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Entrepreneurship skills are life skills: A mentor’s perspective

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

Originally from Germany, Ronny Roeller is a tech entrepreneur and current Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at NEXT Technologies in Amsterdam. As a member of the INSEAD International Alumni Association in the Netherlands (IAA NL), Ronny jumped at the opportunity to mentor a participant at Delitelabs. In this article, Ronny shares his experience and growth journey as a mentor, as well as the importance of entrepreneurial skills for newcomers.

Ronny Roeller
Ronny Roeller testing his mentee's virtual reality business idea

Gaining new perspectives through mentoring

When the INSEAD IAA NL put a call out for mentors at Delitelabs, Ronny found it appealing for a number of reasons. “Firstly, if you can help somebody, it’s a great thing to do,” he says. “The other part for me was – in the Netherlands, we have a very one-dimensional view of newcomers and I think it’s more than that. I was interested to work with newcomers and get a different perspective, but also to get a better understanding of the limiting factors of what people experience. It’s super hard to experience yourself if you haven’t been in that situation.”

At Delitelabs, it is our mission to empower newcomers to unlock their full potential by learning fundamental entrepreneurship skills. While traditional “integration” programs offered by governments typically center around employment and language skills, we’ve found that Delitelabs’ focus on entrepreneurial skills is equally – if not more – effective in strengthening integration.

Entrepreneurship skills = life skills

In highlighting the uniqueness of participants at Delitelabs, Ronny shares, “The real difference between my mentee at Delitelabs and other people I’ve mentored is how ambitious they are. My mentee at Delitelabs was in the top 10%. Their spirit is amazing.”

While entrepreneurship skills like financial management, communication, and confidence can benefit newcomers in any country, Ronny adds, “To leave your own country is a huge step – to make the decision and jump. That already shows that these newcomers are willing to take risks. That’s a big asset they have.” In other words, by their very nature, newcomers are equipped with important entrepreneurship skills that are difficult to teach – like courageousness and risk-taking.

Networking, however, can be a little more complicated. As Ronny puts it, “Networking is an uphill battle.” This is why Ronny decided to open up his network to his mentee at Delitelabs. His mentee was interested in virtual reality (VR) and building a VR business, so Ronny decided to contact a friend of his who leads Amazon in the Netherlands and connect his mentee to someone at Amazon Prime, which has a VR offering. Clearly, mentors can provide valuable feedback and business insights to their mentees – but mentors don’t have all the answers. Oftentimes, a mentor’s network can be just as valuable as their own knowledge and insights.

Learnings on personal growth: A mentor’s perspective

When it comes to his own mentorship style, Ronny says, “One point is to find a good balance between guiding and overpowering, but at the same time maintaining some positive pressure. You can’t force people but you want to help them focus and execute on the right things.”

Overall, Ronny grew from his experience as a mentor at Delitelabs. “You learn something about the world you live in that you don’t normally see, which is valuable in itself,” he shares.

While mentoring is just as rewarding for mentors as it is for mentees, it is not without its challenges. In Ronny’s case, one of his mentees did not speak English or Dutch, which made communication challenging at times. “We managed, but it was certainly a challenge,” Ronny says.

“Another challenge is, if you compare this to other mentoring I’ve done with entrepreneurs, it’s always a given that it’s only about entrepreneurship, whereas at Delitelabs, we’re exploring if getting a job might also be worthwhile to gain economic independence,” Ronny adds. “This is more important for a newcomer. I had to remind myself from time to time that entrepreneurship was not the only solution.”

To conclude, Ronny offers advice to newcomers who might also be aspiring entrepreneurs: “Play to your strengths and don’t try to fix your weaknesses. There are a lot of hurdles but there are a lot of assets that people bring with them – realizing and leveraging them is probably the best thing to do.” Apply today to be a mentor for our spring cohort and see for yourself the transformative power of mentorship:

Written by Sophie Poulsen - Content Creator at Delitelabs

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