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On a mission to empower the “Missing Middle”, LSE and OakNorth launch ‘Mentorpreneurship’ programme

Director of LSE Generate, Laura-Jane Silverman, with co-founder of FLO, Tara Chandra

The London School of Economics and Political Sciences (@LSEnews) has launched its ‘Mentorpreneurship’ programme in partnership with OakNorth, which is on a mission to empower the “Missing Middle”.

The programme, which is the first university run initiative of its kind, has been designed to support the development of socially conscious startups and inspire entrepreneurial thinking, by focusing on the fundamental role of mentorship in business.  

To achieve this, the new programme, which is run through the university’s entrepreneurship department, LSE Generate, will engage past, current and future student entrepreneurs, including OakNorth co-founders, Rishi Khosla and Joel Perlman, in a ‘life-cycle’ of mentorship, helping to develop their businesses and creative ideas. As well as supporting student startups, the programme has launched a first-of-its-kind ‘Mentorpreneurship’ course for school children, piloting in partnership with Girls Day School Trust (GDST) across 11 institutions and commencing this September. As part of this, students will complete various modules, bootcamps and creative exercises that demonstrate the value of social sciences, arts and humanities in encouraging collaboration in order to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges. 

To ensure everyone taking part in the programme can connect, collaborate, and receive as much support as possible, a central ‘Mentorpreneurship’ hub and app – which is available on the App Store and Google Play – have been created in partnership with the private network software provider getTWOit. The online platform will facilitate mentoring across the participating groups: school students will be mentored by LSE students, early-stage entrepreneurs can receive support from alumni entrepreneurs who will have access to senior innovators, who will in turn be ‘reverse mentored’ by school students. This ‘life-cycle’ model challenges traditional methods of mentoring by introducing reverse mentoring and peer-to-peer collaboration to question biases and encourage innovation. The platform and app have been designed to facilitate interactions on users’ own terms in safe-environments that oscillate between the local and global to reflect the needs of entrepreneurs at every stage in their journey. 

With the overarching ambition of encouraging entrepreneurship as a meaningful path to drive local change and create enduring communities of impact, each year LSE Generate will also be hosting a tailored programme of online and offline activity. This includes: mentor bootcamps, founders retreats, keynotes and pitching practices, alongside a series of podcasts and audiobooks to connect entrepreneurs with mentors locally and internationally. With several international entrepreneurship chapters across the world including Mumbai, Chengdu, LA and Lisbon, with Ghana, Berlin and Shanghai on the horizon, the programme aims to create an ongoing global community of support for socially conscious entrepreneurs. 

Laura-Jane Silverman, Head of LSE Generate, said:

“The pandemic has been a hugely challenging time for startup businesses but it has also presented opportunities to think about the type of innovation and support needed in order to make a real difference in society. The launch of this programme comes at a time when the need for human-to-human collaboration and mentorship is fundamental, to not only navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, but in creating real change for the future. We believe that entrepreneurship should be the great equaliser; no matter what challenges the world presents, or where you are based, with the right support, access and materials, an inclusive startup culture that benefits a global community can flourish.” 

The partnership is also part of OakNorth’s ongoing commitment to donate 1% of Group profits to supporting charitable causes and socially driven enterprises.

Speaking on the importance of university-born businesses and this collaboration, Rishi Khosla, co-founder of OakNorth and an LSE alumni, said:

“LSE has played a hugely important role in the entrepreneurial journey of OakNorth, as that’s where my co-founder, Joel Perlman, and I met while studying. Having mentors and being a mentor to others has been invaluable to us, and what particularly excited us about LSE Generate is its focus on socially minded enterprise. We want to inspire students and alumni to start and scale businesses that have a positive impact on society, and to equip them with the skills, knowledge and confidence to mentor future generations of entrepreneurs who will do the same.”

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