Back in 1997, Alec Dingee and Dave Staelin had an idea. 

The entrepreneurs turned academics knew their employer, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was a world-class launchpad for research and innovation. They also observed that too many MIT students opted against launching a business based on their research because they didn’t think they could run a company. 

Alec and Dave wanted to change that, so they developed the Venture Mentoring Service (VMS), a free program to give local entrepreneurs unbiased advice from seasoned volunteer mentors for as long as the entrepreneurs needed it. 

They matched mentors with willing entrepreneurs to share practical, day-to-day advice on starting and running a business. Mentors were vetted for their experience in areas relevant to the needs of entrepreneurs: product development, marketing, intellectual property law, capital markets, human resources, and founders issues.

VMS Companies Have Raised $3.1 Billion

It didn’t take long for Alec’s and Dave’s phones to start ringing, and it hasn’t stopped twenty-four years later. VMS has served nearly 300 Massachusetts companies breaking new ground in genome engineering, artificial intelligence, 3D imaging, edtech, clean energy, and more. Collectively, these companies have raised more than $3.1 billion.

Now Maryland Companies Can Join VMS

The Maryland Tech Council now offers its own MIT-licenced Venture Mentor Service. Our program mirrors what made MIT’s VMS so effective: free, unbiased mentoring services from tested mentors, and a flexible arrangement that puts the entrepreneur’s schedule and needs first. We’re focused on companies in the technology and life sciences fields that are preparing to raise their first or second round of venture capital or institutional financing.

I am thrilled to report that nearly 60 Maryland ventures have joined our VMS program and teamed with 120 trained mentors with expertise in entrepreneurship, capital markets, engineering, HR, accounting, and more — all at no cost to the venture. 

Without them [VMS program], we would have had to expend significant resources or learned from trial and error which can be costly.” — Prakash Chakravarthi, CEO, Machfu

“It’s an opportunity to learn about yourself through the act of mentoring and learn about innovative science in the area through the groups you mentor. It’s also wonderful to see teams that you’ve mentored grow!  You also get to meet some great mentors and build a professional network within the area.” — Murat Kalayoglu, MD, PhD, MBA, President & CEO, Cartesian Therapeutics

I’ve been privileged to serve as a mentor to some outstanding companies in our VMS program. Let’s be clear: They own their success. Our value is to be advisors – not directors – and we learn as much from the venture executives as we hope they learn from us.

To learn how your company can benefit from the Maryland Tech Council’s Venture Mentoring Service, visit

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