The Dobson Mentorship Circle, is a new initiative to support startups that have graduated from our entrepreneurship programs, and who are looking to receive mentorship from seasoned business experts, as they navigate the challenges and opportunities of growing their business.
Our distinguished group of prominent business leaders, each with twenty or more years of expertise with startups, business innovation and leadership, provide a source of inspiration, a listening ear and new perspectives to broaden the horizons of fledging Dobson founders to help them grow.
“Mentorship has played an invaluable role in the progress of Algi. Being able to learn from experienced entrepreneurs and industry leaders has helped us to make smart decisions and grow more quickly.” - ALESSANDRA AMATO, Co-Founder, Algi
Program at a Glance
MENTORSHIP TO GET YOU TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Through the Dobson Mentorship Circle, Dobson founders benefit from the insights and experience of an esteemed business leader to support them through the many challenges and opportunities they are faced with when growing their business. Mentors impart their knowledge and provide new perspectives to help mentees navigate the decision-making process and develop their business smarts, while also acting as supportive confidants.
Mentees benefit from:
Increased motivation and inspiration
Having someone to confide in
Being prompted to approach problems from different viewpoints
Ongoing feedback and help in diagnosing situations
Learning from real-world examples drawn from their mentor’s experience
A STRUCTURED APPROACH
Matches are made based on mutual interests and alignment, and may include one mentor or a team of mentors, depending on topics and growth areas. The program includes:
Selected entrepreneurs present their pitches and share business goals that they have identified for the next 12-18 months, along with areas that they are seeking support with, while Mentors share details on their background and areas of expertise.
Once matched, mentors and mentees will meet and develop a 12-month action plan to address desired growth areas and track progress.
At least one mentorship meeting per month will take place over a minimum 12-month period.
A minimum of one monthly mentorship meeting for at least 12 months
A 12-18 month detailed roadmap for your business at the start of the program
Creation and periodic updating and tracking of your action plan
Participation in semi-annual Mentorship Circle meetings
A minimum of one 60-minute monthly meeting (per mentee) for the duration of the assignment
Provide a confidential source of support, motivation and feedback to mentees
Maintain neutrality and integrity of the mentor-mentee relationship by NOT entering into investment agreements while both parties are part of the Dobson Mentorship Circle
Meet our mentors
DINO DI PALMA, Chair Dobson Mentorship Circle
Dino Di Palma, most recently served as President, Strategic Partners & Global Accounts at Avaya. In this role, Dino was responsible for direct, channel and partner sales in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. He also had responsibility for the company’s go to market strategy across the entire portfolio of cloud and premise based software and hardware solutions serving enterprise, government agencies, channel partners, SIs, SPs and small and medium businesses.
Prior to joining Avaya, Dino was Chief Revenue Officer at Broadsoft, leading the company’s global sales operations. Dino was responsible for global sales, operations, professional services and partner initiatives. Broadsoft was acquired by Cisco late 2017 for $1.9B. He has also held leadership positions overseeing global sales and business development, customer service and support, and manufacturing operations at Benu Networks (CEO) and Acme Packet (COO & member of the founding team), prior to its acquisition by Oracle in 2013 for $2.1B. Dino is also a member of the G20 Ventures and board chair of one of the G20 Portfolio companies (Emissary). G20 Ventures provides early traction capital for East Coast enterprise tech start ups.
LORA TISI, Senior Retail Strategist, U.S./CAN
Lora Tisi has over 30 years experience as an International Retailer, leading several team’s business growth and brand initiatives including revenue and profit growth, Merchant and Brand leadership.
Most recently, as President of the RW&CO Brand for Reitmans Canada Limited, delivering 18 Consecutive quarters of sales and margin growth. Menswear results were particularly strong, with Product and Brand collaboration with NHL Superstars, such as PK Subban, Erik Karlsson, Morgan Reilly and Mark Schieffele, resulting in significant sales and market share increases across both genders.
In 2000, Lora became President of American Eagle Outfitters and launched the brand across Canada. The team was successful with the brand launch, opening 46 stores, coast to coast in 108 days, exceeding first year profit targets, and becoming the "Brand of Choice" for Canadian teens.
Prior to American Eagle, Lora spent 17 years building the four banner, two country, 900 store chain, The Northern Group. By leveraging the marquis brand, Northern Reflections, total sales grew to C$1Billion. Unquestionably, the US stores result is a proud achievement, as this success eclipsed any other Canadian apparel entry into the US for sales, growth and profit.
RUBIN GRUBER, Chairman Of The Board, Metrika, Boston
Rubin Gruber is a well-known successful entrepreneur, having founded many innovative companies in the telecommunications, data communications and digital networking areas over a span of forty years. In 2007 he co-founded Verivue (acquired in 2012 by Akamai: AKAM), a company providing infrastructure products that support on-demand television and movies as well as content delivery networks. Before Verivue, Gruber co-founded Sonus Networks (NASDAQ: SONS), and VideoServer, Inc (NASDAQ: VSVR), after serving as Senior Vice President BBN Communications Corporation. Gruber also founded Davox (NASDAQ: DAVX, acquired Aspect and renamed Aspect), Cambridge Telecommunications (CTX) which was later acquired by GTE.
Gruber served on the Boards of all the companies he founded, as well as a number of other private companies, including GreenVolts, NetDevices (acquired by Alcatel-Lucent), Brix Networks (acquired by EXFO), 2Wire (acquired by AT&T, Telmex and Alcatel) and others. Gruber was a member of the board of directors of the International Softswitch Consortium, the International Packet Communications Consortium, and he was one of the founding members of the International Multimedia Telecommunications Consortium where he was awarded the Pioneer award. He was named to the Massachusetts Telecom Hall of Fame.
Currently, Rubin is a member of the Leadership Council of the Tannenbaum Open Science Institute, part of McGill University's Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) as it promotes worldwide adoption of Open Science to accelerate scientific discovery and adoption.
He also mentors students in Florida Atlantic University's MCPR artificial intelligence laboratory. He holds a B.Sc. from McGill University and an MA in mathematics from Wayne State University. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from McGill University.
YOLANDA M. WARDOWSKI, Managing Director, Avalon Net Worth, New York
With over 15 years of advisory, execution and investing experience, Yolanda has been directly involved in the origination and execution of several billion dollars worth of domestic and cross-border financing and strategic M&A transactions across the Consumer and Technology sectors. Sector expertise in Branded Consumer Products, Retail/Apparel, Luxury, Personal Care, Food/Beverage and in Technology, Consumer/Mobile, and DNVB sectors. Her career began at J.P. Morgan in the M&A/Corporate Finance group focusing exclusively on domestic and cross-border transactions in the Consumer Products and Retail sectors. She was also one of four M&A professionals selected to join J.P. Morgan's internal M&A group, where she advised Corporate Office and the Board of Directors on potential M&A and investments in foreign banks. As well, she has also held senior positions at Ernst & Young Capital Advisors and 94th Street Capital developing and executing financing strategies for portfolio companies.
MARCIA KILGORE, Founder of Bliss Spa, Soap & Glory, FitFlop, Soaper Duper and Beauty Pie, London
Marcia Kilgore is a Canadian born entrepreneur who has founded several global companies in the beauty and footwear industries. Her ventures include industry revolutionising Bliss Spa, sold to LVMH after only three years from its launch; bath, body and cosmetics brand Soap & Glory, sold to British Drugstore giant Alliance Boots/Walgreen; biomechanics meets fashion footwear brand FitFlop; and naturally-derived bath & body product brand Soaper Duper.
Most recently, in October 2016, Kilgore founded Beauty Pie, her radical new luxury beauty product buyers’ club, aimed at democratising the luxury beauty industry by disrupting the existing business model.
Through its fully digital marketplace, Beauty Pie sells luxury beauty products without the luxury beauty prices, by sourcing these from manufacturers - and cutting out intermediaries, avoiding expensive real estate and advertising - while focusing its attention on quality.
Using the elite third-party luxury labs that Kilgore worked with for the last 25 years, Beauty Pie is flipping the luxury beauty industry upside down, with a direct-to-consumer membership business model and totally transparent pricing.
Beauty Pie is about empowerment, self-worth and teaching women (and men) that they deserve a bigger piece of it, even if ‘getting more’ starts with the price of an amazing moisturiser.
JEFF SPEAK, President at Speakco Investments
Jeff Speak is a serial entrepreneur in the Telecom & IT Industry. In 1988, co-founded CBCI, grew from a “start up” to the 5th largest videoconferencing manufacturer in the world. In 1996, took CBCI public on the senior Canadian stock exchange. In 1997, successfully completed the sale of CBCI. In 1998 re-acquired an unwanted cellular division from the company to which we had sold their video- conferencing business, and began Phase II of the journey. In 2000, Jeff spun out another company called BlueTree Wireless Data (“BlueTree”), which designs and manufactures rugged cellular modems targeted at certain vertical markets. In 2004, he took BlueTree public on a junior Canadian stock exchange. In 2006, founded ETelesolv, the telecom & IT software company mentioned above. In 2007 completed the successful sale of BlueTree. In 2009, sold cellular division into a US private equity led roll-up. In 2011 bought out the interests of my minority partner. In 2011 sold our interest in Sixnet technologies. In 2014 sold interest in CBCI Telecom Canada Inc. Over the above history, successfully raised approximately $50M in financing, with all investors making money on the outright sale.
CHRISTIANE LEMIEUX, Founder Lemieux Et Cie, New York
Christiane Lemieux is a designer, entrepreneur, investor and author. Christiane introduced her European lifestyle brand LEMIEUX et CIE into the United States in late summer 2020, coinciding with the publication of her first business book “Frictionless: Why the Future of Everything Will Be Fast, Fluid, and Made Just for You" (Harper Collins Business), a 2020 Porchlight Business Book Awards Longlist title. Prior to starting her newest ventures, Christiane was the Founder/CEO of THE INSIDE, her direct-to-consumer (D2C) home furnishings brand. She was the Co-Founder of Cloth & Company and the Founder of DwellStudio, which was purchase by Wayfair, the world’s largest online home furnishings retailer, in 2013. Christiane served as the Executive Creative Director of Wayfair until 2016. Lemieux is an active investor in the Consumer and Tech Sectors, individually and with the WIE syndicate. Her investment focus is on Founder Inclusivity and Diversity. Christiane is a frequent contributor to Architectural Digest, Apartment Therapy, Editor At Large and other design outlets. Lemieux authored her first book, “Undecorated” (Random House/Clarkson Potter) to critical acclaim in 2011; her second best-selling book (still #1 in Interior Decoration & Ornament on Amazon) “The Finer Things” also was published by RH/CP in 2016. Christiane entered the television space as co-host and judge on “Ellen’s Design Challenge” - a furniture design competition show on HGTV. Lemieux was highlighted as one of Fortune’s 2012 "Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs” and is a graduate of Parsons School of Design and Queen’s University in Canada. Christiane sits on the board of “Every Mother Counts,” the non-governmental organization (NGO) started by Christy Turlington Burns to fight maternal mortality and support women, babies and health care providers. Looking ahead, Christiane's third book and fourth books, “Provenance” and “The Everything Home,” are slated for publication in 2022.
STEPHEN HARPER, Director at Strathmore Investments Ltd., London
Former Chief Executive Officer, Saguenay Strathmore Capital, an alternative investment management company, Stephen is currently non-executive director of BGC European Holdings LP, a leading inter dealer broker, Copper Street Capital LLP, an investment management company and Hello Products LLC, an oral care company. Prior to founding Strathmore Capital LLP in 2003, Stephen served as Chief Operating Officer and Partner of VHC Partners LLP, a European hedge fund. Previously, Stephen was a Senior Managing Director at Bankers Trust. He joined in Toronto as one of the founding members of its Canadian derivatives business. As co-head of the Capital Markets Group, he pioneered the equity derivatives market and helped build BT Bank of Canada into a pre-eminent derivatives firm in Canada. In 1990, he became the youngest bank president in Canadian history. Shortly thereafter, he moved to London as Managing Director and head of the European equity derivatives business. He subsequently held various senior management positions in risk management and investment banking before becoming Chief Operating Officer of the Global Risk Management Services Division. In addition, he served as a director on the boards of Bankers Trust International (U.K.), Bankers Trust AG (Switzerland) and BT Bank of Canada. Stephen started his career at Wood Gundy Inc. in Toronto. He joined as an Associate in Corporate Finance in 1984 then became part of the newly formed swaps and derivatives team. Stephen has a B.Sc. magna cum laude from Brown University (1982) in Applied Mathematics and Economics and an MBA from Harvard University (1984).
NEIL MURDOCH, former President of Aston Hill Asset Management
Mr. Murdoch is an active investor in private companies and has served on the boards of many private and public companies. He currently sits on the boards of 8 private firms. He is the former President of Aston Hill Asset Management, having retired in December 2015. Mr. Murdoch has a strong track record of leadership and execution in the retail investment world. In late 2003 Mr. Murdoch founded Connor, Clark & Lunn Capital Markets Inc. where he raised, as CEO and President, over $2.5 billion in new assets before Aston Hill acquired the firm in 2013. Prior to that, he was Executive Vice-President and Portfolio Manager at AIC Group of Funds. Mr. Murdoch joined AIC in 1993 when the firm managed only $150 million in assets and was instrumental in its growth to over $15 billion as one of the three principals of the business. Mr. Murdoch received his Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University and a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Toronto. He completed his formal education with a Master of Management degree from theKellogg Graduate School of Management and holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. He is also active in the community, currently as a member of the McGill Faculty of Management Faculty Advisory Board and as a co-founder of Operation Guardian Force.
SHARON STERN, President of Metro Investments and Eastmore Management
Sharon Stern is a Canadian entrepreneur and real estate investor. She is the President of Metro Investments, an organization focused on the acquisition, development and management of multi-residential and commercial properties in the downtown core of Montreal, and is President of Eastmore Management, an investment management company. Sharon also serves on the Board of Directors of Cedar Realty Trust (NYSE: CDR), a Real Estate Income Trust specializing in grocery-anchored retail properties. At Cedar, she serves on both the Audit and Compensation committees. She began her career in Strategy and Corporate Development for the Business Development Bank of Canada.
Sharon is an active investor in early-stage ventures and enjoys mentoring entrepreneurs. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree from McGill University in Economics and World Religions and a Master’s Degree from Brown University in Economic Policy and lives in Montreal with her husband and two sons.
JOSEPH SASSON, CEO, Delon - Iris
Joseph Sasson arrived in Montreal during the civil unrest in Lebanon where his father had to abandon his business for a pittance of its value. From a young age, Joseph was imbued with a sense of entrepreneurship and groomed to be a businessman. He attended McGill business school as an undergraduate, while working full time in his father's new startup business. They decided to concentrate on the manufacturing of personal care products. The business had grown rapidly thru organic growth acquisition but mostly thru innovation (Research & Development of a highly diversified portfolio of beauty products). His pivotal experience in his career was his acceptance into the Harvard Business School program for executives "Owners Presidents Managers Program." This crystallized his ideas in further business development. Secondly, it allowed him to network with other highly successful businessmen around the world. Joseph is presently CEO of Delon/Iris (www.labdelon.com), a family-held company in Montreal that makes an assortment of disposable personal care products, that currently employ 250+ employees. Counter to business practices, their goal was to build themselves a sweet spot and establish a successful and profitable manufacturing company in Canada, not in the Far East. The special dynamics of a family business poses special challenges and they are fortunate to have attended the Families in Business Program at Harvard. Joseph is a member of several peer review business groups. Ex: TEC/Vistage Canada. After a heart attack in 2010, he has immensely enjoy giving back and continues to mentor young entrepreneurs. He looks forward to sharing his extensive experience in entrepreneurship, marketing, manufacturing, international business, and family business.
MARK SMITH, President of Pandion Investments Ltd.
Mark L. Smith, is the President of Pandion Investments Ltd, a private family office that manages the affairs of Bill Sinclair in addition to the investment affairs of André Desmarais. Bill Sinclair is the co-founder of JDS Uniphase, the world’s largest fiber-optic company. André Desmarais is the Vice-Chairman and Co-CEO Power Corporation of Canada, a diversified international and investment and management holding company with significant interests in the financial services, renewable energy, communications and other businesses through such companies as GreatWest Life Assurance Company of Canada, Investors Group, Mackenzie Financial Corporation, Putnam Investments and Power Renewable Energy Corporation.
Mr. Smith attended McGill University’s Business School where he obtained his CA and was a Rhodes Scholar finalist and James McGill scholar. He started his career with Touche Ross & Co. (Deloitte) in 1982 and in 1986 joined the Claridge group in Montreal. Claridge is the private company that manages the affairs of the Charles R. Bronfman family whose family owned and controlled The Seagram Company, Cadillac Fairview, Netstar Communications (owners of TSN, The Discovery Channel and RDS) and numerous other investee companies. Mr. Smith served as President of Claridge SRB Investments, Senior Vice-President of Investments of the entire Claridge Group and Chief Operating Officer of Claridge Israel.
Mr. Smith has a wide range of investment experience in a wide range of industries including the financial services industry, telecommunications, technology, sports, pharmaceuticals, food, media and entertainment, health care and medical services and agro-chemical industries. Mr. Smith’s directorships include and have included Netstar Communications (formerly Labatt Communications), Medisys Medical Group, Enterprise Capital, Venture Coaches, Interset, Osem Food Group, ECI Telecom Inc., The TNA Group, Campbell Resources, Westcourt Capital, Crowntek Business Systems, Dalcor Canada and CBCI Telecom.
SOULA CHRONOPOULOS, President of ellicom & Vice President of Innovation at LCILX, Canada
An immunologist by training, Soula started her career in neuroscience research at McGill University, conducting pioneering research in Alzheimer’s disease. She launched a successful medical training company in 2005 (Taimma Communications), and was ranked in the top 100 female entrepreneurs, and one of Canada’s fastest growing companies by Profit Magazine in 2012. As VP Growth & Innovation at LCILX, she oversees the design and deployment of innovative learning experiences for Fortune 500 companies and the LCI Education Network. Passionate about R&D, Soula is currently leading global innovation initiatives to drive richer learning experiences that will connect our students globally at LCI.
MICHAEL MEE, Principal, Amplitude Ventures
After completing an undergraduate degree in engineering at McGill, Michael became enamoured by the possibility to apply a quantitative engineering mindset to biology and the emerging field of Synthetic Biology. He moved to Boston to pursue his doctoral studies where his Ph.D. research in Biomedical engineering was completed in George Church’s lab at HMS. The focus of his thesis was on developing advanced genetic and protein engineering technologies to control microbiome. He was bit by the "entrepreneur's bug" at the tail end of his PhD and launched a company, Syncrobes, focused on translating the technology he was advancing to improve the gut health of livestock animals. Growing that company provided him opportunities to interact with the Boston VC community and ultimately led to an offer to join one of the premiere life science focused venture creation firms, Flagship Pioneering, where he spent the second half of his decade in Boston. His time at Flagship was focused on conceiving, strategizing and ultimately building very early stage companies. More specifically he was focused on the development of two microbiome companies in the agricultural (Indigo) and therapeutics (Kaleido) domains, co-founding and launching a new therapeutic delivery platform and gene therapy company (Cobalt Biomedicine/Sana Biotechnologies) and most recently developing new ventures in AI-based drug development and gene editing areas. A long-term goal of his has always been to bring his learnings in Boston back home to help contribute to the Canadian biotech ecosystem. To that end, he recently relocated to Montreal to help launch a new Canadian focused life science and health technologies venture capital fund, Amplitude Ventures, and is excited to be able to achieve this goal with the support of the stellar team he works with.
Become a Mentee
The Dobson Mentorship Circle is open to McGill startups who have completed the McGill X-1 Accelerator and/or were winners in the finals of the McGill Dobson Cup who:
Can demonstrate early traction with a Proof of Concept, a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and early customers and/or revenue
Have the potential for exponential growth to eventually serve global markets
Have identified business goals for the next 12-18 months and are seeking mentorship to help them achieve specifically identified milestones
Can commit to full participation in the Dobson Mentorship Circle for a minimum of a 12 month period
Be ready to scale their business
To participate in Dobson Mentorship Circle:
1. SUBMIT YOUR STARTUP
Click the link below to submit your startup. Once admitted into the program, you will receive an email confirmation and get listed in the McGill Entrepreneurs Mentorship Circle.
2. CONNECT WITH MENTORS
Discovery Meeting: Through an organized kick-off event all participating startups and mentors will be invited to get acquainted. Startups will present their pitch and mentors will share details about their professional backgrounds.
Your startup will be listed and shared among members the McGill Entrepreneurs Mentorship Circle. You will receive direct connections with mentors and mentors can reach out to you.
Have questions about the program? Contact Kika Armata for more information: kika.armata [at] mcgill.ca