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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.

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A view over Istanbul, courtesy of Abdul

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.

2013

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 

2012

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

2011

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.

 

Timed for G20, EY Issues a New Entrepreneurship Barometer Report

As part of its continuing thought-leader efforts surrounding the G20 meetings, Endeavor Partner EY released a new version of its Entrepreneurship Barometer report this week.  The EY G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer 2013 is designed to help leading countries benchmark their progress and performance on this vital issue. It enables each G20 nation to identify current strengths in its entrepreneurial environment, as well as the main opportunities for further development.  As a result, the Barometer provides a powerful framework to help countries understand and improve the ecosystems that are vital to the success of the entrepreneurs of the future.

Although there have been a number of international studies on entrepreneurial ecosystems, there is still a need for better tools and data to help countries measure their performance on this issue. This report makes an important contribution to this endeavor by capturing insights from key research initiatives.  A key conclusion of the report:  Mature markets continue to provide the best ecosystems for entrepreneurship development but rapid-growth markets — such as Endeavor countries Brazil, Argentina and Turkey — are closing the gap.

EY hopes the report will grab the attention of government leaders attending the G20.  “The need to act is clear. Entrepreneurs have the power to create jobs and drive growth – but first we need to give them the tools and the environment that will enable them to succeed,” said Maria Pinelli, Global Vice Chair, Strategic Growth Markets at EY.

For a complete copy of the report, click here.

 

eMBA 2013 Field Report: Mobile in Mexico… and Loving It

Each summer Endeavor sends a number of incoming 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 Leire Borderias, a member of  the London Business School Class of 2014, who is spending the summer working with Endeavor Entrepreneur Arturo Galvan at Mexico’s Naranya:

I came to Mexico looking forward to being in a fast pace environment, gaining exposure to Latin America and making the most of my time working in a project with high and direct impact. I expected stretching myself further and getting both professional learning and personal growth…but this experience, by far, outweighed my initial expectations!!

Naranya is a mobile media and commerce company developing new products and building the mobile ecosystem for Latin American markets. It has also recently launched an accelerator program and early stage fund in Monterrey to help new start-ups get their business ideas off the ground. During my internship, I have been working with the innovation unit. The project is aimed at leveraging synergies across the company and fostering innovation processes to achieve an agile time-to-market. The broad spectrum that encompasses all the different realities of Latin America poses a great challenge.

In Latin America, mobile will become the primary way to access the internet but the majority of mobile users do not have access to banking and financial services. Nurturing innovation and growth requires solving some of the most basic customer pains such as facilitating access to payment methods. Working in this environment with colleagues who are giving their best and thinking out of the box to solve this sort of dare has been really fascinating and inspiring.

It has also been very rewarding to be part of Endeavor and learn more about how this successful nonprofit is making a significant, social impact all over the world. The local office of Endeavor does an excellent job supporting the entrepreneurs and Endeavor’s networking and mentoring community confers a very unique and valuable resource.

Life outside of work has been just as dynamic. I seized any opportunity to travel and hang out with my work and Endeavor colleagues who have become very close friends of mine. They have been amazingly supportive and their hospitality allowed me to acclimate very quickly and love the country, its culture and gastronomy… Yay.. Mexicooo lindo!!

 

In New Book, Endeavor Network Member Chris Schroeder Highlights Emerging Tech Entrepreneurship in Middle East

Endeavor network member Chris Schroeder has published a new book highlighting the quiet revolution in technology entrepreneurship happening across the MENA region.   The book, Start-Up Rising, is the product of dozens of interviews that Schroeder, an internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist, completed across the region.  As part of his work, Schroeder — who spoke at Endeavor’s June 2013 Entrepreneur Summit and has served as an ISP panelist — includes interviews with key Endeavor MENA network members such as Fadi Ghandour and Arif Naqvi and two recently selected Endeavor Entrepreneur companies,  Egypt’s Bey2ollak and Jordan’s Jamalon.

Schroeder traveled to Cairo, Amman, Beirut, Istanbul and Damascus and was impressed by the  thousands of  “talented, successful, and intrepid young entrepreneurs willing to take on political, cultural, legal and societal challenges.”  Equally important, Schroeder saw major regional and international private equity firms, venture capitalists and global tech players like Google, Intel, Cisco, Yahoo, LinkedIn and PayPal making significant investments, despite the uncertainty in the region. He marries his own observations with the predictions of these giants to offer a surprising and timely look at the second stealth revolution in the Middle East — one that promises to reinvent it as a center of innovation and economic opportunity.

The book can be ordered online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

 

 

eMBA 2013 Field Report: Becoming One with Acesso Digital — An Adventure That Was Anything But Ordinary

Each summer Endeavor sends a number of incoming 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 Amanda Wu, a member of Cornell’s Johnson School of  Business Class of 2014, who is spending the summer working with Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Brazil’s Acesso Digital:

Arriving in São Paulo at the beginning of winter, which meant 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 Celsius), I was encountered with a sense of comfort. The Brazilian landscape is one I am familiar with.

During my initial visit with Cornell, six months before my internship, I was fascinated with the people, business environment and culture. I knew I wanted to experience more of what Brazil had to offer. I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity with Endeavor and even luckier with one of the most dynamic companies I have ever encountered, Acesso Digital.

Acesso Digital is a B2B technology solutions leader in document digitalization. The company offers a solution to scan, organize and store digital documents. Acesso understands the importance of digitalization and partners with their clients to help streamline internal processes and to revolutionize corporate culture away from paper.  With some of Brazil’s largest retail, banking and telecommunications clients, Acesso is well positioned to capture the segment. But, Acesso has a bigger dream and that is to become the “most admired company in Brazil”.  Since I was one of Acesso’s first eMBAs, I was eager to help them achieve that dream.

The Endeavor Entrepreneurs, Diego Martins and Paulo Allencastro are everything but ordinary. They have fostered a work environment that is fun, spontaneous and anything but monotonous. Two months prior to my arrival, Acesso moved to a new office and it is spectacular! There are sprawling city views and a  ping-pong table.  Every employee receives a stipend to customize their own desk. Customary sites include: employees getting around the office on a bicycle or scooter, walk into your office and being surprised with balloons and chocolates on every desk, and a golden retriever puppy raffled off as a present to a lucky employee. It is no surprise to me that the company recently ranked number 1 as the “Best IT workplace” in all of Brazil.

For my project at Acesso, I got the opportunity to collaborate with a fellow Endeavor eMBA who recently graduated from Harvard Business School. Our assignment was to bring a new perspective to the entrepreneurs and to develop new business opportunities. Through hosting interviews with Acesso’s top clients, innovation sessions with the leaders and employees, and even meeting with mentors in the Endeavor São Paulo network, it became evident that the new business opportunity would be to restructure Acesso’s product offering. The final result presented to Diego and Paulo consisted of five innovative product ideas, which included business opportunities in new industries, repackaging the current product offering and a completely new perspective of how Acesso can use their product.

As I reflect upon my experience, I only hope that I had a great impact that will propel Acesso to the next level. But the most important thing I realized is the bond I developed with Acesso Digital, Seres Acesso (employees) and Brazil was deeper than imagined. They are all a part of who I am. I am a Ser Acesso and Brazil will always be in my heart. Grandes beijos!

 

eMBA 2013 Field Report: Mobile Strategy at Brazil’s Minha Vida

Each summer Endeavor sends a number of incoming 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 Allison Averill, who is spending the summer working with Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Brazil’s Minha Vida:

Five weeks into my project at Minha Vida in São Paulo, I couldn’t be happier with the progress we’ve been making. I’m working on mobile strategy for Dieta e Saúde, the largest online dieting program in Brazil. The Dieta e Saúde team is in the process of revamping their online platform and adding some exciting new products to their subscription-based dieting program. They’re taking a fresh look at their mobile products as part of this process. As I learned quickly, the project isn’t just about building an app with great features, it’s also about integrating mobile with the company’s overall business plan and coming up with a strategy that’s both cued in to the needs of the current user base and successful at acquiring new mobile-savvy customers.

I spent the first week getting up to speed with everything that’s going on in the company and in the mobile market in Brazil, which hasn’t quite reached U.S. levels ofsmartphone saturation, but isgetting there fast. From there, I began benchmarking Dieta e Saúde’s products against popular online and mobile dieting products in both the U.S. and Brazil. The proliferation of “freemium” weight loss apps, which offer the basics- a calorie counter, food database, and exercise tracking- for free and more advanced features for a monthly or annual subscription cost has changed the market in recent years. Still, established diets like Weight Watchers, Dukan, and South Beach, which offer their tools to paying subscribers only, are becoming more comfortable in the online space. Because Dieta e Saúde is a points-based dieting methodology, not just a calorie counter, it is important for us to find the right balance between these free tools and the more traditional diets that are expanding their products online.

I am currently working on designing surveys to collect some data from both our online subscribers and users of our free app. The idea is to figure out how we can improve user engagement by making the app a better tool for current subscribers, and how we can start converting more free app users into paying subscribers. If all goes well, I will have some data by the end of the week, present my findings to the team, and spend the last few weeks of the project working closely with my colleagues to map out a more detailed product plan.

I can’t thank the Minha Vida team enough for welcoming me into their office and making me feel right at home here in São Paulo. Although I am only here for a short time, I really look forward to following the company’s progress, especially in mobile. I am confident it will be great!

 

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