July 14, 2021 - 8:55 am

Meet the Mentor: Dave Summers, specializing in governance, operations, strategy, and business development

By 20Fathoms

After a career spent in global telecommunications and private equity companies, Dave Summers is now helping to facilitate growth within the Traverse City startup community. Dave specializes in corporate operations and governance including starting new ventures, acquiring and integrating businesses, and transforming companies. He has served in senior leadership roles at Ameritech, AT&T, Tele Danmark in Copenhagen, and is currently chairman of Adaptive Mobile Security – an Ireland based global provider of mobile security solutions. In addition, he led telecom, media and technology investments for private equity firms DH Partners and Advent International in London.

Dave is a 20Fathoms mentor, in addition to serving as Vice Chairman of SCORE Traverse City and a Director with Northern Michigan Angels. Over the span of his career, he has worked with over 100 companies in chairman, director, investor, senior leadership, and mentor positions. Recently, we asked him to share some insights from his deep expertise advising companies.  

Dave Summers, 20Fathoms mentor

Describe your role as a mentor. Specifically, how can you help entrepreneurs?

I work with entrepreneurs to help move their concept or company forward in a positive manner to achieve their dream. Often, that means advising them on the development of business and financial plans. It’s my job to help them think about the details including how to raise capital and complete research to inform their business decisions.

I can hopefully provide insight into a company and identify vulnerabilities they might not have thought of before. I assist the business in realizing what they’re lacking and how to build from there. Together, we can do discovery and find answers.

Also, when mentees are considering their next moves, it’s also important for them to hear, “No, this approach is not recommended.” I often feel I have been of most value when I help people prevent future mistakes by reconsidering or taking a different approach. 

How can entrepreneurs benefit from working with a coach or a mentor?

Mentors act as a reality check, bringing reality to the wish list and dreams. While we’re not here to do the work for you, mentors can lend our extensive experience and expertise to help you build toward your vision.

What advice do you often give to entrepreneurs?

First, you must have a well thought out and detailed business plan. It should include thorough product and target customer research, go to market details, and a three-year financial plan. Think and plan before you act.

Also, while the most significant attribute of being a successful entrepreneur is that you have a dream, you also have to know that there are no shortcuts. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort. You must be prepared for it to take longer than you expect, with many obstacles along the way. But with enough effort and endurance, you can get through it. The success stories are filled with entrepreneurs who stuck with it.

Why did you decide to get involved with 20Fathoms?

I have spent my career in technology, business development and mergers and acquisitions. The incubator and tech education provided by 20Fathoms, in coordination with Boomerang Catapult, Northern Michigan Angels, TCNewTech, educational institutions, and tribal entities attracts people and companies to our area and keeps them here. The desire to work together and not compete is important and it’s healthy for development toward the future. 

20Fathoms’ mentors offer expertise in business strategy, sales, negotiation, human resources, recruiting, IT, marketing, business development, data analytics, business scaling, product strategy, investment strategy, finance, IP, company culture, and more. The mentorship program is flexible based on your needs – use it for a one-time coaching session or a longer term business relationship.