Apply to First Round’s 10th Fast Track Mentorship Program — Our Largest Cohort Ever!

First Round’s Fast Track admittedly started as a bit of a fuzzy experiment. Back in 2016, we felt there was space to build a mentorship experience that could unlock insights, deepen relationships and advance careers — but only if it was structured well and avoided the issues that often plague mentorship relationships. We started small, pairing an intimate group of 20 early-stage founders with some of the most talented operators we knew, with a mission to bring more rigor to the mentorship process — from the frequency of meeting, to the content, to measuring effectiveness.

Fast forward to late November 2020. As our 9th mentorship cohort was wrapping up, we were reflecting on how that small experiment has evolved into a cornerstone of what we do here at First Round. We’ve matched over 1,500 Mentor and Mentee pairs in the past four years. We’ve experimented with cohorts large and small, with hand-curating every detail and trying out tools for scale, and with adding more events and ways for the entire community to connect. And while we started out by reserving Mentor and Mentee slots for our own existing community, we’ve since expanded beyond founders and employees at First Round-backed companies to include more voices, share more opportunities, and build a program that better represents the diversity of our country.

But it was this recent tweet from Jordan Smallwood that pulled our focus from the figures and the formula tweaks, and reminded us of why we embarked on this effort in the first place — for the chance to bring incredible people together, open up access, and alter trajectories.

As we’ve long said, we want to bottle the most powerful “aha” mentorship moments that can change the course of careers, and deliver them to as many company-builders as we can. As we open up applications to our 10th Fast Track cohort, we’ve set a lofty goal for ourselves to do just that. This time around, we want to assemble our largest cohort ever, as we’re looking to make over 500 Mentor/Mentee pairs.

That’s where you come in. Think you might make a great Mentor or Mentee? Read more about what we’re looking for below and send in your application. If you’re on the fence, double-click to make sure imposter syndrome isn’t holding you back — and check out all the benefits that come with being a Mentor.

We’re pleased to officially announce the 10th cohort of First Round Fast Track, running from February 8 — May 8, 2021. If you are interested in joining our next cohort as a Mentee or a Mentor, we invite you to apply here by January 3rd.

You can find out more about Fast Track and what we’re specifically looking for in Mentees and Mentors below:

How the program works:

Fast Track is our 90-day mentorship experience pairing hundreds of tech leaders with founders and startup operators. From February 8th — May 8th 2021, Mentees will meet bi-weekly with their Mentors to discuss their professional goals, challenges of startup life, how to cultivate their leadership skills, and how to grow their companies.

Although the group of folks has grown exponentially since that first Fast Track cohort, each Mentor/Mentee pairing is still hand-matched. We look at a number of different attributes, including functional area, experience with a certain company size, goals and people management experience to find the best possible Mentor for each Mentee (and vice-versa). All pairs will meet virtually throughout the 90 days. Along the way, we’ll arm you with best practices and help you learn the most through your mentorship pair.

Who should apply:

You might be a good fit for a Mentee spot if any of the following resonates:

  • You’re looking to learn and level up in your career, either as an individual contributor or a team leader.
  • You’ve had an unconventional path into tech.
  • You want to start a company someday — or are already thinking about doing it in the next couple of years.

As we shared this past July, we decided to open up our most recent cohort to Black and Latinx founders and startup employees outside of the First Round portfolio for the very first time. After that explicit call for applications, we’re proud to share 45% of Mentees in our Fall 2020 cohort identified as members of underrepresented groups.

We’re excited to do the same for Fast Track 10, and encourage Black or Latinx founders and employees working at a startup (under 1,000 people) in any function, whether it’s marketing, sales, engineering, product, design, people ops, and more, to apply.

Hear directly from some of our former Mentees:

“My Mentor was an open book of knowledge. I came in with very little info on how to build marketing for a new business, but my Mentor provided videos, links, articles, and more in addition to her insights. Even when I pushed her on new topics, she tried to find more info or think through the issue with me,” says Brandon Martinez, CEO and Co-Founder at SNKRHUD.

“My Mentor is fantastic with a generous spirit! During our sessions, he listened empathetically and created a safe space for me to share authentically. I appreciated his candor in both giving advice and discussing his own experiences. He encouraged me to push myself outside of my comfort zone and offered tactical ideas to reach my goals,” says Key Doby, Implementation Engineer at Nylas.

“This was a great experience. Being able to work with someone who was in my position 10 years ago, who was able to share their successes/failures/things they’ve learned, without the baggage of being someone I’ve worked with or work with was refreshing and really educational,” says Jordan Dragos, Payment Operations Manager at Papaya.

You might be a good fit for a Mentor spot if any of these sound like you:

  • You’re a VP, mid-career superstar or director at a breakout tech company, which generally translates to 10+ years of experience — but we make exceptions for people with an uncanny ability to coach and wisdom beyond their years.
  • You’re a former founder who can share the good, the bad, and the ugly of startup life.
  • You have a strong desire and ability to help rising stars achieve their bold goals, navigate career paths, attack specific functional areas, recognize blind spots, manage and lead teams.
  • You have a valuable perspective to share, but more importantly, you seek to understand before you give advice. You use your own learnings and candor to elevate the knowledge of others, helping Mentees discover and amplify their talents.

Hear directly from some of our former Mentors:

“This was such a fantastic program! I’m grateful to have had an opportunity to be a part of it during COVID. It’s been especially nice to have it as a break from my day-to-day as other networking opportunities have otherwise been very low,” says Mary Huang, Director, Program Management Office at Peloton.

“Thank you for hosting another successful Fast Track program (my third)! I continue to find the program exceptionally run,” says Tim Dang, Director of Product Management, Growth at 23andMe.

“Glad I am taking part in this and seems to be valuable to my Mentee as well as myself. Quality job on the matching and caliber of participants,” says Brandon Harris, Global Head of Financial Products Marketing at Bloomberg LP.

“I’ve been a Mentor in the Fast Track program for the last 2 years, and it has been an incredibly worthwhile experience. Being able to give back through mentorship has been so rewarding, and I’ve met amazing Mentees along the way from whom I’ve also learned a ton. First Round makes it so easy with such a well-run program, and I hope to continue as a Mentor in cohorts to come!” says Andrea Chesleigh, VP of Product at Boxed.

What you’ll get from joining:

  • An experience that’s meaningful by design: You’ll receive playbooks and best practices on how to make the most out of this mentorship experience. For Mentees, mentorship can help you become your best self: Whether that’s deepening your own understanding of your goals, receiving critical feedback and encouragement, leveling up in your career, or making new connections. For Mentors, you have the amazing opportunity to transform someone’s career.
  • An abundance of programming: In addition to 1-on-1 support, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with other high-caliber Mentees and Mentors for different mentorship events and learning sessions. As a participant, you’ll receive invites to virtual professional development workshops, curated learning sessions for your functional expertise, sessions with First Round’s partners, and more.
  • A community of startup professionals: You’ll have the opportunity to meet professionals in all facets of the startup ecosystem — from many industries, functions, and company sizes. From virtual coffee chats with other brilliant Mentors and Mentees to a directory of all the participants, you’ll be able to learn from others and build your personal network. Mentees will also receive access to First Round’s private online portal where you can get support from our portfolio companies, utilize our guides, and learn tactical advice.

Apply here today! Application closes on January 3rd.

Know anyone who might be a good fit? Please forward along this post and encourage them to apply.

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