Mike: Twenty years ago I moved to Dallas to work for a startup Pixel Semiconductor that got purchased by Cirrus Logic. And, I subsequently went to a larger corporation, Texas Instruments, and created a billion-dollar business there called OMap; They make processors for smart phones. Since then I’ve done some earlier stage startups in the last couple of years, TangoTab and Learner Mobile.
Why did you become a mentor in the start-up community?
Mike: Having done some successful and less-than-successful ventures myself, I thought at this point in my life, it would be really good to give back to the community. I really like seeing the Dallas start-up community grow in strength and size.
As a mentor, what did you learn from SPARXlife?
Mike: I learned that a lot of people are sort of stuck in jobs and points in their life where their passions, joys, skills and interests don’t match. Everyone may need a little help finding that spark.
Was there any process or method to your mentorship that you thought was especially effective?
Mike: The most effective thing, quite frankly, was just us having a sit down session. Then, continual dialogue was the most important thing.
What do you feel was the biggest benefit your company had with you as a mentor?
Mike: I tried to stress the importance of marketing early, I mean, sometimes before you even have a product. The importance of data in the measurement [of client feedback] and then reflecting on that data to continually improve the product.
What would you tell a new mentor about how to have the biggest impact?
Mike: Just listen. It’s not your startup. It’s their startup. If you are able to listen and ask good questions, hopefully that will provoke the startup to ask the right kind of questions when they need help. Hopefully, you will be able to recognize when they are about to run into a brick wall and help them through it; the experience is quite helpful. But, listening to them is the main thing.
What would you tell other entrepreneurs about the advantages and benefits of being a mentor?
Mike: For me, honestly, it’s personal. I feel like the time I’ve spent around the participating [VentureSpur] startups is sort of a fountain of youth for an entrepreneur. You can really get stuck in a rut. You can be that old dog with the old tricks. Sometimes the young people supply the old people with really interesting, thought-provoking ideas and attitudes. I think it really helps keep you young and honest.
What start-ups are you interested in this next year?
Mike: Of the ones that were in the program, I think SPARXlife is definitely one of them. I think Haul is really interesting. And, I was really really intrigued by TogaBOX at Pitch Day. They stood out. I’m really interested in a lot of places that are looking at authenticating at the edge of the networks. It seems like more and more it is so difficult to have security intact; to know where data is coming from and the ability to push that authentication, and its very crisp user experience, up to the edge of the network, I think will be very key.
To read more about Mike Yonker, visit his bio on our mentor roster!