As part of our Ever-Widening Circle, KI has consciously chosen to face outwards, to grow, expand, and make partnerships.  We believe that by respecting others’ beliefs we can work together on what unites and strengthens us.  KI Next will help us to expand the strong and innovative programs that bring KI’s unique viewpoint to the Jewish community at large.

One of our close partners is Jewish Venture Mentoring Service.  In fact, they have space in the second floor of the Epstein Building.  We asked them about their innovative service and how being located at KI enhances their work and what they see in our shared future.

jvmsWhat is a Venture Mentoring Service? And why the need for a specifically Jewish one?

The Jewish Venture Mentoring Service (JVMS), a Brookline nonprofit founded in 2013, provides free mentoring services to Boston area entrepreneurs.  JVMS is based on MIT’s successful Venture Mentoring Service model of group mentoring for both prospective and experienced entrepreneurs and is the only community organization to receive training from MIT VMS.  Recognizing the abundance of business expertise within the Boston Jewish community and capitalizing on Boston’s entrepreneurial prominence, JVMS is a unique opportunity for supporting Jewish entrepreneurs.  Believing strongly in the principles of Maimonides and the importance of tzedakah, all of our services are free and our mentors are all volunteers.  


 Who are the mentors and what kind of help do they provide?

JVMS mentors are skilled business professionals who have experience in the many areas related to starting and running a business, including start-ups, business development, operations, finance, legal and IT.  They represent a wide spectrum of industries including biotech, hi-tech, nonprofit, law, education, food service, retail, real estate and science.  Our mentors are “vetted” to ensure they are committed to the JVMS mission and can provide coaching in an appropriate and effective manner.  All of our mentors are volunteers.  Currently we have over 75 mentors.


What kinds of ventures are being mentored? How many?

Our ventures range from those developing an idea to those well along in their product launch cycle.  They represent business sectors including biotech, clean technology, ecommerce, education, finance, food service, healthcare, IT, lifestyle, mobile apps, retail, social services and software.  We accept all applications regardless of stage of development or quality of venture, providing the business is legal.  We’ve mentored over 100 ventures.


What kinds of events and services do you offer, beyond the mentoring of individual companies?

JVMS’ vision is to be the hub of the Boston Jewish community for entrepreneurship, mentoring, training and innovation; and so in addition to our mentoring, we offer networking sessions, courses relevant to entrepreneurship and business, our own Shark Tank event called the Gefilte Fish Bowl.  We also collaborate with other relevant organizations by co-sponsoring programs, participating in events as speaker or panel member, publicizing events, etc.


Why is JVMS located at KI? How has it worked out?

KI is committed to be a “center for Jewish life” and has made community space available for Jewish nonprofits.  We are fortunate to be one of the organizations that is renting office space.  As a matter of a fact, we have expanded our own efforts to provide space to other Jewish nonprofits through our ‘Koshare’ initiative.  We offer our own underutilized office space to other Jewish nonprofits benefiting both the synagogue and the community.  We currently have two ‘Koshare’ subtenants.  We also have access to KI’s event spaces and staff for our JVMS events.


I’ve heard you say that for some of your participants, “JVMS is their Judaism.” What does that mean?

JVMS provides connection–connection between entrepreneur and mentor, connection between mentor and mentor, and connection to the community that is fostering entrepreneurship. We believe our entrepreneurs will begin to feel an association with the Jewish community through their work with JVMS and our mentors; and they will ultimately give back to the Jewish community because of the support they are given.  Because all of the work we do at JVMS is done in the spirit of tzedakah, we are inspiring our participants to start giving and giving back today and not wait until they or their venture is successful.  By contributing time and skills to these entrepreneurs, our mentors feel additional motivation to strengthen their own commitment to the community.  At our meetings and events, there is much camaraderie among entrepreneurs and mentors and the underlying Jewish vibes are pervasive.


 What are your thoughts as KI embarks on its renovation project?

We are very excited about KI’s renovation project and their goal to be a hub of Jewish activity of all kinds.  We’ve already talked with KI and are delighted to report that we will be one of the Jewish organizations that KI will house in the new building.  Being located in a Jewish facility is very important to us as yet another example of connection to our community. And the fact that KI’s vision is reestablishing the original definition of synagogue as a place for the Jewish community to gather and assemble in addition to being a house of prayer, is crucial for our community.