For about a year until this autumn I was investigating a startup idea with a few friends. This was done in our spare time, as we are all students and had study / work commitments. A couple of people from a large company were interested in our progress and were acting as mentors by helping us shape the idea, providing feedback and introducing us to a couple influential people in the industry. We would have meetings every couple of months and engage in email conversations.
There were a few communication mistakes that I should have handled better:
- The mentors usually had to query us about our progress. As a sole technical person in the team who was doing the main investigation / development, I should have been proactive in reporting my status.
- I overpromised on the results, given the knowledge I had at the time. I recall saying that I am almost certain that it can be done, without having done research into critical bits of the system.
Ultimately, the idea proved to be infeasible and we sent a thank-you-and-fare-thee-well email, expressing the wish to keep in contact later on. However, we received no reply.
Now, after half a year has passed, I am applying to the company where my former mentor works. There is an option to mention contacts in the company . Mentioning my mentor might perhaps provide a monetary reward for him. Not mentioning him might result in an awkward encounter in the future, as well as a bad feeling of making it seem like I am trying to lay low.
Now, my main question is: what is the professional way of handling the situation? I am leaning towards being direct, but am not sure if that could have any harmful consequences. It could also be that I am overthinking this and would welcome opinions in the comments as well.
TL;DR: Was mentored while researching proof-of-concept idea; had communication problems with mentor; should I mention him when applying to same company he's in?