January 29, 2021

The Importance of Mentorship

Written by
Lauren Howe

From left to right, Ali Asaria (CEO, Tulip), Eva Wong (COO, Borrowell), Noura Sakkijha (CEO, Mejuri) and Sam Pillar (CEO, Jobber).

As the iconic African proverb goes, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. While it can be universally agreed upon that mentorship plays a vital role in one’s development, it means something slightly different to everyone. Mentorship lies at the heart of the C100 Fellows program (formerly 48Hrs in the Valley). We asked four alumni, who have gone on to build multi-million dollar companies and are active mentors themselves, to share their words of wisdom on how to make the most out of your own mentorship experiences.

Ali Asaria

Founder & CEO, Tulip Retail
48Hrs Alumnus (2010)

Founded in 2013, Kitchener-based Tulip is a global leader in providing SaaS-based mobile retail solutions. Through simple-to-use applications, Tulip helps empower retailers to be better connected with their customers and sales associates. Tulip was recently listed on the Globe and Mail’s list of Canada’s top growing companies. Ali started his career at Research in Motion (RIM) and previously founded and led, Canada’s largest online health, beauty, and baby store.

You have gotten involved as a mentor through several programs, including C100’s 48Hrs, NEXT Canada, and Techstars, just to name a few. What do you feel differentiates a good mentor/mentee relationship from a great one?

The best CEO mentors put the emotional and mental well-being of the leadership and team before everything else. Second, they operate from a strict and transparent ethical framework. Most importantly, they have extensive experience riding the very high highs, and the very low lows that come with leadership. It’s not just about having the experience of seeing growth, but also about experience navigating the complex and political power struggles that happen across a company and board as it sees peaks and valleys. In the end, startups are messy and you want a mentor that has dealt with that before: someone that can stand on the sidelines to help remind you of the bigger picture when you’re in the thick of the fog.

What advice have you received from a mentor that has stuck with you over the years?

“Strive to build a company that you’re excited to work at for the rest of your life.” When you think that long term, it forces you to be much more thoughtful around the key decisions you make along the way.

Eva Wong

Co-Founder & COO, Borrowell
48Hrs Alumna (2015)

Borrowell is a Toronto-based fintech company that offers free credit scores, report monitoring, bill tracking, and AI-driven financial product recommendations. With well over one million members, Borrowell is one of the largest consumer fintech companies in Canada. Borrowell has won numerous awards, including being named one of the top 100 fintech companies in the world by KPMG, ranking 4th on the Deloitte Technology Fast 50™ list of fastest-growing companies in Canada, and making App Annie’s list of Breakout Finance Apps for 2019.

Why is it important for early-stage entrepreneurs to have mentorship?

Sometimes, a half-hour conversation can save you 6 months of painful learning. Being able to learn from the experience of other founders has been invaluable for me. Speed is so important for early-stage companies, so the faster you can learn, and the more mistakes you can avoid, the more likely you’ll be successful.

What’s a piece of advice you can share with early-stage founders?

The word “mentor” can seem really fraught and weighty — in my experience, you don’t have to have just one person in a formal mentor role you go-to for everything or feel like you’re missing out because you don’t have a Mentor (with a capital M). I feel very fortunate to be able to reach out and get advice from a wide range of people who I may only chat with once a year, or even just via email. And many of these people are younger or have less experience than me, but have different experiences I can learn from, so don’t overlook your peers as a source of wisdom and advice.

Sam Pillar

Co-Founder & CEO, Jobber
48Hrs Alumnus (2015)

In 2011, Sam and Co-Founder Forrest Zeisler launched Edmonton-based Jobber. Jobber provides software that handles scheduling and accounting for home-service small businesses like plumbers and landscapers. Since its inception, Jobber has serviced more than 10 million people, across 47 countries and 50 service segments, and the business expects to hire 200 more employees in 2021. The company has been named one of Canada’s top growing companies 2020 by the Globe and Mail and Sam has his sights set on building Edmonton’s first $1-billion tech company.

Jobber’s most recent US$60-million raise, just days ago, made Edmonton history as the largest technology growth-equity financing in the city’s history. How do you see the role of Edmonton, and Alberta, as a part of the future Canadian tech ecosystem?

Places like Edmonton have flown under the tech radar for a long time, and there are fewer and fewer reasons for that to be the case. It’s certainly true that certain companies need to be located in the Bay Area, or New York, but for others — like Jobber — there are actually a lot of benefits to building off-the-beaten-path. It’s possible today to build a big venture-backed, market-leading company in secondary markets like Edmonton. I suspect we’ll see more companies discover the benefits of these markets and find success in them in the years to come.

Why is it important for early-stage entrepreneurs to have mentorship?

I think mentorship is important at all stages of entrepreneurship, but especially early on. Starting a company is crazy. It’s not a particularly “rational” thing to do, but entrepreneurs cast aside just enough doubt to give it a try. Having mentors you trust to help you work through the doubt that remains, wrestle with challenges you can’t discuss with others, provide guidance and help assure you that “yes, what you’re doing is really hard but if you really grind you can probably make it work” is an immensely helpful x-factor.

Noura Sakkijha

Co-Founder & CEO, Mejuri
48Hrs Alumna (2017)

Noura Sakkijha (Co-Founder and CEO of Mejuri) is the third generation in a family of jewelers, exposing her to traditional production techniques and the complexity of fine jewelry design at an early age. She took a detour from her family roots to study Industrial Engineering which led her to work in consulting at one of the top financial institutions in Toronto before starting Mejuri. Tired of the narrative that fine jewelry is an occasional purchase typically marketed to men, Noura leveraged her learnings from the industry to create the next-generation category-defining jewelry brand. With $32M in fundraising to date, Sakkijha and her team are redefining the way people purchase fine jewelry — for themselves.

Seeing as Mejuri was your first entrepreneurial venture, how did mentorship play a part in your startup journey?

As a first-time entrepreneur, you are a student and are constantly learning, and I truly believe the best way to learn is by spending time with people who have been there and done it. I found seeking knowledge from peers or people who have achieved the very thing you are trying to build extremely valuable. It provides you space to ask questions and the comfort of knowing that often the challenges you are experiencing are not unique to your business. Having said that, it is important to remember that you are the one who knows your business the most, so you have to determine what kind of mentorship makes the most sense for you and will be the most beneficial, but seeing different perspectives and having a sounding board is extremely important and helpful.

What’s a piece of advice you can share with early-stage founders?

Surrounding yourself with a community of like-minded people is really important. Being able to cultivate and maintain those relationships provides you with a support system to lean on, especially when you may be facing challenges as your company grows.

It is also important to ensure that as the business grows, you are hiring for your blind spots. As a founder, take the time to consider what gives you energy and where you can contribute the most, versus what is super technical and requires learning that may not be the most productive for the business. This is when you should be hiring subject matter experts so that you have the time and energy to focus on where you are most impactful, which will ultimately be the most beneficial for the business. I would also encourage founders to not shy away from the things that give them energy and that they enjoy, no matter how granular- and hold onto it.

Visit our website to learn more about C100 Fellows, a 10-month mentorship program dedicated to early-stage entrepreneurs.

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Article written by Lauren Howe, C100. Please provide any feedback to


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