High-Impact Entrepreneurship

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Endeavor Entrepreneur Levent Yilmaz profiled in The National

Newly selected Endeavor Entrepreneur Levent Yilmaz was profiled by The National in an article highlighting the success story behind Baydöner, his restaurant chain in Turkey, which last year added 27 locations and increased revenues by 90 percent.

Much of this success comes from the founder “knowing his numbers”:

To get the biggest bang for each lira, Mr Yilmaz’s chain offers just one main dish and only six sides so that food procurement costs and food wastage are kept to a minimum. His employees are trained to turn around every order in an average of only seven minutes. And each customer is usually out the door within half an hour, with the same chair often being used more than 10 times in rapid succession, “which is providing us lots of efficiency”, said Mr Yilmaz.

At Endeavor’s recent International Selection Panel in Dubai, judges picked a total of 20 entrepreneurs, including Levent. Now he wants to expand further, including outside of Turkey.

“We need a very important thing: an international network,” Mr Yilmaz said at the selection meeting. “In Turkey and here [in Dubai], it was excellent to meet with the members of Endeavor. They gave us very good clues and strategic advice.”

Muwaffa Lahham, ISP panelist and chief executive of E3, a healthcare IT company in the UAE, was quoted as saying networks like Endeavor can help entrepreneurs to speed up the growth process by providing valuable introductions and by lending credibility to relatively unknown ventures.

“It helps a lot when you are part of an ecosystem,” said Mr Lahham, who, as a panellist during Endeavor’s event, spoke about doing business in the Middle East. “You’re just sharing your struggles and your strategies and progress and improvements, so that network is great.”

Kommunity Group partners with GM to distribute desks to South African children

Kommunity Group (formerly LapDesk), a portable desk company founded by South African Endeavor Entrepreneur Shane Immelman, has partnered with General Motors South Africa to distribute 475 LapDesks to disadvantaged children from the Mzomtsha Primary School in Kwazakhele, Port Elizabeth. Every child at the school received their own LapDesk–a lightweight, ergonomically designed writing surface made from durable, child proof materials, which they can use at school and at home.

School principal Mntuwenkosi Mashologu said the school has 465 students and 16 teachers, but struggles with limited resources: “Most of our buildings are dilapidated and subject to vandalism. We have no paving, no administration offices, many classrooms have no electricity and conditions are generally a challenge for teaching the children.” Mashologu said at least half his students did not have proper desks where they could sit during class. “We are all very happy to have received these Lapdesks, as it will make a huge difference in the ability of learners to do their schoolwork,” he said.

While many schools in the world today use expensive advanced technologies as teaching resources, over 480 million students worldwide still lack proper desks, a most basic education tool. Shane founded Kommunity Group to overcome this barrier in South Africa by distributing portable LapDesks. His company has now distributed over 1,000,000 LapDesks in 16 countries.

Shane has been endorsed by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and chosen by Harvard Business School for two case studies in its curriculum. His company remains focused on R&D, and released four new products in 2011.

Lumni: “Growing rapidly while doing good”

Co. Exist profiled “6 Companies That Are Growing Rapidly While Doing Good”, including Lumni, a social investment company founded by Endeavor Entrepreneur Felipe Vergara.

Writes Ariel Schwartz,

Sometimes, social responsibility is sacrificed in the name of keeping companies afloat. But these six companies, dubbed Rockstars of the New Economy by B Lab, have achieved three to 100 times revenue or job growth while maintaining a high environmental and social impact.

On Lumni:

Lumni, a company operating in Chile, Colombia, Mexico and the U.S., “creates funds that invest in the human capital of low-income students,” according to founder and CEO Felipe Vergara. The company’s social investment funds invest in college students, and in return, the students commit to paying back a fixed portion of their income for six months after they graduate (they don’t have to pay if they’re unemployed). Over the last five years, Lumni grew from $1.5 million in assets under management to $25 million. In 2011, it reached 2,500 students. Lumni USA recently financed its first class of American students.

Lumni founder Felipe Vergara is a former professor and serial entrepreneur, highly dedicated to education. In 2010 Lumni pledged, as part of a Clinton Global Initiative commitment, to provide 10,000 students in Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and the U.S. with access to financing for higher education over the next five years. His company has been featured in The Economist as an innovator in education financing. He has also co-founded Primera Languages for Business, a top provider of language and cultural education in a business context. Felipe has received support from Endeavor staff, mentors, and board members in every country where Lumni does business.

Reid Hoffman’s The Start-Up of You offers advice for managing your career like a startup

Endeavor global board member Reid Hoffman, cofounder of LinkedIn, is co-author of the recently published New York Times bestseller The Start-Up of You, which offers advice for how to succeed in today’s competitive world by managing your career like a start-up company.

With the message that “every individual is a small business,” the book encourages readers to “craft iterative, flexible plans…be in permanent beta…build a network of relationships…[and] budget time for randomness.” Its insights draw on Reid’s own extensive technology career, as well as those of members of his professional and social circles. The book tackles the challenge to “be in more control of my life, create more value in myself and the world around me, by proactively investing in growing my capabilities and adding more to society.”

“People sometimes think it’s morally wrong to talk about investing in themselves,” he writes. “In a flatter world with more competition, how do you succeed? How do you invest in yourself and gain those skills? You can’t do it accidentally.”

To learn more, visit thestartupofyou.com.

Endeavor Entrepreneur Omar Koudsi in TechCrunch: “Startups: Silicon Valley vs. the Emerging World”

Endeavor Entrepreneur Omar Koudsi, co-founder of Jordan-based Jeeran, the largest review site in the Middle East, wrote an opinion piece in the popular tech blog TechCrunch, “Startups: Silicon Valley Vs. The Emerging World”.

Omar writes about coming to the Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit last summer in San Francisco, and of the starkly different challenges faced by tech startups in emerging markets like Jordan compared with Silicon Valley:

I believe the lack of a well-developed ecosystem (funding, mentoring, risk culture, lawyers, human resources) puts the burden tenfold on the entrepreneur in the emerging world. In many cases, foreign entrepreneurs have to do ten times the lifting of an American startup — for a much longer period of time to boot — in order to succeed.

My company (Jeeran) was lucky to find a VC firm called IV Holdings that had emerged in 2006 — way before entrepreneurship became cool in our part of the world — and it changed everything. Of course, it still took us a whole year to close our first round of funding.

Most startups in the Middle East, he notes, are not so lucky as to secure support from venture capitalists early on, and must rely on their revenue, friends and family, and whatever investors they can secure, in order to keep their new businesses afloat.

Attending a workshop at Stanford University while visiting Silicon Valley, Omar found some of the advice given rather laughable when applied to an emerging market context:

One of the tips he gave us was to interview at least 10 people for each position before choosing the right candidate — to take your time and be selective.

I found it humorous, since we barely find a handful of people with enough expertise to make a difference, let alone 10 people lined for the database, UX, and product management jobs we (and so many others) are hiring for. Founders in the emerging world are mostly occupied with building-up talent as it comes along in bits and pieces, not recruiting it.

Still, he notes that even Western companies outside of the Valley often face such problems:

I found it comforting that many founders in Europe and even the East Coast complain about many of the same issues: Lack of venture funding, lack of talent, and an ecosystem that penalizes risk takers. Of course, this situation has much improved for them and for us, but it made me feel less lonely when I hear tales of East Coast founders trying to convince Wall Street talent to join a startup.

Nevertheless Omar says he values the learning experiences he had while visiting Silicon Valley, where valuable expertise is undoubtedly plentiful, even if the experts may take certain advantages for granted. He closes with an invitation:

Here is an invite for the Valley to go out and see how the startups of the world are solving problems in ecosystems void of the many resources taken for granted by the Y Combinator-accelerated generation.

The full article can be read here.

Endeavor Entrepreneur revitalizing film industry in Colombia

The Globe and Mail recently profiled Endeavor Entrepreneur Rodrigo Guerrero Rojas, one of the founders of Dynamo Capital.

In the interview, Rodrigo recalls the moment he was inspired to start his venture, visiting the Cinecitta film studio in Rome as a high school student:

“It was there that it hit me,” he remembers. “I thought, ‘I need to get the gears going to make films in Colombia. I’m going to become a vehicle for this to happen.’ ”

After high school he attended film school in New York, and took jobs in various aspects of filmmaking. Upon returning to Colombia, he found that increased government funding and a new generation of eager filmmakers were set to revitalize the country’s film industry.

“I realized there was an opportunity: to set up a private equity film fund in Colombia, because there was no such thing”, he says.

Along with partners including childhood friend Andi Baiz, Rodrigo found a way to turn films into a viable investment:

Dynamo’s fund is a small part of their investors’ portfolios, but they have positioned themselves as a viable option. They’ve reduced the risk for investors by funding a slate of films, rather than pour investors’ money into one major film production. And, through tax incentive programs, investors get back $40 of every $100 they invest.

“We were coming to [investors] not just with a pitch for a movie, but a business plan for a film in such a way that they could put it against any other investment option they had,” Mr. Guerrero explained.

Today, it remains difficult for Latin American films to gain foreign viewers, but Rodrigo and his partners are determined to find new ways of popularizing their Colombian films at home and abroad:

With film business models and markets constantly undergoing change, he’s embracing the challenge to adapt. Audiences are watching movies more and more via their computers, he notes, while traditional models of distribution for Latin American films are still focused on hitting the theatres. “We are way beyond the big screen,” he said. “I’m more interested in everything else that’s cooking right now, where young people are putting their energy, and where surprises can actually happen.”

The full article can be found here (registration required).

The National features Khaled Ismail

Endeavor Entrepreneur Khaled Ismail, the Egyptian founder of SySDSoft, a wireless communications company that has expanded from just two people to more than 100 staff since its founding in 2002, gave an interview to UAE newspaper The National. In the interview he discusses the challenges he has faced over the past decade since starting his business, and his more recent efforts to give back by helping newer entrepreneurs achieve their goals.

On becoming the first entrepreneur in Egypt to be awarded free advisory services from Endeavor Global, and how this helped his business:

“We were subjected to interviews by executives at Cisco, IBM and several other reputable companies. These individuals had a lot of experience and raised a lot of good questions. Sometimes a good question is more valuable than a solution or answer. Then we were subjected to even more severe scrutiny, and every panel asks you very fundamental questions about your business model. All of that helped us put everything correctly in context to grow the company with the right view of our strengths and weaknesses.”

“[Endeavor] assigned a mentor. We had an offer at one point to be [taken over], and my mentor gave me guidelines on what is a good price, and whether to sell or not. We did not sell at the time, which was a wise decision.”

On being elected board chairman of Endeavor Egypt, and how his role will help other entrepreneurs:

“With early-stage entrepreneurs, fresh out of university, a nice idea may just need help from angel investment. Then you start growing it and you can potentially become a high-impact entrepreneur, and that’s where we pick up. But you need someone to work with the different entities and create that pipeline. Here, we have to make sure the pool of entrepreneurs exist and are helped. You have to bring the VCs [venture capitalists], investors and convince them this is a good investment.”

The full interview can be found here

Endeavor Chile firm Atakama acquired by Japan’s DeNA

Atakama Labs, a mobile gaming startup founded by Chilean Endeavor Entrepreneurs Tiburcio de la Carcova and Esteban Sosnik, has been acquired by prominent Japanese mobile-social company DeNA. Through this acquisition, Atakama has become the first Latin American subsidiary in DeNA’s growing global portfolio.

Atakama will now be involved in work on the social mobile gaming platform Mobage Global, which is operated by DeNA’s US arm Ngmoco, acquired last spring. DeNA states that “Atakama Labs will primarily provide engineering support for Ngmoco’s first-party and third-party games, as well as the Mobage platform itself. The companies already have an established relationship through previous work commissioned to Atakama to port third-party mobile social games to Mobage Global.” Ngmoco’s CEO says, “Atakama Labs’ highly skilled engineers and experienced management team will be a great asset as we grow.”

Atakama Labs has previously made itself known with Facebook’s Little Cave Hero game, an exploration and city-building game that includes user-generated content, making it more complex than many competing games in the city-building category.

DeNA became a billion-dollar company through success with mobile social games in Japan, and now aims to become a global gaming giant, which will mean taking on a great number of foreign employees. According to the company, “Currently DeNA Group has a staff of nearly 400 worldwide, working on social games for smartphones, and the Group plans to expand the team to 1,000 in the near future. The acquisition of Atakama Labs will add a team of 30 to DeNA’s global staff.”

Some experts have viewed the deal as a landmark for fellow Chilean entrepreneurs, as it will further fuel the growing perception that Chile is developing into a hub for high-growth entrepreneurship.

For more details on the deal, check out the coverage in VentureBeat.

UAE newspaper highlights Endeavor’s role in the Middle East

UAE-based newspaper The National recently published a feature on Endeavor’s role in the MENA region, including plans to eventually open an office in Dubai. For the time being, Endeavor Global operates a satellite “support” office in the country, in partnership with Abraaj Capital.

The article quotes Linda Rottenberg, Endeavor’s co-founder and CEO:

“‘The Middle East is really one of the hotbeds of entrepreneurial activity…A support office that could marry a lot of the investors and [business] networks that come through Dubai seems to mirror what we have found in Silicon Valley and New York City. This is an entry point where I hope to service entrepreneurs not only from the region, but in the UAE and GCC.”

The article goes on to discuss the growing focus on start-ups in the region, emphasizing their transformation into larger enterprises:

In the UAE, specifically, efforts to boost the overall number of small to medium-sized businesses over the years have largely focused on the creation of new start-ups.

Many of the services offered through Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa Fund provide Emirati entrepreneurs with start-up capital or advisory services focused on selecting a business idea and evaluating its feasibility.

A number of universities throughout the country have also created competitions that reward students who come up with business plans for new start-ups.

But there is also a growing effort to expand smaller firms into medium or even large-scale enterprises.

The piece makes further mention of Endeavor’s role in the region:

Endeavor Global, which opened a branch in Lebanon last year and plans to open one in Saudi Arabia during the first quarter of next year, customises its services depending on what an entrepreneur most needs. A larger business looking to expand into international markets might be provided with high-level strategic mentorship, while a smaller company could gain assistance with targeted employee recruitment or marketing initiatives.

The full article can be found here.

Debut exit for Colombia VC firm: Endeavor company Ecoflora spins off agriculture business

By Justine Hart, Daniel Uribe and Melissa Tran.

Ecoflora, a Colombian biotech and natural products company pioneered by Endeavor Entrepreneur Nicolás Cock Duque, has spun off its agricultural business unit to create Ecoflora Agro. The new subsidiary company was formed in partnership with Gowan Company, LLC, an American leader in crop protection solutions worldwide. Gowan’s share in Ecoflora was purchased from Promotora venture capital fund Progresa Capital, making this transaction the first exit of a Venture Capital fund in Colombia.

“This exit demonstrates our interest in developing the industry of Private Equity and Venture Capital in our country,” said Francisco Mira, Promotora’s CEO. “We remain committed to accompany Ecoflora and other companies of our portfolio in executing their business plans and finding and linking strategic partners that enable them to grow rapidly and efficiently.”

This partnership gives Gowan Company and its global marketing companies the exclusive right to develop, register, and market EcoFlora’s current unique plant extract based portfolio and robust product pipeline. The entry of Gowan responds to Ecoflora’s current growth strategy. “We are very excited about having Gowan as our global platform to bring our innovative and green plant extract biopesticides to such important markets around the globe. Ecoflora Agro has been working for 12 years to develop its crop protection portfolio based upon the rich biodiversity and the great and talented people that Colombia has,” says Nicolás. Gowan will participate in the operations of Ecoflora Agro along with Ecoflora’s original founders and entrepreneurs.

Gowan, recognizing demand for more environmentally friendly agricultural products, has taken on Ecoflora as part of its ongoing Gowan Green strategy. “Our goal is to develop an innovative IPM program combining our current portfolio with Ecoflora’s plant extracts. Ecoflora Agro’s existing and future products will enhance and globally strengthen our Gowan Green strategy, and they will provide unique solutions to our customers in the over 70 countries we serve,” said Sergio Comparini, Gowan’s Business Development Manager.

Ecoflora Agro will promote and sell green biopesticides and fungicides around the world, as Ecoflora has already done in a number of Latin American countries. EcoFlora Agro has developed and marketed plant extract products (bio fungicides and bio insecticides) to support growers in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, and is known for providing its customers with innovative products and solutions to address their pest control needs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, biopesticides are certain types of pesticides derived from natural materials such as animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals. According to the US Department of Agriculture, biofungicides are composed of beneficial microorganisms that attack and control plant pathogens. These products represent the core business values of Ecoflora, which develops environmentally friendly products for the agricultural, cosmetic, and pet care sectors, using natural components, bioinputs, and bioactives as their main ingredients to provide an alternative to highly contaminating products.

Nicolás Cock Duque, EcoFlora’s founder and current CEO was selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur in 2007, and since then Endeavor Colombia has been working with Nicolás to connect him with mentorship in the area of strategic planning, intellectual property rights, human resources, among others.

One the most successful Endeavor Services programs in which EcoFlora has participated is MIT G-LABs. As part of this program, in the fall of 2009 four MIT Sloan School of Management students were paired with EcoFlora to design the company an entrance strategy into the US market. During the course of the program semester, the students analyzed various possible entrance strategies, and determined that Ecoflora should seek a joint venture with a US manufacturer.

Among companies that the team identified as potential joint venture partners for EcoFlora was Gowan Company. The G-LAB team helped to establish initial contact between the two companies, and outlined the necessary steps that Ecoflora should take to pursue this alliance. During the negotiation process with Gowan Company, Endeavor Colombia mentors provided EcoFlora with legal and strategic support.

About GOWAN

The Gowan Marketing Companies include Gowan USA, Gowan Canada, Gowan Comercio Internacional e Servicos, Limitada, Gowan Mexicana, Gowan Espanola, Gowan France, Gowan Italia and Agrotechnology in Chile, amongst other companies and partners that guarantee a global distribution platform. These companies provide an expanding offering of quality crop protection solutions for specialty crops and niche markets of agriculture. Gowan committed and dedicated to supporting specialty crop growers through regulatory defense, market experience and product development.

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