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ASK ACE with SGE: Mentors Are Here To Help You

Two weeks ago Minister-of-State Teo Ser Luck, Chairman of ACE, officially launched ASK ACE, an online mentoring platform that SGE built and is managing in partnership with ACE.

ASK ACE is a way for start-ups and the general public to get advice from ACE Mentors.

How to use ASK ACE?

1. Go to ask.sgentrepreneurs.com

2. Search for an answer to your entrepreneurship or business related question.

3. If you cannot find a matching question and answer, ask your question.

- Choose the best category that fits your question.

Your question will be directed to all the mentors who are experts in that category.

- Choose the relevant mentors for your question. Learn more about the mentors here.

How to get the most out of ASK ACE for yourself

1. Use an email that we can contact you with.

Often the mentors will provide feedback and even ask for further details to get a clearer picture before answering a question. If the email given is invalid or incorrect, then your question may not be satisfactorily answered.

2. Be specific and provide as much relevant information as possible.

The Geeky stuff & Why ASK ACE?

Some of the aims of ACE ACK:

- Create a repository of the common questions start-up founders will have for mentors.
- Connect start-up founders with mentors.
- Provide a low cost platform, in terms of time and commitment, for mentors to get involved.

The general consensus when we were planning for ASK ACE was that Singapore has a lot of great mentors with a wealth of knowledge that weren’t participating online the way you have folks from SV doing. We can hope they will come online to existing platforms, but rather than hope, we wanted to go to them where most are most comfortable: email.

1. We sought to use only email to communicate with the mentors.

- We didn’t want them to have to create an account on the site.
- Didn’t need them to log into the site to manage said account.
- Didn’t need them to have a Facebook account to possibly log into the site to participate.
- Didn’t need them to have a Twitter account to possibly log into the site to participate.
- Didn’t need them to have a login account from any OAuth providers to log into the site to participate.

2. The mentors will tell us their level of participation and the system (combination of manual and auto) will send to them questions via email accordingly.

There were a few key parameters they can control.
- How many questions they would receive during a given timeframe (e.g. in a week).
- How many emails they would receive, how often and the format of the email (e.g. Would they receive 1 email per question or a digest with all the question; would they receive it daily, weekly or monthly?)

3. Once they received an email with the question(s), the mentors could just reply to the email and the system will retrieve the email, and match answer to question.

4. A lot of times questions are similar.

Note:
- Query is what someone asks.
- Question is what’s actually being sent to the mentor.

We needed a way to merge the queries that are similar into a single question.

On the current site, when a founder makes a query (i.e. asks a question), that query isn’t immediately forwarded as a question to the mentors. The system could inform our editor that the query is similar or new compared to existing questions.

The editor can then choose to:
- create a whole new question out of the query
- split the query up into multiple questions
- merge the query into parts of an existing question and create a new question from the remainder of the query.

A system is currently being built to help make the above tasks easier.

Focusing on what’s important

Our priority is to ensure that startup founders and entrepreneurs can get the best help from the mentors. The technical system is secondary. We would appreciate any feedback. If you have any, do leave them in the comments for this post.

Thanks to:

1. Benjamin, a friend and uber geek, who volunteered his time and effort to get the site up.
2. Friends from ACE who worked together to get the site up, and supplied beer during crunch time.
3. The team from SGE who helped with editorial work for the site.
4. Team from Table55 who understood why I was coding less in Objective-C and more in Python while I got the site up with Ben and ACE.
5. The startups who used the site and provided feedback.



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