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Rocket DAO ecosystem
“My psychologist”, “my stylist”, and now “my mentor” — more often people started to ask for a piece of advice for personal growth. Business is not an exception.
Daria Rzhavtseva and Polina Bondarovets have analyzed their own needs and created a “marketplace of experts” — mentory.by. How to build a business in an emerging market? What knowledge is the audience willing to pay for? And still, who is a “mentor”?
We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.
Dasha и Polina launched Mentory.by, a platform for searching mentors, in Spring 2020. Before that the girls were dealing with business events and were providers of Ihor Mann, an entrepreneur from Belarus.
Now the platform features over 40 mentors on topics of self-development, business processes, marketing, branding, finance and more. The founders of the platform plan to earn money according to the commission model: 35% per session, with an average cost of $30 for an hour with a mentor.
— The word “mentor” is rather new to the Belarusian market. In your opinion, who are mentors?
Dasha: By “mentor”, we mean an expert in a field that is significant for a person. He supports in work, grows together with the client and helps to avoid mistakes that he faced himself. He does not perform tasks for the client, but directs and prompts.
— Your mentors are young people up to 30 years or older, and many of them are famous in the grass-roots. How did you define that they will deal with tasks and they are really experts in the field?
Polina: At first, we invited those with whom we’ve already worked and whose expertise we experienced. Then they began to track publications in the media and programs of events. Cases became one of the most important criteria — if we saw that a person has implemented a large, well-known project, then we concluded that he would have something to share. If we talk about coaches, then we also estimate education, the number of hours of practice.
— Why are there no experts widely known in Belarus on the selected topics on the platform? Owners of large companies, well-known PR specialists, coaches…
Dasha: We didn’t set such a goal. We were looking for cool specialists who aren’t very famous, but aren’t less cool for this job. In addition, some well-known experts were ready to advise for at least $ 100, and we see that our audience is not ready to pay that much.
We have formed the following criterias for choosing mentors:
Topics from business, marketing, lifestyle.
An experience of working with bright and successful cases. For example Veronika Lindorenko — ex-CMO of OneSoil startup. She launched the platform on the markets of Brazil, Ukraine,the USA, Spain, France and Great Britain, and launched an app which has become “Product of the Year” at ProductHunt.
Not overpriced due to media fame (on average, an hour of our mentor costs $30).
— Most of the platform’s experts had no previous experience in mentoring, and mentoring is not the same as project implementation. Is there some kind of a brief for them?
Dasha: A mentoring session is a live process, so we don’t have briefs for it. There is a free 20-minute consultation so the client can get to know the mentor and formulate his request. But on the contrary, we thought about making a brief for clients, because many don’t fully understand what exactly they need help with. Now clients formulate a request, and the team selects a suitable expert.
— Give an example — which request should be considered understandable and which one needs to be improved?
Dasha: For example, “I’m changing my profession, so I need to create a competitive resume and create a LinkedIn page” is a clear request. But there are such things: “I want to develop and become better” — and it is more difficult here. What does it mean to “get better”? Sometimes we rack our brains for a long time over which mentor to refer the client to.
— What requests are the most popular?
Polina: Launching the project. People choose an area they like, but don’t know where to start. Or business scaling requests. Career counseling is also popular — employment, resume design, preparation for interviews.
— Do you have any mechanism for retaining mentors? What prevents clients from contacting experts directly?
Dasha: This is a common question across all individual education platforms. There is only one answer: none. We help an expert with marketing and PR, give an opportunity to share knowledge and develop professionally and, of course, have additional income. But it is important to understand that we work with mentors, for whom consultations aren’t the main source of income.
— I noticed that you are targeting a younger audience of clients, this is evidenced by topics and age of mentors. Why is that?
Polina: By creating a portrait of the audience, we determined that these people should be like us: 25–35 years old, with their own ideas and goals, those who want to develop their projects, but do not always know how to do that.
Dasha: Still, we don’t dare to work with the older audience yet. It is difficult to explain the value of mentoring even for peers, and even more difficult for our parents’ generation. They seem not to be used to asking for help, it’s hard for them even to go to a psychologist. Our generation is more ready for this.
— What does the first data from the platform indicate? How do you conduct custdev in general?
Dasha: As for now, it is too early for conclusions: because of the events in Belarus, we took a break and only in September we renewed the work. Over the entire period, we had about 40 free trial consultations (most of them in November), 3 long-term mentoring (from 2 hours) and 6 one-time consultations.
After each session, we collect feedback from clients and have already come to understand what topics are really interesting, who is the core of our audience. Now we see that the topics of building business processes, opening a business, developing a strategy in a crisis period for business are most in demand. The second most popular is career counseling and relocation: help with resume writing, interviewing, Linkedin optimization, looking for a job abroad.
– Which customer acquisition experiments have been successful and which have failed?
Dasha: Free mentoring webinars worked well in the beginning. Targeted advertising works best now. In addition, we are buying ads from bloggers and are going to launch group consultations.
– What is a group consultation? How is it possible to consult a few projects at once?
Dasha: We will choose the most popular topics on the platform and conduct consultations for a group of 5–7 people. Before the meeting, the client communicates his request, and the mentor answers them on a group call. Thus, the client receives a short consultation on his topic, hears recommendations for others and draws something for himself. Group counseling will work as part of a funnel — those who aren’t satisfied with a short answer will seek personal mentoring.
— Who is in the team now working on the project?
Dasha: We work together with Polina and our project manager. She takes on many tasks regarding work with clients, organizing mentoring processes. In addition, we have an outsourced digital marketer who deals with all advertising in social networks, creatives, and an SMM-specialist who helps with maintaining social networks (Telegram, Instagram).
— How much did you invest in the platform?
Dasha: I guess a few thousand dollars.
— Why did you invest in yourself and did’nt consider acceleration or angel investments?
Dasha: Because we haven’t previously worked in the “world of startups”, this experience is new for us. But now we are actively studying the field and making good progress, as it seems to us: several accelerators in Russia and Ukraine are interested in us. And recently we started working with the Rocket DAO ecosystem. Together with the Rocket DAO team, we plan to develop the project more actively — in particular, collect data and build a strategy. If everything goes well, the team will help with fundraising as well. And now we are working with the Startup Jedi content team: our experts are recording training videos for the media. For example, Dmitry Levkovets, ex-CMO of the BDCenter Digital MBA agency, the author of the Trend Rangers podcast and simply marketing guru Dima, released a video quite recently.
— Who can you name as your competitor? Have you found similar ideas abroad?
Dasha: Our competitors are large educational projects, because their value is already understood by people, and mentoring is still on the way to this. We are not going to compete with them in the literal sense of the word — our task is to explain to the audience the value of mentoring.
But we also have direct competitors abroad, such as GrowthMentor or Clarity. Of course, our advantage over them now is the Russian language of communication.
— How do you envision the platform in the future?
Polina: We strive to make it possible to “rent” a mentor using the platform in one click, we are striving to reach a marketplace model.
Dasha: In the future, we want to have a full-fledged platform with a mobile application. These are the features that will be included:
In addition, we really want the value of knowledge sharing to be appreciated. For example, now we are developing the format of Win-Win sessions.
What does it mean? For example, a mentor may work in the same direction as the client. Then it will be interesting for him to analyze the client’s problem and, possibly, take something new for himself. Or, for example, the mentor likes the client’s idea and would like it to come true.
These sessions will be free for both parties (mentor and client) because they both will benefit. Both the mentor and the client can choose whom they want to talk to, have the right to refuse a call and build everything on mutual interest and assistance to each other.
We would also like to develop the direction of corporate training — to provide mentoring services for company employees. These can be mentors in lifestyle direction so that company employees have access to communication with nutritionists, coaches, and conflict resolution specialists. It can also be hard skills: for example, if employees need advice on a specific narrow topic.
— Today, the project is not just local, it’s ultralocal as the platform gathers experts from the very small community. Do you plan to keep going as a “craft” project in the framework of Belarus or do you have plans on a bigger market?
Dasha: We are planning, actually. We were very excited about the idea of a convenient mobile format for our platform. We will make the platform in two languages: Russian and English. I wouldn’t like to be limited only by the CIS market, so in the future we are hoping to involve the foreign audience and English-speaking mentors.
The P2P format is especially appreciated — a live person-to-person communication. Everyone is interested in a personal approach today. Tutoring, mentoring, personal consultations — all this is P2P.
Masterminds are the cool format. A group of like-minded people gathers together, discusses their tasks, plans, problems, and brainstorms solutions for the nearest future.
Gamification and game learning are the formats where a new skill can be learned in the form of a game. For example, we heard about Domino’s story: the company made software where it was needed to cook pizzas, and the best players were offered a job.
The popularity of educational online projects for people of the third age is increasing. Because of the lockdown, many people thought that for our grandparents, it is now more difficult to get information and socialize. An example: Project “Synchronization” from Chrysalis Mag, #ionline — a charity project from A1 for teaching older people to use the Internet and phones.