High-Impact Entrepreneurship

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In Egypt, Endeavor and EFE work together to create high-impact jobs

By some estimates, the Middle East will need to create 100 million jobs in the next decade to maintain current employment levels. In addition to Endeavor, one organization tackling this problem head-on is Education for Employment (EFE). The D.C.-based non-profit was founded on the premise that when young people have satisfying jobs and the hope of building a future, they help lay the foundation for secure and peaceful societies.

“Youth unemployment is a global phenomenon, and MENA is the region that suffers more than any other,” says Shahinaz Ahmed, CEO of EFE-Egypt. “By focusing our energy and resources here, we stand to make the biggest impact.” EFE engages a range of disadvantaged young people through tailored educational programs for numerous sectors, including business, government, education, civic and community development. Upon graduation from the program, participants are placed in jobs with partner organizations.

Currently, two Endeavor-supported firms in Egypt are working with EFE: Azza Fahmy, a high-end jewelry company, and El Matbakh, a full-service lunch caterer. “We decided to participate with EFE programs due to the complicated process of finding, training and mostly keeping the right caliber of employees,” says Endeavor Entrepreneur Hiba Jammal of El Matbakh. “In the Food and Beverage industry in Egypt, this has proven to be the biggest challenge for any establishment. We believed outsourcing this process would result in better outcomes.”

El Matbakh has hired several EFE-trained employees, including 19-year-old Safaa Mohamed. As one of six children in a low-income household, Safaa struggled to find a job after graduating job school; besides lacking basic skills and English proficiency, her religious beliefs (including dress requirements) precluded her from her desired positions in the tourism industry. Now, she is an enthusiastic worker at El Matbakh where she aspires to become a branch manager.

Islam Mohamed, now 24, was led to EFE by a similar path. After attending Mansoura University, Islam joined the military to complete his mandatory service. Finding subsequent employment was a challenge, as employers dismissed him for lack of experience. Turning to the internet for help, he found EFE and immediately applied to the program, which provided him with marketable skills. Islam now works as a Sales Representative for Azza Fahmy, where he enjoys interacting with customers, colleagues and managers.

Hiba Jammal

“EFE Programs and the like are of extreme value for the future of Egypt,” says Hiba. “The general populace has very low education levels and even lower understanding of having to work hard to build a career and reach a higher goal in life. As a small to medium enterprise we prefer to hire staff with low skills or zero skills. It has proven more successful to train them on our Service & Quality Standards rather than get a highly skilled employee and train them from scratch.”

Entrepreneurs’ involvement with EFE is consistent with Endeavor’s mission to create employment opportunities and pave the way for sustainable economic growth. As Endeavor Entrepreneurs have expressed, they are particularly receptive to working with EFE because they themselves have had to overcome obstacles in an untraditional way – thereby identifying with EFE job seekers.

Says Shahinaz of EFE-Egypt, “We are excited about our involvement with Endeavor, which has resulted in placing young people with limited job prospects with growing Egyptian SMEs supported by Endeavor. EFE-Egypt graduates now have hope for a better future, access to social mobility and are empowered with education and jobs. We are eager to strengthen and expand this powerful and impactful relationship.”

To learn more about Endeavor Egypt, click here. To learn more about EFE, click here.

Endeavor Entrepreneur receives Woman of the Year award in South Africa

Last Saturday, Endeavor Entrepreneur Shona McDonald was honored with a Shoprite Checkers Women of the Year Award, which recognizes visionary women leaders creating social impact in South Africa. Shona received the Socio-Economic Business Developers Award at a sparkling ceremony in Gauteng, South Africa.

Shona is CEO of Shonaquip, a social enterprise that enhances the lives of people with disabilities through technical, social and policy innovation. Having built her business from nothing into a multi-million dollar enterprise that has received recognition from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the South African Department of Health, Shona is known for the large-scale impact she and her company have had on disabled South Africans.

Shona built her first modular support buggy nearly 20 years ago to improve the quality of life for children with severe physical disabilities. Her comments at the ceremony reflect how far her impact has spread since then:

“Over 500,000 children and young adults with mobility disabilities living in South Africa do not have access to appropriate wheelchairs and accessible community based seating support services. This shortage of appropriate wheelchairs results in unnecessary, costly and devastating health and social outcomes for both the wheelchair users and their families who support them.”

In terms of how the award will allow Shona to further her impact moving forward, she said:

“Having spent over 20 years building Shonaquip, a social enterprise, as a tool to drive positive change in the field of appropriate wheelchair provision in under resourced regions, I now realize that I need to reach further. I need to explore ways to shift the historical contravention of human rights of people living with disabilities from its entrenchment in charitable giving and pity to become part of the moral concerns of mainstream society and establish an inclusive footprint across the globe. And for this reason I am delighted that Shoprite Checkers has recognized the impact that a social enterprise can have as a powerful driver of sustainable social change.”

Bloomberg features Endeavor company Refinancia

This week Bloomberg ran an article about Refinancia, an Endeavor Colombia company that takes an unusual approach to debt collection. Founded by Endeavor Entrepreneur Kenneth Mendiwelson in 2005, the company sells custom financial products that facilitate repayments and ensure long-term customer relations.

“We provide a dignified product to someone who has been mistreated by the financial sector,” explains Kenneth in the piece. “Someone who falls into default is not a bad person.”

A Harvard Business School graduate and former McKinsey consultant who started Refinancia with a $4 million loan from friends and family, Kenneth is an ambitious but compassionate entrepreneur who seeks to counter the perception of debt-collectors banging on doors. His success is evident in his client base of more than 250,000 individuals and expansion of services into Peru and the Mexico.

Refinancia’s dollar figures are also impressive: The 510-employee company manages a total of 800,000 loans, with a face value of nearly $2 billion, from about 15 banks in Latin America. Kenneth expects revenues of $12 million this year and $21 million in 2012. He estimates that by 2015, 60 percent of revenue will come from debtors outside Colombia.

Kenneth also has a larger vision for his services. He hopes that Refinancia can cash in on goodwill and turn one-time defaulters into borrowers. His argument is that even a person who pays back a defaulted loan will find it difficult to escape a bad credit history when seeking to borrow again: “No one is going to give him new credit, but I can because Refinancia knows exactly how he thinks and how he has behaved in the past with the refinancing product we provided to him.”

MBA students, on working with Endeavor company Aguamarina

A recent post introduced the MAP (Multidisciplinary Action Project) program at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. The program connects teams of first-year MBA students to businesses around the world, giving them a seven-week hands-on experience inside a company. This year, Endeavor partnered with the MAP program, offering Ross students the opportunity to work with three Endeavor-supported companies. The last post spotlighted students who worked with Top Systems in Uruguay. This one features the students who traveled to Chile to work with Aguamarina.

Led by Endeavor Entrepreneur Pamela Chavez-Crooker, Aguamarina is a Chilean biotech research and development company. The firm offers laboratory services to local copper mines and develops prototypes for environmentally-responsible products that increase the efficiency of copper extraction.

While millions heard about the Chilean copper mine collapse last year, few know that the copper industry comprises 45% of Chile’s exports—making it a key sector of the economy.

“When we set off for Chile, we had a basic understanding the scale of the mining operations,” says Kyle Schmidt, one of the MAP project team members, “but when we got there we realized it’s bigger than you could possibly imagine.”

While the team spent some time in the field, most of their time was spent working in the office or the lab. “We gained exposure to what the company does and how it works and we were even able to arrange meetings with a couple of Pamela’s big clients, which was fascinating,” Kyle says.

Fellow team member Jonathan Sabatini emphasized the applicability of his team’s combined business knowledge: “Working with Aguamarina was an incredible opportunity to tackle real business challenges faced by entrepreneurial companies, using the skills learned in the MBA program at the University of Michigan.” His team, whose backgrounds ranged from brand management to finance to management consulting, was able to provide both learned skills and proactive guidance to Aguamarina.

Despite their limited knowledge of the copper mining industry going into the project, the team was not deterred from diving in. In fact, they feel their outsider perspective was likely an asset to the company, which, as participant Cory Padesky said, “was getting ready to scale up.” He adds, “We realized that they didn’t have anybody to sit down and think about what they should do next. They were just trying to keep the company going. We were helping to come up with their future solutions.”

Encouraged by their work with the company, the group also appreciated the larger network that Endeavor provided to them and Aguamarina. “I got a sense that Endeavor really helps its companies throughout the process from start up to scaling,” says Cory. “I’m glad I could be a small part of that.”

When they weren’t working, the team had a blast exploring the beautiful surroundings and engaging in the local culture and festivities. Check out some of their great photos on Facebook!

#eSummitSF: Top tweets at 2011 Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit

Last week, #eSummitSF became a popular hashtag in the Twitter world of entrepreneurship, with over 1,200 tweets in all. The trending tag was designated for all tweets related to the 2011 Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit, which took place June 28th – June 30th in San Francisco. The bi-annual event featured over 400 founders, CEO’s, executives, and investors from around the globe, as well as leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation from over 15 countries. Between keynote speakers, intimate breakout session and informal networking, participants were constantly connecting and communicating, voicing their thoughts both online and off.

A special thanks to the Brazilian interactive studio TwitRadar.com for donating a customized (and quite snazzy!) front-end interface that aggregated all #eSummitSF tweets, which Endeavor displayed on big screens throughout the Summit event.

Here are some of the most notable quotes and reflections tweeted at #eSummitSF and @endeavor_global!

Keynote by Scott McNealy, Co-founder and former CEO, Sun Microsystems

“If everyone thinks you’re doing the right thing, then everyone would be doing it. Have a controversial strategy.”

“Forget about privacy! Most of the startups here in the Valley are about invading your privacy.”

“You should not do a hard copy of your business plan. Things are gonna change.“

“Steve Jobs understood the power of the secret.”

“Weak boards almost always are the cause of failures. Choose your board wisely.”

Keynote by Marc Benioff, Founder and CEO, Salesforce.com

”Four trends in technology: cloud computing, mobile, social platforms, massive adoption of IT products.”

“NOT concerned about web ownership by a few. Dominant players constantly shift.”

“Innovation is a baton being tossed between intemporal entrepreneurial paradigms.”

“Building one successful company is more exciting than serial entrepreneurship. Stay focused.”

“The give back rule: Donate 1% of your profits, 1% of your equity & 1% of your time.”

Keynote by Reid Hoffman, Executive Chairman and Cofounder, LinkedIn

“Entrepreneurship is jumping off a cliff and assembling an airplane on your way down.”

“If you don’t start aiming big, you’ll likely never get there.”

“Entrepreneurs are the modern pioneers, you can teach skills but can’t teach how to navigate the unknown.”

Other notable speaker quotes:

“Winning entrepreneurs in high risk markets are the ones who go global from day one.” – Dan Senor, Senior Advisor, Elliot Management and Co-author Startup Nation

“I’ll be surprised if 50% of online commerce is not done through mobile by 2016.” – Diego Piacentini, SVP, International Retail, Amazon

“Start ups by definition are the exceptions to the rule, if they are successful” – Matt Cohler, General Partner, Benchmark

“Hire ahead of your needs” – Gina Bianchini, Former CEO, Ning

“To be top ranked…your goal is to become the authority on your issue.” Matt Ackley, VP, Consumer Marketing, Google

“Focus on the current phase, but always plan the next two.” – Gina Bianchini, Former CEO, Ning

“Entrepreneurs are/should be free of echochambers. They can ask the greatest question of all: why?” – Chris Schroeder, CEO, HealthCentral and former CEO, Washington Post & Newsweek Interactive


On leadership & talent:

“The new CEO’s role is to coach not to dictate.”

“Focus on your top 25% of your team and expand from there. These people can bring similar people into game, makes you succeed.”

“Quality of the people reflects the quality of successful, fast growth. Be diligent about your team quality.”

On failure:

“Fail cheap, fail at low prototyping. This way you can try again and again very fast and easily.”

On growth:

“Invitation for all VCs thinking about going global, please think about settling in & building an ecosystem – not all money is green.”

“Raise $ when you can, not when you need, do due diligence on investors, make your startup connected to community with global mindset.”

Final Takeaways:

“Having an idea is not the point. Creating a network around that idea is the point.”

“Control is an illusion. What you can do is influence people.”

“It’s not about the ceiling wall but the sticky floor.”

“Lessons learned: On HR – It comes down to making sure the right people are ALLOWED to do a great job!”

“Take away after 3 intense days at Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit: it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”

Rottenberg optimistic about American entrepreneurship on panel at New York Forum

The second day of the New York Forum — an annual event dedicated to forging collaborations and finding solutions to today’s most pressing issues — began with a panel discussion on the topic“America, The Ordinary?” The video of the complete session (in two parts) can be accessed below or by clicking these links: Part 1 / Part 2.

Participating on the panel were Endeavor Co-Founder and CEO Linda Rottenberg, in addition to Esther Dyson (Chairman, EDventure Holdings), Thomas Friedman (Columnist, The New York Times), Jeffrey Kindler (former Chairman and CEO, Pfizer), Jonathan Miller (CEO, NewsCorp Digital), and Edmund Phelps (Director, Center on Capitalism and Society, Columbia University; Nobel Prize in Economics, 2006). CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo moderated the panel.

Bartiromo kicked off the panel bluntly: “Has the U.S. lost its edge?”

Answers to the question varied from frustrated to optimistic. Rottenberg emphasized that the United States is still extraordinary, but can learn much from emerging markets such as the ones Endeavor supports. The confidence and rapid growth in these markets have the potential to benefit the U.S., which panelists agreed is in need of an entrepreneurial jolt.

With the explosion of tech businesses and buzz, innovation and entrepreneurship have become nearly synonymous with new technology. “Optimism about innovation in America is inspired by headline innovations in Silicon Valley,” asserted Edmund Phelps, “but if you look across the breadth of the economy, you come away feeling that the typical company is less innovative than it was before.”

Rottenberg underscored the point that innovation is not limited to tech companies, drawing on the example of successful Endeavor Entrepreneurs operating in traditional bricks-and-mortar industries. She asserted that family and consumer-driven businesses in these industries could become engines of growth and job creation in the U.S. as they have in emerging markets.

Meanwhile, panelists recognized that high technology continues to play a major role in domestic innovation. “Cloud computing, social web, YouTube…they all came out of the US literally in this last decade,” acknowledged Jonathan Miller. “We have a system in which people can get money from angels, VC and that system is really good.”

The point was also raised that while America is still a world leader with transformative influence, entrepreneurs have much to gain by learning from emerging markets — embracing them and the spirit they embody. Said Rottenberg: “You can be both global and make your country great.”

Thinking globally: tips by Endeavor Entrepreneur Guibert Englebienne

This article is translated from Spanish and reprinted with permission from the Endeavor Rosario office in Argentina, which originally published the interview with Endeavor Entrepreneur Guibert Englebienne. All four Endeavor Entrepreneurs from Globant, including Guibert, will be participating in next week’s Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit in San Francisco.

Guibert is the co-founder of Globant, an Argentinean company that outsources information technology. Their principle objective is to create innovative software products that are attractive to a global audience.

In an exclusive interview, the CTO of the company explains why it’s important to think from day one about exporting, in addition to understanding the possibility for business reinvention and adaptation.

Globant has become an expert on some of the most relevant popular technologies, including social networking, videogames and mobile devices. It has also become one of the premiere companies developing specific practices around Google’s popular technologies like OpenSocial, Google Checkout and Google App Engine. Additionally, it has actively contributed to the Open Source community with different applications. These are not small achievements, given that they arose from a country in the middle of economic crisis in 2001.

The leaders of the company, all Endeavor Entrepreneurs, (Martín Migoya, CEO; Martín Umaran, COO; Guibert Englebienne, CTO; and Néstor Nocetti, VP Innovation Labs) have in common an entrepreneurial talent, knowing how to position themselves in the world and why it’s important to think about potential ventures as global ventures from day one. Guibert, the “creative brain” of the company, talks about these aspects and ends with three key pieces of advice that he believes make for a high-impact global business.

Did Globant start as a global business?

Normally, the feeling when starting a business is that you have to go to local markets and work with those you have a strong cultural tie to. We, for several reasons, had little luck in this manner because our market was in very bad shape after the devaluation of 2001 that forced us to look outside. We could have tried to go to traditional markets for Argentine entrepreneurs such as Spain, Brazil and neighboring countries. As it happens, we first studied the market for our services very well and found that 90 percent of the demand for these services came from the U.S., UK and Japan. That’s how we chose to go in the direction we did.

Can all entrepreneurship be thought of in a global manner?

There are some products out there that cannot be thought of in a limitless way because there are markets for different things. That is to say, to build a parking lot in the center of Buenos Aires or Rosario surely would create a good business but it is impossible to export. However, I think our location in Argentina wouldn’t traditionally have made us look outward. Now, we have the example of Brazil, which is a country that is focusing on its own development, and on the other hand, countries like Uruguay that are necessarily forced to look outside for market opportunity. Though the individual cases are different, they operate on a common principle. That which was traditional 15 years ago, focusing on your own pot, today is not. That’s a very important change that has to do with moving to a knowledge economy, allowing us to cross borders without problems.

What happens to those companies that were born looking at a limited market and grow up today in a totally different global landscape? Can you change your platform and go out into the world?

I think you can, but to be sure, it is much easier if you think about it from day one, because somehow this gives you a global focus and it will imprint in your corporate culture. This is not to say that companies cannot reinvent themselves. What’s more, if today you are not constantly reinventing yourself, it is more complicated to create and go to other markets because all the time your business is being challenged by competitors that you want to stay ahead of.

Can you learn to think in a global manner?

I think there are certain things one has to learn. Through Endeavor, I met and learned about a lot of business people and their experiences, and what I realized is that there are certain patterns that a company typically follows to be successful that largely has to do with the level of globalization in the company. In our case, the selection of markets had implications much bigger than one traditionally sees. For example, the level of competition that the company has, especially because we are not competing with other local businesses that people know, is really important given the global competition that you do not know. As an advantage, I think that the aristocracy that the countries in which we work are accustomed to, simplifies things, and tend not to put unnecessary blocks in the development of a new deal. I know many companies that are stuck in very slow decision-making processes, and are not always transparent, to win a contract.

What advice would you give to business people that are starting out with their company?

In principle I would say that the only thing that has not changed is that we live in a time of change. What’s important is to have the capacity to be curious about many things and have a high tolerance, above all the frustration, because they are tools to be competitive in the times to come. Perhaps in the midst of the boom it is not easy.

For our company to bring in talent and grow in the context of inflation is difficult, so we focus more on sales, so that inflation doesn’t pose a big problem. We evaluate the scenario and make the best of it. So a big piece of advice is not to fall asleep during seemingly bad times because opportunities can emerge in times of turmoil. In fact, we began to think about Globant during the crisis. When the dollar was 4 to 1 we saw an opportunity to export. Another fundamental element in starting a business is innovation, for example to think about how to sell the services the company could offer and how to attract talent. Other possibilities are to add other equipment, buying other companies that run the risk of losing sustainability.

Right now, we as entrepreneurs recognize that we are not aware of everything, so it’s essential that we add the equipment and attach it to opportunities and attract customers that help solidify the company. To form a team, it’s important to have a strong leader—someone who provides direction during tough times. Finally, it is important to think long term, set a target you want to reach and to know the variables that impact a company’s sustainability, because the companies that adapt to change are those that immediately detect what they’re doing wrong.

Guibert’s 3 Keys:

1. Generate a culture of innovation to adapt to different situations.
2. Strengthen the culture of forming teams.
3. Always maintain a culture of clear goals for the short and long term.

U-Mich MBA students share reflections on working with Endeavor Entrepreneur

This past spring, 12 graduate students from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business spent the end of their first year gaining hands-on business experience through the school’s Multidisciplinary Action Project (MAP) program. This mandatory experiential learning program is a hallmark of Ross’ curriculum, which allows students to engage in live cases by working with a small team inside a company for the last seven weeks of their first year. About half of the projects are domestic and half international, with the common goal of exposing students to real life business problems and giving them the opportunity to devise solutions.

This year, MAP partnered with Endeavor to connect students with three companies run by Endeavor-supported companies, including TOP Systems (Uruguay), Aguamarina (Chile) and PIWorks (Turkey). Student teams of four worked with these businesses providing consulting skills—and immersing themselves in the countries’ cultures, languages, and professional customs.

For the first of a two-part series on the MAP Program, I spoke with MBAs who worked at Top Systems, founded by Endeavor Entrepreneur Alvaro Domínguez. The following post features students who worked with Aguamarina. Students from the PI Works team could not be reached, but look out for future news on this rising mobile network optimization company.

Check out some of the photos from the various MAP trips on Facebook!

The Top Systems MAP team with Alvaro Domínguez

What drew you to Top Systems?

Santiago: I chose this project because it involved entrepreneurship and venture capital. Interested in information technology, and also interested in Uruguay, this was a great option for me. Based in Montevideo, Top Systems develops office software for banks. Our project involved a new initiative to leverage cloud-computing technology to develop back-office software solutions for microfinance organizations.

What were some of the challenges you faced?

Rytas: One of the issues we ran into was that we initially had to do a lot of research on microfinance and cloud-computing in South America, which was not as easy as we thought it would be. Resources were not readily available due to the lack of transparent governement regulations and reported data within those industries and countries. If we were to have taken the same project on in the U.S., it would have been much easier.

Also, we had to deal with the language barrier, which was challenging at some points. Fortunately, CEO and Endeavor Entrepreneur Alvaro Dominguez spoke English very well, as did some of the staff. I think this is one of the inherent challenges you face when dealing with international companies. That said, we were fortunate to have Santiago, a native Spanish speaker, to help us!

What role did Endeavor play in your experience?

Rytas: What Endeavor offered us was not only a place where entrepreneurs would provide an institutionalized business experience, but it also gave us experience determining a specific project and how that project was going to be accomplished. It was a very symbiotic relationship in that it paired us—students looking to apply our skills—with a company in need of those skills. Endeavor put us together in what was really a perfect partnership.

Santiago: I love how Rytas phrased it—a perfect partnership. I was actually familiar with Endeavor before we got into this project, having worked with them in Argentina. Knowing about the mentorship and coaching that Endeavor does and the resources they provide to their affiliate companies, I had high esteem for Endeavor, which is one of the reasons I chose this project.

Final thoughts?

Santiago: Our team thrived on the program because we had the drive to excel and because we wanted to make sure we provided quite a bit of value-add to the project. Ultimately, this is why Endeavor initially engaged with the MAP office: we are part of the overall resources that Endeavor offers these exciting companies.

Rytas: I think the project went very well overall, and we’re keeping in touch with TOP Systems to follow the progress. We left them with a framework to launch the program, and though they weren’t ready to launch it while we were there, they’re hoping to implement it shortly. In addition to the business work, the people we met were very accommodating, which made our stay enjoyable and an overall fantastic experience.

About the MBA students

Santiago Garcia-Balcarce: Before coming to Ross, Santiago worked in the Bay Area leading a high-tech business incubator that supported U.S. and foreign start-ups and entrepreneurs. Prior to that, he was part of the investment team of a top-tier venture capital fund also based in the Bay Area.

Rytas Vygantas: Prior to getting his MBA at Ross, Rytas worked in investment banking covering financial institutions. After completing his MBA, he hopes to pursue a career in venture capital and says he looks forward to having a chance to work with driven and successful entrepreneurs like Top Systems.

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