I remember well sitting on their side of the table, although when I was their age, the process was less formal. However, when I was starting up I knew a lot of the stuff we were improvising would eventually be standardized. I always believed in the incubator idea even when it was out of fashion, even when it was considered "disproved."
Why, as a creative person, did I have to become a corporate executive? That was a mistake. Good software, like anything creative, is made by people who focus on product, not business. Managing a company, raising money, dealing with crises of all kinds, took me away from the thing I do best, and love, which is create.
The people who play the role of mentors are older, and the people who play the role of startups are younger. For the most part the people judging are non-technical, they're not product developers. And the younger people must be product developers -- or there will be no product. (Of course they have other kinds of people on their teams.)
I'd like to see some of the ideas I'm working on get the incubator treatment. Starting companies may be something for the younger folk but I'm not willing to concede this any more than I would have conceded that product development is something exclusive them. Maybe there's a person who loves running businesses who started companies in his or her 20s and 30s but thinks they could do it better in their 40s, 50s and 60s? I wouldn't rule it out. Not everyone wants to be sitting in the mentor chair. Some people want to do. (Nothing wrong with mentoring of course.)
I'm disheartened that product developers aren't usually among the ranks of mentors and hackathon judges. In no other field is it like this. Do movie directors get their inspiration from financial people? I hope not (unless the movie is about financial people). Does the medical profession get its mentoring from doctors and medical researchers who have been there before? I hope so! When I was a math student, my teachers were mathematicians, not venture capitalists.
As someone with a boatload of experience, I will tell you that experience isn't everything, but it matters. I had my choice of mentors when I was young. The guy I settled on was a generation older, but a product guy who had been successful in business. We just gravitated to each other. And I had tried out a lot of other relationships before that.