAV (North Atlanta Venture Mentoring Service), the 90th sister program of MIT VMS, on July 1, 2019. Based on MIT’s 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 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 and training/orientation sessions. Then, after achieving overall fit with the program, matchmaking occurs building teams based on a venture’s needs to a mentor’s skills and interests.

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

How can I become a venture? | To become a NAV Venture, follow the “Apply Now” button to fill out a venture application. Once we hit the six-month mark of the pilot, starting July 1, 2019, we will begin assessing the next round of applicants.

How can I become a mentor? | To become a NAV Mentor, follow the “Apply Now” button to fill out a mentor application. Once we hit the six-month mark of the pilot, starting July 1, 2019, we will begin assessing the next round of applicants.

What does a ‘working concept’ entail? | For the NAV pilot, we are laser-focused on startups from our target sectors with at least a working concept for their stage of development. We want ventures beyond the back-of-the-napkin stage 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.

What type of companies are we accepting? | While NAV is in the pilot stage, the target markets for ventures will mirror the Cherokee Office of Economic Development’s specific target markets. These target markets include Advanced Manufacturing, I.T./Technology, Healthcare, Makers/Investors, Corporate Operations, Culinary, and Film and Media.

What type of mentors are we looking for? | At NAV, we value diversity and inclusion. So, we are looking to intentionally include a myriad of mentors from a host of diverse backgrounds, skillsets, industries, genders and more from around the Metro Atlanta region. If a mentor has a niche skill and expertise, we would love to consider them as a potential specialist in our program.

What if I can’t commit as a full-time mentor? | For our NAV pilot, mentors can expect to commit to a total of 8-10 hours per month aggregate including the monthly mentor meeting, their mentoring sessions with ventures and any communications in between. For NAV Specialist Mentors, the time commitment would most likely be reduced. 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 we use to build our mentor community. Mentors who cannot commit cannot expect to find a great fit with NAV.

What is a NAV mentor specialist? | NAV mentors who have a niche skill and expertise are considered potential “specialists”. As such, specialists can expect to be part of several venture teams for a short period of time as the venture’s needs require. Examples of specialists are legal experts, IP attorneys, brand experts, web designers, app developers, Venture Capitalists, etc. In addition, specialists may be asked to be part of an office-hours type arrangement for NAV ventures to have access to during specific times of the month.