Project Eden Shares Lesson in Mentoring Startups

Project eden

It’s been quite some time since Project Eden, Indonesia’s first startup accelerator, made any announcement on its site. In fact, the last time it did so was back in 2011. What happened? We talked to Project Eden board members Natali Ardianto and Aulia Halimatussadiah (Ollie) about the program’s hiatus. But most importantly, both of them shared the biggest lesson they learned from running the project: don’t spoonfeed startups.

Natali said that the first mistake was that they selected the startups mostly based on the potential of their ideas, but did not account for the people behind it. This resulted in the startups’ founders not having adequate mettle to run their business, and needing Project Eden’s constant guidance and pushing.

The second mistake is that they spoonfed the startups too much and too early. Ollie said that because the board members are all entrepreneurs and have gone through similar challenges and setbacks, they now can advise the startups to avoid those foreseen obstacles. The problem is that they did so quite a lot, which makes the startups overly reliant on the board members. The only time the board members should help these startups, Natali explained, is when the startups have their backs against the wall.

Is Project Eden still alive? Natali and Ollie say yes. Natali explained that they are evaluating new things now, such as the filtering process, the mentoring method, and how they evaluate the ideas. He explained about Project Eden’s latest progress:

We are also still in talks with several companies and institutions and looking for better ways on how we can collaborate, and increase the value of the mentorship and incubation of the startups.

Running a business and mentoring other people to do so are two different things, it seems. But just like life, we make mistakes, we learn from them, and we will do better next time. This also underlines an even broader concept: that different incubators and venture firms have different approaches to funding. For example, we understand that CyberAgent Ventures is very hands-on, and in a way, is willing to spoonfeed. Other firms, just give money to startups.

While entrepreneurship doesn’t seem to fit everyone, for those who would like to give it a try and join an accelerator program, you might want to check the Jakarta Founder Institute spring batch which is open right now and Grupara.


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