Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Enter the BIG Awards and accelerate your growth through mentoring

May 21, 2015

Support is critical for early stage businesses, and mentoring can play a key role in creating the conditions for start-up survival and long-term success.


Research from the FSB has shown 70% of small businesses that receive mentoring survive for five years or more – double the rate of those that don’t. With around half of all start-ups failing within the first three years, having a mentor on board can be invaluable.

This underpins all of the work we do at Cisco BIG, a UK-wide series of initiatives and partnerships which enables tech entrepreneurs and start-ups to grow faster.

For start-ups wanting to tap into the benefits of mentoring, they have the perfect opportunity through this year’s Cisco BIG Awards. If you are an early stage start-up with the next big Internet of Things idea, you have just a few weeks left to get your entries in!

Mentoring is a major aspect of the BIG Awards programme. As well as the chance to win a slice of £150,000 in funding, the winners get access to Cisco’s network of contacts and expertise, as well business mentors from the company itself. If that wasn’t enough, for those winners who make the grade, there is also the potential to gain a slot at the IDEAL accelerator.

Bringing a huge wealth of experience and skills to the table, a Cisco business mentor can genuinely help take your business to new heights. The mentors assess start-ups on their approach in everything from marketing, sales engineering, and technology, to staffing and IP. This allows them to identify any weaknesses in those areas, and highlight areas for improvement – something which is much more valuable coming from a person external to your business.

On top of this, a Cisco mentor can also jointly identify any go-to-market opportunities, as well as look at where technology can be integrated.

As well as business plan refinement, and roadmap definition a mentor can give you a wealth of experience mixed with a bit of handholding. Sometimes it’s even just useful to have someone there as a sounding board for ideas.

It’s also important to remember that people who sign-up to mentor are often highly motivated, and they want to see your company to grow, win and succeed. Strong personalities are attracted to this, and the relationship grows from there.

Mentorship can last forever; and these relationships can continue even after start-ups finished their time in the accelerator. I recognise that to get the most out of mentoring it’s crucial to be consistent in the support that is offered.

In my opinion, great mentorship is about having a structured programme with a certain amount of accountability, on both parts. It’s useful to identify a set of tool kits, such as Business Model Canvas, that mentors can use to encourage continual development.

I believe that there should be at least two interactions per month, at least one face-to-face and one via video/WebEx. It’s also important to be accessible to those you commit to mentoring.

The benefits it can bring to businesses are huge – so I would urge all start-ups to engage with the Cisco BIG programme, and if you are eligible to enter the BIG Awards and get your ideas submitted before the deadline on June 1.

For more information on the BIG Awards, and to submit your entry go to:





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