High-Impact Entrepreneurship

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2014 PiLA Field Report: Exploring New Horizons with Endeavor Argentina

Every summer, top graduate and undergraduate students in the engineering, business and computer science fields spend a summer working with an Endeavor and Endeavor Entrepreneurs to assist in technical work assignments. These students are driven by interests in bridging technology and society through innovation, design, and entrepreneurship. Following is a post from Wade Prospere, a PiLA participant who spent the summer working with the Endeavor Argentina office. 

After graduating from Cornell University in 2010 and working as a Financial Analyst for Merrill Lynch for three years, I joined Endeavor Argentina in 2013 as a Princeton in Latin America fellow. I was drawn to Endeavor’s commitment to entrepreneurship as the key to sustained economic growth in emerging markets, and I wanted the opportunity to personally contribute to Endeavor’s impact. Working for Endeavor served as an incredible opportunity to learn—both from inspiring entrepreneurs and mentors, and from an amazingly talented global team.

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Wade and the Endeavor Argentina team

Upon arriving in Buenos Aires in June of 2013, I joined Endeavor Argentina’s 8-person Search and Selection team. The Search and Selection team is responsible for driving Endeavor’s selection process, which involves: screening entrepreneurs, conducting candidate interviews, facilitating entrepreneur/mentor interaction, writing comprehensive company profiles, and preparing entrepreneur presentations for national and international panels. The most rewarding aspect of my Search and Selection role was personally meeting and working with Argentina’s most remarkable entrepreneurs. I worked with businesses in industries ranging from technology to healthcare to real estate. Each project gave me insight into the issues and challenges Argentina’s entrepreneurs face, and the opportunities that can arise from Endeavor’s powerful set of resources.

At the heart of Endeavor’s model is an unrivaled network of seasoned business leaders. These mentors help entrepreneurs unleash their potential by providing guidance, strategic advice, and inspiration. My greatest learning experiences from working at Endeavor Argentina came from business strategy meetings between entrepreneurs and mentors. Absorbing market-specific advice from mentors helped me frame candidate enterprises and address how Endeavor’s resources could help catalyze their businesses. Despite operating in a default-ridden country, Argentina’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is extremely robust, and it’s obvious to me that Endeavor has played an instrumental role in promoting entrepreneurship as a tool for development throughout the country.

On a personal level, working at Endeavor has been the most enriching experience of my life to date. Living in a foreign country and interacting daily with high-impact entrepreneurs provided a truly unique learning experience. Endeavor Argentina’s network and local staff could not have been more impressive. It was inspiring to see such a diverse group of leaders collaborating to use entrepreneurship as a building block to strengthen the economy. This perspective, along with the relationships I formed working at Endeavor, will forever affect the way I evaluate impact.

Endeavor’s model gains its power from its vast global network, which serves to select, mentor, and accelerate the best high-impact entrepreneurs from around the world. As Endeavor’s network grows, the resources available to entrepreneurs and mentors become more robust, and Endeavor’s ability to impact development becomes more profound.

eMBA 2014 Field Report: Making A Transition With Colombia’s Refinancia

Each summer Endeavor sends a number of incoming and second-year MBA students, recruited from top schools, to work on-site with Endeavor Entrepreneurs on projects ranging from strategic planning to market expansion. The program is supported by a generous grant from Barclays. Following is a post from Keisuke Arimoto, a member of ESADE’s MBA Class of 2015, who spent the summer working with Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Colombia’s Refinancia

Before meeting Refinancia, I have always been interested in cultures of Latin America as I have been travelling frequently there and learning Spanish almost every time I had vacation. One day, I have come to think “what if I could connect my hobby with professional experience?” with hopes that being a Japanese speaking English, Spanish, and Japanese with international business experiences would be provide a niche! This question as well as a motivation to become an entrepreneur in the future took me to an MBA in Barcelona after 7 years in the financial industry, and found an answer at Refinancia realizing my sueño (dream.)

Why Colombia?

When I had my “garden leave,” after resigning from my previous work, before the MBA, I went to Colombia to spend 40 days, travelling around the country after following recommendations of backpackers I had met in previous years. It was easy for me to make a decision to come back for a different reason, a work experience, given the warmness and sincerity of people as well as amazing touristic attractions including a beautiful city of Cartagena in the Caribbean coast.


Keisuke with the team at Refinancia

What kind company is Refinancia?

It is a solution provider in the area of consumer finance with two main businesses, NPL and merchant payment guarantee services. The company was establish in 2005 by an MBA graduate from Harvard Business School, Kenneth Mendiwelson, and has been enjoying a tremendous growth to have over 900 employees in Colombia and Peru. Given its success to capture the growing niche market, Refinancia has been recently acquired by NASDAQ listed US based specialty financing company, Encore Capital Group, mirroring an entrepreneurial success story we would learn in our MBA classroom. Hence, Refinancia is in an extremely interesting stage where it is transitioning from an entrepreneurial company to a corporate entity to incorporate established know-hows and structure from the parent company.

The traditional and original business is an NPL (non-performing loan) business in which Refinancia becomes an investor of a consumer NPL portfolio by purchasing it from banks. In this transaction, banks benefit from removing bad assets from its balance sheet for an income from the sales while the borrowers benefit from gaining opportunity to improve their credit score by having the second chance of repayment, instead of being recorded as an insolvent borrower. As the consumption and loan growth have been growing rapidly along with the economic growth, Refinancia has been the leader in providing such financial solutions in Colombia and Peru.

The merchant guarantee business is a relatively new business yet fully leveraging Refinancia´s core capabilities nurtured in its NPL operation, providing point-of-sales solutions to consumers while Refinancia guaranteeing payment by the consumers.

As Refinancia has been rapidly establishing its foot print in financial industry, it has been attracting many talents from other large banks and financial service companies. Hearing the opinions of those who recently joined Refinancia from other banks, it is quite interesting that Refinancia has size meaningful enough to attract large businesses and talents yet maintains an innovative and entrepreneurial environment where countless new projects have been in discussion and being launched to fuel further growth.

In terms of people, they are very friendly and approachable from young people to senior management including the founder as I had expected from my previous travel experiences. I also go out to share personal time with colleagues of Refinancia outside of work including playing football. The quality of people working here are very high with high disciplines and inspirations to work in an entrepreneurial and challenging environment.

What is my project?

The company has many projects in discussion before hitting the market. My project is to create a model by which the company prioritizes initiatives, and prioritize the current initiatives. Having a means to prioritize initiatives has been becoming ever more critical as there have been needs to select initiatives with large market potential with sustainable profitable growth out of many initiatives on the table. This is especially a case as Refinancia, after the acquisition by Encore, has been in a turning point from an entrepreneurial stage to a corporate stage so that the use of its capital needs to be logically explained to the parent company.

The project has been requiring many skills learned in the MBA and the previous work experiences. First, financial analysis including accounting and valuation analysis are a must as all the projects need to be put in economic figures for comparisons. Second, communication skills and sales (which include Spanish!) are essential as my job cannot be done without any help of commercial team and financial team of Refinancia. Also, it is important to logically explain the top managements about the model so I would say a presentation skill is also a key to apply.

Overall impression

In many aspects including the entrepreneurial environment (despite of the recent acquisition), the stage where the company is in, the business, the people, the project, and the Latin American business experience, I have been very satisfied with the internship. Supported by the many, I am committed to complete and deliver the presentation in a few weeks and keep on enjoying the charm Colombia!


2014 PiLA Field Report: A Summer Immersion with Endeavor Chile

Every summer, top undergraduate students in the engineering and computer science departments spend a summer working with an Endeavor and Endeavor Entrepreneurs to assist in technical work assignments. These students are driven by interests in bridging technology and society through innovation, design, and entrepreneurship. Following is a post from Matt Doup, a PiLA participant who spent the summer working with the Endeavor Chile office. 

There’s a common expression in Spanish: “tírate a la piscina”, roughly translating to “throw yourself in the deep end”. In many ways, that phrase perfectly sums up my experience at Endeavor Chile. Working in a second language is challenging. Working in a second language with the country’s top entrepreneurs and leading business professionals while analyzing hundreds of business models is something entirely different. That prospect is doubly intimidating when, on day one, one can barely understand a word spoken at the weekly office breakfast, only to discover that Chileans don’t, in fact, speak Spanish (I don’t know how I had overlooked that minor detail). They speak Chilean: a hyper-fast , sing-song-y dialect punctuated by pseudo-English words like “cachai” (you catch?), or “po” (no meaning whatsoever, yet added onto the end of most sentences).


Matt with the Endeavor Chile network members

I nonetheless thought the task of identifying what Endeavor calls “High-Impact Entrepreneurs” would be somewhat straightforward.  Chile, on paper, is an entrepreneurial mega-hub. Not only have open markets and business-friendly tax policies* resulted in a flowering of disruptive home-grown start-ups, but innovative government initiatives like Start-Up Chile, a program that provides entrepreneurs from around the world with US$40K to bootstrap their companies in Santiago, have begun to attract gloabl talent, resulting in an environment that many are referring to (perhaps optimistically) as Chilecon Valley. The reality that I found, however, is that “culture” tends to lag behind policy in Chile: the country is characterized by pervasive social conservatism, fear of risk-taking (entrepreneurs often operate 5-6 businesses simultaneously to hedge their bets should one fail), and, like much of Latin America, rampant classism. Couple these social norms with two major structural factors— the lack of quality public education, and vulture, rather than venture, capitalists, and the future of entrepreneurship in Chile looks far less rosy.

Enter Endeavor.  Endeavor holds a critical place in the Chilean ecosystem— one that is helping to break down psychological barriers through storytelling: the brother-sister duo who turned a healthy home-made cookie recipe into the country’s leading on-the-go snacks brand; the three friends who saw an opportunity to beat out McDonald’s at the local level, developing a franchise spanning five brands and with operations in Chile and Brazil; two brothers who identified inefficiencies in shipping and maritime logistics in the Patagonia, becoming the first company in the region to provide these services;two sisters who were able to take their father’s  clothing store and turn it into the premier children’s clothing brand in Chile.  I witnessed first-hand how these narratives collectively served to inspire Chilean entrepreneurs to action: both in taking more risks and dreaming bigger.

Some of the highlights from my year as a PiLA at Endeavor Chile included: attempting (and failing) to institute a Monday-morning breakfast burrito tradition; working with aspiring high school-aged entrepreneurs at a three-day youth camp in Chilean wine country; hiking the infamous “W” in Torres del Paine National Park in the Chilean Patagonia; serving as the “office elf”, dancing while handing out presents at the office holiday party (I will never quite get used to 90-degree Decembers); gorging on “empanadas de pino” at our office party to celebrate Sept. 18 (Chilean Independence Day); losing and subsequently having to replace my passport; bicycle wine tours and Puerta Cerradas in Mendoza; being known permanently as “Max” at Starbucks Chile; developing an unhealthy obsession for “palta” (creamy Chilean avocados); being made fun of to no end by coworkers for my love of said palta.

When not voraciously consuming palta, traveling, or perfecting my elf-dancing routine, I focused on carrying out the Endeavor mission, working with almost every type of company under the sun: stevia production, baby E-commerce, mining technology, cell phone cases, a sushi restaurant, even wastewater management using earthworms! Because of the small size of the office, I was fortunate be given the opportunity to take the reigns on a number of aspects of the Search & Selection process, the culmination of which was opportunity to lead the preparation of two companies for the International Selection Panel in Florianopolis, Brazil. Overall, it was tremendously rewarding to have played a significant role in Endeavor’s selection of nine entrepreneurs across five companies during my year in Chile! I’ve gotten very close with a lot of the Endeavor Chile staff, as well as a number of the entrepreneurs that I worked with. And I’m proud to say that I only let one “cachai” slip during my entire year there.

eMBA 2014 Field Report: Exploring A New Landscape with Greece’s Daily Secret

Each summer Endeavor sends a number of incoming and second-year MBA students, recruited from top schools, to work on-site with Endeavor Entrepreneurs on projects ranging from strategic planning to market expansion. The program is supported by a generous grant from Barclays. Following is a post from Chafic Mourad, a member of Harvard Business School’s MBA Class of 2015, who spent the summer working with Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Greece’s Daily Secret

eMBA_webWorking as a strategy consultant before joining Business school, I wanted to undergo a different experience during my summer internship. I was searching for a business role in a start-up where I can learn from the daily challenges entrepreneurs face. I also wanted the start-up to be small enough so I can effectively contribute to the growth of the company.

Daily Secret is a subscription newsletter service delivering curated secrets and gems in cities around the globe to its subscribers. The secrets cover food, art, travel, entertainment and fashion industries. I was interested in joining Daily Secret for two main reasons: First, it’s a small firm with an international span and huge growth potential. Second, I found the company’s product very appealing given that I have always enjoyed discovering and shortlisting restaurants, bars and venues whether in my hometown Beirut or in other international cities.

The company has two offices, one in New York and the other in Athens. It was undergoing important changes in its organizational structure.  Most members in the US office, which I joined, were new to the company and the new CEO had taken the lead few weeks before my arrival. The energy level was high and there was a definite momentum to reach the new short and long term goals set by the CEO.

I was mainly involved in business development. During the internship, I developed a plan to define the different products which can be offered to partners or ad buyers, structure the selection process of these partners and generate a target list of potential clients. Witnessing the closing of some deals with partners suggested in the plan was the most rewarding part of the internship. I was also able to contribute on the product front as Daily Secret was expanding into new markets.

Looking back, my internship at Daily Secret was definitely a great learning experience. I was fully responsible of my deliverables, set my own milestones and led the work and development of the plan with limited resources and in a very dynamic environment. I had the opportunity to learn from the other members of the team, most of them having previously worked in other start-ups. Helping them in their daily tasks was truly beneficial. Going forward, I will be returning to campus in less than a month, bringing back my entrepreneurial experience to share with my classmates and build on during the next recruiting cycle.

eMBA 2014 Field Report: Engineering for Growth in Chile – an Adventure with CORBAC Foods

Each summer Endeavor sends a number of incoming and second-year MBA students, recruited from top schools, to work on-site with Endeavor Entrepreneurs on projects ranging from strategic planning to market expansion. The program is supported by a generous grant from Barclays. Following is a post from Billy Mata, a member of Babson College’s MBA Class of 2015, who spent the summer working with Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Chile’s CORBAC Foods.

eMBA_webHow often do you get the chance to go to the beach one day and the next day be snowboarding at the top of the Andes?  Unless you are in Santiago, your possibility of doing so is very slim, if any. I had always wanted to go to Santiago, Chile but never seemed to have the chance, the time or the money to do so.

When I started my MBA at Babson I knew that this was the moment for me to travel while taking advantage of opportunities to expand my learning experience and have an impact in the places I went, by engaging with purpose-driven organizations.  Endeavor was a perfect fit. Through their eMBA program, I was able to connect with Christian Cortes, the Endeavor Entrepreneur behind CORBAC Foods, in order to engage for 10 weeks in an intensive consulting project focused on strategic planning and execution to support the company’s growth.

CORBAC Foods is a food production and ingredients company that develops solutions for industrial, retail and end customers using – mainly – protein from animal sources.  Some of its most important clients include Nestle and Wal-Mart. CORBAC is strongly positioned in the industrial segment where it supplies dehydrated meats as an ingredient for ready-to-eat soups, rice and pasta.  For its retail customers, CORBAC operates as a food service company and provides sauces, dressings and cooking powders.  For end customers, CORBAC developed VORO, a dog treat that is made of natural and human grade protein, which allows pet owners to treat their pets as an additional family member.

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A view of Valle Nevado in Chile, courtesy of Billy

When I first met with Christian on a Sunday afternoon to have lunch paired with a glass of (Chilean) wine I got inspired about the project and was eager to help him achieve his dream.  Christian told me how he started his company with $1,000 US dollars, how he managed to take it to where it was today, and how he wants to double the company’s revenue in three years and have it grow five-fold in the next few years. I needed to figure out how we would do that and I had no doubt that it was possible.  After all, I came to Chile to be challenged, and this was a big and exciting one.

After the first week of working with Christian and understanding the company, the industry and the team better, there were two main insights that would dictate how we would engineer the company to prepare it for its growth plans:

Many of the capabilities and skills that brought CORBAC to the point it was at today could hinder the company’s growth going forward

There is a tradeoff between customization and standardization; it’s hard to grow and scale with a customized and single client product portfolio

After we agreed on those two key points, we laid out a work plan which would create the base for growth.  Essentially, there were five aspects of the business that we needed to be crystal clear about and that we would work on:

Aspiration: Develop a clear sense of where the company is going.

Where to play: The industries, regions, customer segments and distribution channels that will be the focus going forward.

How to win: Identify the sources of competitive advantage and capabilities that will enable CORBAC to achieve its growth ambition.

Strategic priorities: The initiatives, capabilities and tasks that need to take place to achieve success.

Plan to generate results: Execute the strategy and align the organization.

Upon reflecting upon my time in Chile with Christian and the CORBAC team so far, I hope I have had a great impact in the company to propel it to the next level.  It is always refreshing to work with passionate entrepreneurs that never settle and are always looking to grow their companies and themselves as people.

eMBA 2014 Field Report: An Entrepreneurial Approach with Turkey’s Artesis

Each summer Endeavor sends a number of incoming and second-year MBA students, recruited from top schools, to work on-site with Endeavor Entrepreneurs on projects ranging from strategic planning to market expansion. The program is supported by a generous grant from Barclays. Following is a post from Abdul Basith, an MBA student at the Thunderbird School of Management, who spent the summer working with Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Turkey’s Artesis.

eMBA_webLeather jacket, jeans and boots – not the typical attire an MBA student wears to an interview. But that’s what I was wearing when I interviewed for my summer internship with Endeavor Entrepreneur company Artesis. On a holiday in Istanbul, I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to interview after learning about it from Endeavor. I met with Dr. Ahmet Duyar, the entrepreneur behind Artesis whose research has been funded by NASA. I was inspired by the vision he had for his company, the future of energy efficiency and how he hoped his start-up can contribute to improving energy efficiency in manufacturing facilities the world over.

It was a good fit for both sides. Artesis develops technology and software for maintenance and energy efficiency in Oil & Gas, Water and Automotive industries, and my prior sales experience in industrial control applications complements it well. As I seek exposure to emerging markets, experience in Turkey lends valuable credibility to my career. I am halfway through my MBA at Thunderbird – ranked no. 1 consistently for its international business program, and it is common for students to intern outside of the U.S.

I am tasked with marketing the company’s latest software that replaces expensive condition monitoring techniques. Although some responsibilities were outlined for me, the role was as entrepreneurial as one would expect in a start-up, I have added to areas outside my direct scope. Recognizing the need for a more user-friendly interface and a smooth purchase process, I worked with the development team to improve the user experience design of the software and the website. Having developed a pricing model, I am now building a digital marketing platform to integrate with traditional marketing methods. The experience has been rewarding – I have been able to learn and apply new tools on a regular basis.

Dr. Ahmet Duyar is a guiding force who always makes time for discussion and is open to ideas and suggestions from his employees. As a retired professor, he has a way of bringing out the best in the team. I see this as he critiques my proposals and challenges my assumptions, only to make me work harder and improve my work. Then he gives me the authority to make decisions, saying ‘You are the entrepreneur. This is your product’. It’s this “entrepreneurial” drive that makes my work really interesting.

Personally, too, the experience has been a rewarding one. For someone who loves food, culture and photography, I was not disappointed with Istanbul. There is so much to see and do that one summer just did not seem enough. With Turkey growing as an emerging market and the billions of dollars of foreign investment giving rise to quality jobs, I will happily grab another opportunity for a stint here.

Abdul with the team at Artesis

eMBA 2014 Field Report: Innovating Finance With Colombia’s Refinancia

Each summer Endeavor sends a number of incoming and second-year MBA students, recruited from top schools, to work on-site with Endeavor Entrepreneurs on projects ranging from strategic planning to market expansion. The program is supported by a generous grant from Barclays. Following is a post from Pablo Calabuig Pascual, a member of the IESE Business School MBA Class of 2014, who spent the summer working with Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Colombia’s Refinancia.

eMBA_webI heard about Endeavor some years ago, but never thought about applying to it until this year. I was looking for something to do during my six month vacation before starting at McKinsey, and unfortunately I was totally broke after a two year MBA at IESE. I saw Refinancia’s project proposal and found it very interesting, and since I had never visited Colombia I saw this as a great opportunity to get to know the country.

Refinancia is a specialty loan provider that operates in Colombia and Peru, and offers solutions to underserved niches. It basically purchases portfolios of non-performing loans to retail banks, and after thoroughly studying the client’s payment behavior, offers them special solutions so that they can be back in the market. It also has a division that deals with merchant solutions, guaranteeing customer check transactions and providing them with short-term financing. It was started in 2006 and already has more than 800 employees.

A few weeks after I applied, Kenneth (CEO) and Juliana (Head of Corporate Affairs) interviewed me via Skype, and they gave me such a good vibe that just five days later I was already landing at El Dorado airport in Bogotá. I didn’t even have the time to plan my trip and almost even to pack the right clothes, but to be honest the welcome was so smooth and warm that I didn’t even need it. When I got to Bogotá, a driver took me to the apartment they had arranged for me, where I could cook some of the food they had left in the fridge. It felt like home from the moment of my arrival.

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Pablo with the team at Refinancia

The project itself was incredibly interesting and had a very high impact in the organization: they wanted me to implement an activity-based costing system for the whole company, and thus I was constantly dealing with the CEO, VPs, and Managers. They did not have any way to track indirect costs to the final customer for any of their divisions, and their fast growth complicated things even more. The Merchant Services in particular had no idea of what customer groups were consuming their huge chunk of indirect costs, and the project ended up being a useful tool for segmentation according to actual and potential profitability of the customer.

People were incredibly attentive, not only in the way they provided me with the required information I needed (which was really a lot), but also regularly meeting with me to give me some feedback about my first results. I was particularly surprised about Kenneth’s entrepreneurial attitude and intelligence: he would challenge my ideas and asked me for information that made me reflect about the direction of the project several times.

My social life was no worse. From day one I was getting along well with all of Refinancia’s people. They took me to play golf and introduced me to some of the city’s bars and nightlife. I was also very lucky to be here during the World Cup, given the Colombian passion for football. In fact, after Spain’s poor performance in the tournament, we were back home after the third game and they had me buy Colombia’s jersey and watch all the games with it. Some of them even say I ended up being more Colombian than them! Camila Salamanca and all the of Endeavor team were also very nice and helpful to me.

As I reflect about my whole experience at Refinancia, I realize that everything has gone way beyond my expectations. Not only did I learn from the project, but I also got to meet some amazing and outstanding people in both work and social environments. The memories we created will certainly stay with me, and I am sure I will be back to Colombia sooner than expected.

Highlights From Endeavor eMBAs In The Field

eMBA_webEach year, Endeavor recruits graduate students from leading U.S. business schools to spend 10 weeks during the summer working on-site with Endeavor Entrepreneurs as part of the eMBA Program, which is generously supported by Barclays. The three primary areas of focus for the eMBA projects are strategy, operations, and financing.

Over the years, hundreds of MBA students — after a highly competitive application process — have been placed with entrepreneurs across Endeavor’s affiliate countries. Endeavor ranks among the top 2% of recruiters at Harvard Business School and Stanford, and recruits from other leading schools including MIT, Penn, Columbia, Northwestern, Yale, and INSEAD.

Endeavor’s eMBAs often catalog the diverse professional and personal experiences they have during their placements for friends, family members and the general Endeavor network. Below are highlights of these write-ups that have been posted on the Endeavor Blog as part of the ongoing “eMBA Field Report” series.


eMBA Field Report: A Global Business Project Journey in Brazil 

Tammy Wu, Cornell-Queen’s School of Business

eMBA Field Report: Mobile in Mexico… and Loving It

Leire Borderias, London Business School 

eMBA  Field Report: Becoming One with Acesso Digital — An Adventure That Was Anything But Ordinary

Amanda Wu, Cornell University’s Johnson School of  Business 


eMBA Field Report: Explosive IT Growth, Exuberant Dancing and a Steak that Will Make You Cry In Bogotá

Manuel Alvarez Ortega, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

eMBA Field Report: Research and Teamwork in Egypt

Nate Wong, Yale University’s School of Management

eMBA Field Report: Spreading Innovative Design from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia

Abulaziz Baroum, Babson College’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business


eMBA Field Report: Two Voices from Jordan

Andrea Zuluaga, London Business School

eMBA Field Report: The Emerging Giant in Santiago

Chris Zefferys, Thunderbird School of Management

eMBA Field Report: From Hong Kong to Uruguay

Rufino de la Rosa, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

eMBA 2013 Field Report: A Global Business Project Journey in Brazil

Each summer Endeavor sends a number of incoming and second-year MBA students, recruited from top schools, to work on-site with Endeavor Entrepreneurs on projects ranging from strategic planning to market expansion. The program is supported by a generous grant from Barclays. Following is a post from Tammy Wu, a member of the Cornell-Queen’s Executive MBA Class of 2014, who spent the summer working with Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Brazil’s MXT. For more photos of Tammy’s experience, click here.

The Global Business Project is the culminating project for our program.  It’s where we tie together concepts from across courses in a real international setting.  Each team is required to find its own management consulting project outside of North America, and to work with that client over many months.

Team Markham all set for the factory tour at MXT

Team Markham all set for the factory tour at MXT

Our team developed seven different project opportunities, ranging in location from India to Dubai to Brazil, with industries as different as import/export of foods, solar energy, and pharmaceuticals.  In the end, we selected a tracking technology company in Brazil called MXT.   We wanted a project where our client would be engaged at the senior management level, and where our inputs would be meaningful.  We wanted to ensure that our team, with its breadth of experience across functional areas, could add value by applying their career experience in a new environment.  We hoped to be involved in a project that provided social benefit, and on top of all that, we wanted to have fun!

Even with such high hopes, the project completely exceeded our expectations.  It was a highly rewarding experience to work on-site at MXT, and to interact with incredibly passionate people.  As part of the project engagement, our team led a workshop, and the level of involvement and interest that was displayed by MXT staff was simply phenomenal.   Moreover, our team was completely blown away by the extent of warmth and hospitality that was extended towards us.

Thanks to Endeavor Global and Endeavor Brasil for making the connection between our team and MXT.  Endeavor is a non-profit organization committed to developing high-impact entrepreneurship across the globe.  http://www.endeavor.org/

We are grateful to Gustavo Travassos, the founder of MXT, and the MXT senior management team, for this project experience.  Our team has learned much about the opportunities and challenges of doing business in Brazil, as well as the joys and trials of entrepreneurship.  We are back at home, inspired and excited for what lies ahead, both for MXT, and for our own business and career endeavors!

eMBA 2013 Field Report: Still questioning why the local David wins so often against the international Goliath? Here’s one reason why.

Each summer Endeavor sends a number of incoming and second-year MBA students, recruited from top schools, to work on-site with Endeavor Entrepreneurs on projects ranging from strategic planning to market expansion. The program is supported by a generous grant from Barclays. Following is a post from Jessica Chen, a member of the Harvard Business School Class of 2013, who spent the summer working with Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Brazil’s Acesso Digital:

Acesso Digital is a São Paulo-based startup focused on moving Brazil’s paper culture into the cloud. They count some of Brazil’s premiere institutions, such as Itaú, among their clients. This summer, fresh after graduating from HBS, I jumped on a plane to Brazil, excited to work with the company and see their product.

Upon landing though – I have to be honest – I wasn’t particularly impressed. Acesso Digital’s product combines a basic document management/workflow tool with Kodak scanners that they send to clients’ branch offices across Brazil. In my experience working in the US, I had seen document management products that were leagues ahead in technological sophistication, but I also knew that those companies had tried to enter Brazil and failed. What on earth was going on?

To answer that question, I need to rewind to the company’s founding. In addition to their document management solution, Acesso Digital has an even more ambitious second mission – to become the best place to work in the world, bar none. With this dream in mind, the company leaders encouraged each of their employees to pursue their own dreams, whether it is to travel, to get in shape, or to develop professionally. Today, Acesso Digital is less a company and more a team, comprised of every employee at the company, from CEO to housekeeper, who continuously support, push, and celebrate each other, both inside and outside the workplace. That’s pretty impressive for a company that’s now well over a hundred employees, not to mention pretty impossible for other companies to replicate.

This concept of fulfilling dreams translates further into a deep understanding of customer pain points, which results in a product that is designed to make clients’ lives fundamentally better. That is one of the key reasons for the company’s success in the Brazilian market.

Let me explain.  My project involved recommending new product opportunities. In pursuit of this goal, I worked with another eMBA intern to think of solutions for unsolved customer pain points that optimized the company’s existing strengths. We met with clients across a slew of industries and were given the license to ask any question. They spoke with surprising candor and I began to understand Brazilians – how they live, work, play, and struggle on a daily basis. I began to speak Portuguese and understand the nuances of the language, how common Portuguese words that have no English translation define Brazilian culture. I began to understand the impact of the government in all industries and why Brazilians protest to make the government more accountable to the people.

I began to understand Acesso Digital’s clients as they do. Customers don’t need bells and whistles (and the associated price tag) to solve the fundamental pain of dealing with paper, of waiting forever for the postal system and losing critical information, of losing money to fraudulent identification documents. Unlike US multinationals exporting a product, Acesso Digital created a solution for their clients that simply made their lives better.

It was only after taking the time to observe and to listen that I could make an impact myself. I realized the areas where my US work experiences overlapped with the Brazilian business environment and started sharing best practices and making observations on how the company might improve. On their part, Acesso Digital was eager to learn and gave us incredible flexibility in doing our work; it was pretty amazing. For example, I came up with an idea in the shower one morning to host an ideation session utilizing the diverse talent across the company, and by the following morning, we had over a hundred new product ideas on yellow sticky notes.

Acesso Digital opened my eyes this summer and in so doing, enabled my dream as well. I originally thought it was by happenstance, but now I realize it’s the company’s secret – they are an insidious dream-fulfilling machine. My dream, both personally and professionally, has always been to experience amazing adventures. I’ve found no better way to accomplish this than to work around the world – adapting to new cultures, meeting new people, thinking innovatively about new challenges. And for me, the best measure of how worthwhile an adventure is how much is learned by the end of the experience. Never in my life had I experienced a learning curve so steep. I’m incredibly thankful to Acesso Digital in helping me grow as a professional and as a person, and so much saudade for the friends made and the lessons along the way.


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