Apply to First Round’s Fast Track Mentorship Program
See how we’re expanding our mentorship efforts outside of the First Round community
Back in 2016, we piloted a new program to connect members of the First Round community with high-impact mentorship. As we’ve iterated on the program in the four years since, we’ve used our learnings to distill the essential elements of successful mentorship and hone every detail of the initiative we now call Fast Track. Over the past eight cohorts, our powerful matching process and carefully-curated set of resources have helped thousands of pairs meet up for structured bi-weekly sessions — and walk away with a meaningful, career-changing experiences.
We started off with a focus on matching seasoned advisors and operators with the early-stage founders we’ve backed and the rising stars on their teams. For the past two years, we’ve experimented a bit by opening up Mentor applications to operators from outside the First Round community. But given the high demand for this program, we historically haven’t made that change on the Mentee side, reserving most of the spots for team members at First Round-backed companies.
As we’ve looked to kick off a new cohort of Fast Track this fall, we’ve been reflecting on this decision point of who gets to access this program we’re incredibly proud of — especially against the backdrop of the necessary conversations about systemic injustice and structural barriers to advancement in tech that have been playing out over the past several weeks.
We know that we have a very long way to go on our journey to build a more inclusive community that better reflects the diversity of our country. As a small step, we’re sharing today that we’re opening up spots in our upcoming Fast Track cohort to Black and Latinx founders and operators outside of the First Round portfolio.
Over the past four years, we’ve witnessed the incredibly powerful effects that mentorship can have on career trajectories, and we are hopeful that we can play a small role in helping underestimated individuals network and advance in the startup world. But before we share more details about the program, we’d like to acknowledge a few important points many have highlighted when it comes to mentorship and programming efforts in tech:
- First, to avoid the risks that come with creating separate and potentially unequal structures, we have chosen to start by taking steps to open up our existing resources and forums.
- Second, we recognize that Black and Latinx founders are often over-mentored and underfunded. We acknowledge — and emphatically agree — that what ultimately matters is hiring and wiring, and view mentorship as an additive step, not as a panacea or the centerpiece of our efforts to build a more equitable industry. We are taking many additional steps both big and small across several fronts, and we hope to share more details in the months to come. As small examples, we’ve recently opened up our partner hiring process and introduced more transparency for how founders can get in touch by adding partners’ emails to our team page for the first time.
- Third, mentorship programs are often reserved for founders, and tougher to find for operators, which compounds the challenges that many BIPOC individuals face as they navigate careers in tech. With Fast Track, we’re building for the sales director, the product manager, the eng lead — the leaders of tomorrow.
As we shared in this Review story on mentorship last fall, the guiding focus for Fast Track has been to bottle the most powerful experiences that can change the course of careers, and deliver them to as many company-builders as we can — and we’re determined to make more progress on this work.
With that, we’re pleased to officially announce the 9th cohort of First Round Fast Track, running from Labor Day to Thanksgiving. If you’re interested in joining our next cohort as a Mentee or a Mentor, we invite you to apply here by 8/1.
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 9/8 to 11/20, 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.
We’ll match you based on your goals, your areas of development, plus similarities in functional area and professional experience. 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 a Black or Latinx founder or employee working at a startup (under 1,000 people) in any function, whether it’s marketing, sales, engineering, product, design, people ops, and more.
- 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.
You might be a good fit for a Mentor spot if:
- 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.
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. You’ll 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 August 1st.
Know anyone who might be a good fit? Please forward along this post and encourage them to apply.