Throughout our Lightning Lab programmes, we’re lucky to have a pool of amazing mentors to support and help guide our ventures along their journey. With a variety of expertise and experience behind them, our mentors provide a wealth of value, and we want to highlight their contribution as we ‘Meet the Mentors’.
Sam Parkin has worked with teams since Lightning Lab XX and has since been a familiar figure in our mentor ecosystem. We sat down to find out what keeps him coming back for more.
So Sam, tell us a bit about your background.
I was born in New Plymouth, raised in Raglan and am currently splitting my time between Wellington and San Francisco.
I’m a tech industry veteran with 30 years programming experience, and I’m interested in finding the balance between autonomy and collaboration while innovating new processes and tools in business, technology, and social change.
As a self-selected geek, my outside interests usually revolve around technology: hardware hacking with my 3D printer and both the Arduino and Raspberry Pi platforms… although I also own far too many guitars.
What made you want to be involved in Lightning Lab?
Being involved in many Startup Weekends I was often delighted by what could be created with simple tools, opportunities, a mere 54 hours and a motivated team. The potential for Lightning Lab ventures to wow me over several months both excites and entices me.
The programmes provide a magical environment for the structured and methodology-based experimentation necessary for rapid innovation. I love the opportunity it offers me to meet sharp entrepreneurial minds — including the other mentors and also the startups themselves.
What do you feel you get back from mentoring?
I find myself working harder to live up to the expectations of my mentees – I can’t advise them to work hard and do things I wouldn’t be willing to do myself.
Mentoring strengthens the lessons I’ve already learned, and when I have the chance to share something with someone else I also learn it better. I find there’s no better way to clarify my own thinking than to explain from first principles.
I learn from my mentees. They have knowledge I don’t have, teach me new skills and technologies, and help me develop my coaching and leadership skills. In the process, I also learn more about myself.
Top 3 things you look for in a team/venture before you commit to mentoring?
- Smart, fast, quick learners who are flexible, fearless and willing to embrace change.
- Diverse members with personality and a sense of adventure.
- Mutual trust to bring respect, openness, and the willingness to be vulnerable. Without trust, the relationship can become tense and people become self-protective. Successful mentoring relationships will absolutely depend on it.
What do you think the market needs to progress?
New Zealand is a great place to start a business if you’re an innovator or entrepreneur, but startups require better access to capital and investors who are willing to take risks.
We also need more purpose-built environments for co-working to foster collaboration and creative exchanges. If we can put people in environments designed to support the new ways they work, I think we’ll see exponential development, growth, and learning.
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