High-Impact Entrepreneurship

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Entrepreneurs take flight with “Geeks on a Plane”

Recently, Endeavor Entrepreneurs partnered with Geeks On a Plane for their 2011 Latin American tour to network and discuss entrepreneurship, innovation, and growth. Endeavor Global’s Allen Taylor, Endeavor Chile’s Alan Farcas, and Endeavor Entrepreneur Oskar Hjertonsson among others organized the week-long event that embraced nerdiness and made ideas-sharing fun and inspiring.

Geeks On a Plane is a business travel and cultural exchange program created by Endeavor Entrepreneur and Global Board Member Wences Casares and Dave McClure, a self-described Silicon Valley Geek who has been an advisor or investor in more than 80 companies, and is passionate about helping startups with marketing, product strategy and startup metrics. Through Geeks On a Plane, they bring together other Silicon Valley techies, international entrepreneurs, investors, and bloggers to share information, advice, and information.

This year the group visited São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago and Buenos Aires where Endeavor companies Enox, Mercado Libre, Bling Nation and Globant participated in the program. Wences Casares was a panelist and discussed things he wished he had known when he was just beginning his entrepreneurial career and lessons he’s learned along the way (for instance, he wishes he had failed more often and more quickly). Peng Ong, the founder of Match.com emphasized the need for entrepreneurs to think big. He stressed that entrepreneurs in emerging markets are making big strides, and talk big, but they could still act bigger.

Included in the variety of activities, the Geeks On a Plane group toured the Rio de Janeiro Operations Center, attended a presentation by Carlos Roberto Osorio, the Secretary of Conservation & Public Services and Secretary General of the 2016 Olympic Committee, and met with Eduardo Paes, the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro. There were several mixers and networking opportunities, visits with local companies, a private Endeavor retreat in Chile, and visits with key officials. Chim Kan, a Brazilian entrepreneur, attended Geeks On a Plane to learn from start up savvy veterans and to expand his network. In reflecting on his week of meetings with Silicon Valley experts and investors, he remarked that the meeting of entrepreneurs is an important milestone in Latin America, one that shows the vibrancy and strength of the growing entrepreneurial community.

Check out a video about Geeks On A Plane’s Latin American tour HERE.

Highlight from Brazil Trek: Insights from a top venture capitalist in Brazil

Over the course of three days, Endeavor held its inaugural Investor Network event, Brazil Trek, gathering Endeavor’s high-impact entrepreneurs, U.S. venture investors, and other key members of the entrepreneurship ecosystem that make Brazil such a thriving emerging market. The Endeavor Brazil Trek event was geared toward making meaningful introductions and initiating communication between entrepreneurs and investors.

During a unique session, Eric Acher, founder of Monashees Capital and venture capitalist in Brazil, offered some especially interesting insights on the state of entrepreneurship and investing in Brazil.

As a VC, Eric says he considers himself an optimistic person and looks for other ambitious and optimistic entrepreneurs. He also explained that what he may be looking for in terms of technology or innovation does not necessary need to be “disruptive”; businesses can be a copy of existing models, or, as he joked, a “geographic innovation.” Stressing the importance of due diligence and selecting the right companies, he added further that “spray and pray,” or spreading investment everywhere and hoping for the best, is not the best way to approach Brazil.

Eric explained his interest in being an early-stage VC, saying that his job was quite different than that of a private equity investor. Being a VC takes more risk and more time, but he believes it is ultimately more exciting since early-stage companies also present the biggest opportunities. Eric joked that he primarily looks for “large companies…at an early stage” — in other words, high-impact entrepreneurs. He likes to invest in early-stage companies because it affords him more freedom to work directly with the team to design the company’s strategic direction. To companies, a VC firm should not be seen merely as a source of funding, but a strategic partner.

Eric believes that as Internet usage increases in Brazil and other emerging markets, there will be more opportunities for creating high-growth tech businesses that can become successful stories. He says that while the landscape could use more angel investors and VCs to make this happen, this is already happening. In addition to Internet Technology, Eric also sees Education as a promising growth sector.

Brazil has a brilliant future ahead, Eric stressed. More and more talented Brazilian entrepreneurs are returning to Brazil after receiving MBAs, and more foreign investors are looking to build their next business in Brazil. Both classes are importing valuable knowledge and experience from abroad, which is professionalizing the business and investment landscape. Meanwhile, Eric still sees an opportunity to create better mechanisms to exchange best practices among emerging market countries, especially on topics related to liquidity and alternatives to exiting.

Eric closed his session with a quote by Alan Kay, adapted by Berkeley Rice to link the shared vision of entrepreneurs and investors: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it. The second best is to finance it.”

Highlight from Brazil Trek: Three entrepreneurs discuss finding a market gap

Over the course of three days, Endeavor held its inaugural Investor Network event, the Brazil Trek, gathering Endeavor’s high-impact entrepreneurs, U.S. venture investors, and other key members of the entrepreneurship ecosystem that make Brazil such a thriving emerging market. The Endeavor Brazil Trek event was geared towards making meaningful introductions and initiating communication between entrepreneurs and investors.

One of the most memorable panels at Brazil Trek was moderated by Anderson Thees. Anderson is CEO of Apontador, a leading geolocation company in Brazil. Three other successful internet entrepreneurs spoke on the panel: Romero Rodrigues of Buscapé, Daniel Heise of Grupo Direct and Endeavor Entrepreneur Daniel Wjuniski of Minha Vida.

I’m always interested in how high-impact enterprises get started, so I was especially intrigued when Anderson, himself a computer engineer and former investor, noted that all three entrepreneurs started their businesses as a personal choice by identifying a need in the market, rather than out of their own need:

While attending university, Romero Rodrigues tried searching online to buy a printer. Unable to find any prices listed online, he turned his frustration into opportunity and started his own business. He found out that no stores wanted to feature their prices in order to avoid competition. Using his engineering skills, he and his friends built their own software to test the market. Buscapé was born, a shopping comparison site which allows consumers to compare prices and products. Today Buscapé covers more than 15 million items across 40 categories in 60,000 stores.

Tired of working in the financial industry, Daniel Heise sought a new direction. He joined his partner, an engineer, to build Grupo Direct. They recognized that as customers, they had trouble communicating with telecom companies, and identified a need for clearer service and communication in the market. Combining skills, they founded their business to help companies build stronger relationships with customers and understand customer behavior.

Daniel Wjuniski from Minha Vida also had personal motivations to start his business. Looking to drop some pounds, he searched the internet for information but came up empty. Leaving Johnson & Johnson, Daniel started an online portal for health and wellness, and was selected by Endeavor in 2009 along with partner Fernando Ortenblad.

Of course, in all three examples, what’s impressive most isn’t how they started out but what they’ve become. In listening to the panel, I was reminded of a quote adapted from Wilbur Ross: “A brilliant idea will only be successful if is brilliantly executed.”

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