Matchmaking and Mentoring: An Experimental Study of Online Entrepreneurial Support

Last registered on April 01, 2019

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Matchmaking and Mentoring: An Experimental Study of Online Entrepreneurial Support
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0003644
Initial registration date
December 04, 2018

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
December 10, 2018, 2:10 PM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
April 01, 2019, 1:40 AM EDT

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.

Locations

Region
Region
Region

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
University of Oregon

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Old Dominion University
PI Affiliation
University of Oregon

Additional Trial Information

Status
In development
Start date
2018-12-05
End date
2019-11-30
Secondary IDs
Abstract
This study will use a combination of experimental and quasi-experimental approaches to examine two research questions related to online mentoring for entrepreneurs. In partnership with MicroMentor, an initiative of Mercy Corps, we will examine the effectiveness of interventions to promote successful mentor-mentee connections, and overall effect of connecting with a mentor on entrepreneurial and venture-level outcomes.

There is a growing body of evidence that emphasizes the critical role that mentors play in helping entrepreneurs launch and accelerate their ventures (Eesley & Wang, 2017; Spigel, 2015). However, we know little about how mentor-mentee relationships are developed in an online context (Mills et al., 2012), and what types of interventions may lead to more meaningful mentoring relationships. Additionally, practitioners and researchers are interested in examining the impact of online mentoring on entrepreneurial performance. We propose one experimental and one quasi-experimental study to examine these questions.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Lall, Saurabh, Li-Wei Chen and Dyana Mason. 2019. "Matchmaking and Mentoring: An Experimental Study of Online Entrepreneurial Support." AEA RCT Registry. April 01. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.3644
Former Citation
Lall, Saurabh, Li-Wei Chen and Dyana Mason. 2019. "Matchmaking and Mentoring: An Experimental Study of Online Entrepreneurial Support." AEA RCT Registry. April 01. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/3644/history/44479
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
Entrepreneurship is believed to be of critical importance to economic development, and leading policymakers, donor agencies, and practitioner organizations are increasingly interested in understanding the drivers of entrepreneurial outcomes (Naudé, 2010). Governments, foundations, and other influential actors have allocated considerable resources to the development of programs that support entrepreneurs through provisions of social, financial, and human capital (Global Accelerator Learning Initiative, 2017; Rogerson et al., 2014; Cumming & Fischer, 2012).

In this context, mentoring offers a promising avenue of support for entrepreneurs, and has been demonstrated to offer several benefits (Eesley & Wang, 2017; St. Jean, 2009; Ozgen & Baron, 2007). For example, students paired with entrepreneurs as mentors were shown to be more likely to pursue entrepreneurial careers (Eesley & Wang, 2017). Additionally, entrepreneurs with access to mentors have more confidence in their abilities to complete key entrepreneurial tasks (St. Jean & Mathieu, 2015; St. Jean, 2009; Ozgen & Baron, 2007), and also be more alert to new opportunities (Ozgen & Baron, 2007). Finally, mentoring has also been demonstrated to have considerable positive outcomes in other domains, such as engineering (Dennehy & Dasgupta, 2017), and academia (Poteat et al., 2009).

However, while research suggests several benefits of mentoring, there are still questions that remain unanswered. While mentor-mentee relationships have been studied in facilitated settings, we know little about how these relationships form and develop, and what factors can improve the quality of these connections. Additionally, while research suggests benefits in entrepreneurs’ self-assessed abilities, it is important to learn whether mentoring also leads to improvements in actual business performance.

We conduct a randomized controlled trial (and a subsequent quasi-experiment) that tests the impact of two strategies designed to help entrepreneurs connect to mentors – building confidence or reducing information asymmetry. In partnership with a large international nonprofit organization (MicroMentor, a program of Mercy Corps) that facilitates mentor-mentee connections online, we will compare the impact of these two strategies (separately and combined) and a control group on connection rates and the quality of those connections. We conduct a randomized controlled trial (and a subsequent quasi-experiment) that tests the impact of two strategies designed to help entrepreneurs connect to mentors – building confidence or reducing information asymmetry. In partnership with a large international nonprofit organization that facilitates mentor-mentee connections online, we will compare the impact of these two strategies (and a control group) on connection rates and the quality of those connections. In a follow-up study, we will compare business performance for entrepreneurs that received mentoring compared to those that did not, using a quasi-experimental approach.

The 4 groups of randomly assigned entrepreneurs will receive the following interventions
1. Confidence building - a series of messages (delivered through an online chat buddy mechanism on the MicroMentor platform) designed to help entrepreneurs build their confidence to reach out to potential mentors through the MicroMentor platform.

2. Encouragement to provide information - a series of messages (delivered through an online chat buddy mechanism on the MicroMentor platform) designed to encourage entrepreneurs to develop more complete online profiles on the MicroMentor platform.

3. A short video that combines elements of both confidence-building and encouragement to provide information

4. A control group that receives no intervention

The follow-up study will examine business outcomes across mentored and non-mentored entrepreneurs across all 4 groups.
Intervention Start Date
2018-12-05
Intervention End Date
2019-06-30

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
1. Percentage of entrepreneurs that successfully connect with a mentor (defined as at least 4 messages back and forth)
2. Number of messages exchanged with mentor
3. Percentage of entrepreneurs that exchange contact information (phone number, email) to continue conversations off the platform
4. Polarity and Subjectivity of conversations to examine the quality of the mentoring relationship (Kouloumpis, Wilson, & Moore, 2011; Sarlan, Nadam, & Basri, 2014)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Our primary outcomes are (a) the percentage of entrepreneurs that successfully connect with a mentor; (b) the quality of those mentoring relationships.

In the first case, we measure this using two approaches:
1. Percentage of entrepreneurs exchanging at least 4 messages back and forth with a mentor
2. Percentage of entrepreneurs that exchange contact information (email address, phone number, Skype ID) with a mentor

In the second case, we look at two measures that indicate the quality of the conversations with mentors on the platform
1. Number of messages exchanged with the mentor
2. Polarity and Subjectivity of conversations to examine the quality of the mentoring relationship (as described in the detailed description)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
After the completion of the intervention, we will also examine the following business outcomes for mentored and non-mentored entrepreneurs, one year after they have registered on the platform. Note that since the platform is open to all entrepreneurs, we are unable to specifically match entrepreneurs to mentors to look at the impact of mentoring. However, we will be able to use the experimental design in the first phase of the study to try to control for possible endogeneity issues:

1. Perceived self-efficacy (McGee et al., 2009)
2. Revenues
3. Number of employees
4. External investment received
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We conduct a randomized controlled trial (and a subsequent quasi-experiment) that tests the impact of two strategies designed to help entrepreneurs connect to mentors – building confidence or reducing information asymmetry. In partnership with a large international nonprofit organization (MicroMentor, a program of Mercy Corps) that facilitates mentor-mentee connections online, we will compare the impact of these two strategies (separately and combined) and a control group on connection rates and the quality of those connections. We conduct a randomized controlled trial (and a subsequent quasi-experiment) that tests the impact of two strategies designed to help entrepreneurs connect to mentors – building confidence or reducing information asymmetry. In partnership with a large international nonprofit organization that facilitates mentor-mentee connections online, we will compare the impact of these two strategies (and a control group) on connection rates and the quality of those connections. In a follow-up study, we will compare business performance for entrepreneurs that received mentoring compared to those that did not, using a quasi-experimental approach.

The 4 groups of randomly assigned entrepreneurs will receive the following interventions
1. Confidence building - a series of messages (delivered through an online chat buddy mechanism on the MicroMentor platform) designed to help entrepreneurs build their confidence to reach out to potential mentors through the MicroMentor platform.

2. Encouragement to provide information - a series of messages (delivered through an online chat buddy mechanism on the MicroMentor platform) designed to encourage entrepreneurs to develop more complete online profiles on the MicroMentor platform.

3. A short video that combines elements of both confidence-building and encouragement to provide information

4. A control group that receives no intervention
Experimental Design Details
We conduct a randomized controlled trial (and a subsequent quasi-experiment) that tests the impact of two strategies designed to help entrepreneurs connect to mentors – building confidence or reducing information asymmetry. In partnership with a large international nonprofit organization (MicroMentor, a program of Mercy Corps) that facilitates mentor-mentee connections online, we will compare the impact of these two strategies (separately and combined) and a control group on connection rates and the quality of those connections. We conduct a randomized controlled trial (and a subsequent quasi-experiment) that tests the impact of two strategies designed to help entrepreneurs connect to mentors – building confidence or reducing information asymmetry. In partnership with a large international nonprofit organization that facilitates mentor-mentee connections online, we will compare the impact of these two strategies (and a control group) on connection rates and the quality of those connections. In a follow-up study, we will compare business performance for entrepreneurs that received mentoring compared to those that did not, using a quasi-experimental approach.

The 4 groups of randomly assigned entrepreneurs will receive the following interventions
1. Confidence building - a series of messages (delivered through an online chat buddy mechanism on the MicroMentor platform) designed to help entrepreneurs build their confidence to reach out to potential mentors through the MicroMentor platform.

2. Encouragement to provide information - a series of messages (delivered through an online chat buddy mechanism on the MicroMentor platform) designed to encourage entrepreneurs to develop more complete online profiles on the MicroMentor platform.

3. A short video that combines elements of both confidence-building and encouragement to provide information

4. A control group that receives no intervention
Randomization Method
Randomization will be conducted by a computer program. As entrepreneurs sign up for the platform during the trial period, they will be randomly assigned to one of the four groups to receive the specified intervention (or control group)
Randomization Unit
Individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
3,500 entrepreneurs
Sample size: planned number of observations
3,500 entrepreneurs
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
875 per treatment arm
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Based on historical data we assume that the connection rate will increase to a minimum 40% for those who participate in one or more interventions. This trial will require N=443 per group to generate 95% confidence at .80 power, for a total of 1772 entrepreneurs (Gelman and Hill, 2007) at a minimum over the course of the experimental trial. With expected attrition over the course of the study, and into the quasi-experimental portion of the study, we have conservatively planned to double the number of participants to 3,500.
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Committee for Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS), the University of Oregon Institutional Review Board
IRB Approval Date
2018-06-14
IRB Approval Number
05302018.039

Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Intervention

Is the intervention completed?
No
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?
No

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials