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Mentorship Champion: Jaco Burger

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Man smiling in a white button up and blue blazer

About Jaco:

Jaco a venture builder with two decades of experience in establishing and building start-ups in various sectors ranging from small traditional service rendering businesses to scalable tech ventures.

He commenced his career in sport science as high-performance conditioning coach to aspiring junior tennis players which quickly evolved to coaching professionals on the ATP World Tennis Tour. He turned Founder and Co-Founder of Start-Up Ventures. With 20 years of personal and streetwise venture building experience he obtained an internationally recognized MBA in 2018 to connect the proverbial dots between proven methodology and personal experience.

He believes strongly that building successful entrepreneurial ventures is as much an art as it is science. It is a fine balance between creativity, methodical planning, execution and tracking as well as building super teams, resilience, and perseverance. It's as much about the process and specific metrics along the journey as it is about the ambiguous softer elements that is not so clear and measurable always.

He joined Stellenbosch University as venture builder in the role of Director of Commercial Strategic Projects in an academic institutional environment where he was tasked to research, incubate and commercialize multiple businesses. This gave him a strong appreciation for thorough research, ideation and, building new ventures with a much more structured and calculated approach without losing the ability to creatively innovate, validate and commercialize in an agile manner. It was also a unique experience raising investment for various ventures in an academic environment.

Being entrenched in Start-ups in all its shapes and forms mostly in a developing economy taught him tenacity and resilience in a special way. Over the past 20 years he has gone full circle from a coaching perspective. His passion for coaching people towards achieving their best has stood the test of time. Whether it was coaching school sports, professional sports on the highest level, other entrepreneurs or a team of venture builders within an institutional environment, the golden thread remained.

His sweet spot lies where he can merge his startup knowledge and experience of building ventures in a way that could offer maximal value to entrepreneurs through coaching, mentoring and venture building support. He does so full-time currently as Chief Innovation Officer of Volta Innovation Hub working with Atlantic Canadian based tech start-ups.

What three words would you use to describe mentorship?

Freely sharing lived experience, knowledge and insights.

Why do you think mentorship matters in 2023?

In an information era where more information is available than ever before it is often difficult to make sense of it all. Someone else's lived experience is a priceless commodity in 2023 to help someone else who are going through a similar path or experience by making sense of it all, getting clear on next steps and how to keep on making progress or just be encouraged by someone who understands because they have been there.

For me, just having that valued mentor (formal or informal) who I know I can have a sit down with and get wisdom shared has often resulted in renewed motivation, clarity and the ability to see how crazy or good my ideas are. It is kept me on the straight and narrow so to speak.

Are there any mentorship programs you're aware of or participating that you'd like to share with the EnPoint community to show of how mentorship can be used to support all in building meaningful careers?

Some that come to mind:

Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) offers a mentorship program for new entrepreneurs and small business owners. The program connects participants with experienced business mentors who can provide guidance and support on a wide range of topics, including marketing, financial management, and business planning.

The Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF) is a national organization that provides mentoring and financing to young entrepreneurs. The organization offers a variety of programs, including mentorship, training, and financial assistance, to help young entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.

NRC-IRAP offers mentorship, financial assistance, and other support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Canada. Their services are designed to help SMEs commercialize new technologies and innovate in their industries.

The Canadian Small Business Women (CSBW) is a national, not-for-profit organization that provides mentorship, networking, and training to women entrepreneurs. They also have a mentorship program that connects entrepreneurs with experienced mentors who can provide guidance and support.

The Canadian Association of Business Incubation (CABI) is a national association that supports the development and delivery of business incubation and entrepreneurship programs across Canada. Many of their member organizations offer mentorship programs to entrepreneurs.

Last but not least a valuable resource we have seen is not necessarily a formal mentorship program, but lies in the power of an active entrepreneurship ecosystem where experienced founders are valuable mentors to less experienced entrepreneurs and definitely something I would encourage any founder to explore building strong relations with entrepreneurs who has gone before you.

Is there a memorable "mentorship moment" you'd like to share?

Not one specifically, but over my career I have seen the positive results of mentorship relationships over and over. For me personally it has resulted in many pivotal moments that I can look back on as key moments/turning points that have directed positive outcomes personally and professionally.

Want to learn more about other leaders and their thoughts on mentorship? Head back to our Mentorship For All Page

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