This month, I served as a SEED Spot mentor for the high school founders of Keep All Students Trained (KAST), who took home the Cisco Innovation Prize at the 2018 High School Demo Day.
This week, I had the incredible opportunity to work as a SEED Spot Mentor to a brilliant group of high school students based in New Jersey. SEED Spot is a globally recognized organization that supports entrepreneurs by surrounding them with access to resources, mentors, business fundamentals, community partners, capital, and anything they need to succeed. SEED Spot is ranked one of the Top 6 Social Impact Incubators in the Country by UBI Global and Cisco, and a Top 20 Accelerator in the World by Gust and Fundacity. We also participated in SEED Spot’s Launch Camp in April and won their Pitch Impact Award!
About SEED Spot’s National High School Demo Day
SEED Spot runs several different social impact programs including High School Demo Day. In this year-long program, high school students form teams with fellow classmates. Each team identifies a problem and creates a venture to address that problem. Over 1,600 students across the country have gone through these high school programs. This year, under the leadership of SEED Spot’s School Partnerships Manager Tristan Gandolfi, there were over one hundred different startup teams and teacher trainings throughout the country. Only eighteen startups were selected to the final round to present at the National Demo Day in Phoenix, Arizona.
Mentoring the KAST Team
As part of the program, SEED Spot matches mentors with high school teams. I was matched with an extremely bright and talented group of students from New Jersey who started Keep All Students Trained (KAST). The KAST team created an app to connect interstate teens to local part-time jobs in their area. As we practiced the pitch, their passion really showed, and the students shared that they wished KAST was available for them. The KAST team was well prepared. They had researched and spoken with potential customers to validate the demand for KAST, and had examined their market size and calculated project cost and revenues.
KAST Takes Home the Prize
When they took the stage, the KAST team gave the audience an outstanding pitch. They started out by giving a personal story about the expenses high school students take on without job opportunities. Even more impressive was how well the team articulated their research and business model. As a mentor, it was rewarding to see the KAST team shine on stage and do such a stellar job! Out of all the teams who participated from around the country, KAST took home the Cisco Innovation Challenge Prize with $2,500! The KAST team worked hard to make this a reality and truly deserved this outstanding national recognition. I know this is only the beginning for these brilliant young leaders and social entrepreneurs.
The Value of Mentorship
Mentorship has been such a valuable component of my personal startup journey and integral to my success with Symba. My mentors have been my evangelists and a great source of guidance through challenging and difficult moments in the startup rollercoaster. As a young first-time founder, I have understood that it is essential for me to be receptive and learn from leaders in the field who I admire and look up to. Through my mentorship, I am constantly learning, evolving and growing into a better founder, CEO and human being. I thank my mentors who continue to generously spend time supporting me through my startup journey. In turn, I feel honored to have had the experience to serve as a mentor myself for rising social entrepreneurs. It was a chance for me to support even younger entrepreneurs, and I am thrilled to continue giving back to the startup ecosystem.