Entrepreneurs-in-residence empower innovators through UC Venture Lab

The value of mentorship guiding startups to success

Transforming innovative ideas into successful startups is a formidable task for aspiring entrepreneurs, and that’s where mentorship can help.

The UC Venture Lab pre-accelerator program offers experienced mentors known as entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIR), who are eager to share their knowledge, industry insights and real-world experiences to help teams navigate the complexities of launching a business.

Gary K. Cooper, founder and president of High Noon Consulting LLC, boasts a background in branding and strategic planning for many large global goods consumer goods marketing companies, including those based in United Statee, United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. As the former vice president of marketing at KAO, Cooper entered the world of mentorship when he discovered the Venture Lab at the 1819 Innovation Hub. He shares some insights and helpful hints.

Keep it simple

Gary Cooper

Gary Cooper

Embarking on a startup requires more than a great idea, Cooper said. EIRs can be indispensable pillars of support and knowledge to innovators who over-think or become emotionally invested in their ideas, which can cloud progress.  

"In almost every interaction, one of the best ways I've helped is by sharing key high-level business learnings and/or lessons that I've gained through experience,” Cooper said. “Two of the best are 'The F-Word' (FOCUS) and 'Simplify.' I challenge individuals in the Venture Lab program to crystalize their thoughts, problems, solutions and ideas into a short paragraph, then a few sentences, then a tight sentence and then condense into a few words."

I challenge individuals in the Venture Lab program to crystalize their thoughts, problems, solutions and ideas into a short paragraph, then a few sentences, then a tight sentence and then condense into a few words.

Gary K. Cooper Entrepreneur-in-residence, UC Venture Lab

Learning from experience

Cooper lends a keen ear to hopeful entrepreneurs.

"I listen carefully to their story and rephrase what I thought I heard into a brief summary. While every case or idea differs, almost everyone can benefit from keeping it simple, focusing and not over-complicating things," Cooper said.

Cooper also helps nurture qualities that he said are intrinsic to successful entrepreneurs, such as: 

  • Strategic thinking: Teams should anticipate pitfalls, key issues and challenges and plan for them.
  • Cash flow: You always need more money than you think, he said.
  • Adaptability: Outsource as much as you can, especially early on.
  • Resilience: Keep your staff bare-bones and only hire to meet growth that has already happened — never hire to meet anticipated demand.

Emotional support and motivation

The path of entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride filled with emotional highs and lows. Recognizing the transformative power of storytelling, Cooper shared his experiences of triumph over obstacles, hoping to inspire others.

“I simply reinforce that everyone who has started their own business has been where they are, including the doubts they are experiencing, but it’s important to believe in their ideas and stick to it,” Cooper said. “I always tell them, ‘This is your business or concept, and you’re closer to it than anyone else.’ And I’m here to support and give them the benefit of my experience.”

Joys of EIR mentorship

Cooper has the privilege of paying forward his knowledge and expertise, particularly in strategic planning and problem-solving.

“In my first cohort experience, it was rewarding watching the participants' concepts evolve from very raw, not sharply articulated ideas to good, solid business plans that have a real chance of becoming a growing business. I think the Venture Lab program is one of the best I’ve been exposed to in 40-plus years in business. All of my experience has been with corporations and agencies, but the learnings and discipline that the Venture Lab provides is a great framework, and the EIR experience is fantastic. I look forward to many more cohort sessions,” Cooper said.

Featured image at top: Venture Lab pre-accelerator class. Photo/Ravenna Rutledge/UC Marketing + Brand

Learn more

Learn more about the 1819 Innovation Hub and the UC Venture Lab.

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