High-Impact Entrepreneurship

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Saudi Arabia’s Lateefa Alwaalan, Founder of Yatooq, Named EY Entrepreneur of the Year

Endeavor Entrepreneur Lateefa Alwaalan, founder of Yatooq, was named the 2015 EY Entrepreneur of the Year in Saudi Arabia, recognizing her potential to build a high-impact business and inspire others. Yatooq’s Arabic coffee blends and products are […]

May 27th, 2015 — by admin

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Miami’s KidoZen and My Ceviche Profiled in The Miami Herald; Discuss Plans for Growth

Endeavor Entrepreneur companies KidoZen, founded by Jesus Rodriguez, and My Ceviche, founded by Roger Duarte and Sam Gorenstein, were recently featured in The Miami Herald’s Business Monday section, highlighting the growing presence of both companies […]

February 25th, 2014 — by admin

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Forbes.com anticipates the Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit

In a recent article article on Forbes.com, “Where Silicon Valley Meets Emerging Market Entrepreneurs,” Elmira Bayrasli discusses the Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit taking place this week in Silicon Valley. Including thoughts from Endeavor Entrepreneurs Fatih İşbecer, Marc Dfouni, Nemr Nicholas Badine, Hind and Nadia Wassef, Wences Casares, and Endeavor CEO and Co-Founder Linda Rottenberg, the article highlights the role of Endeavor in supporting emerging market entrepreneurs and catalyzing investment communities.

The article quotes Egyptian entrepreneur Nadia Wassef, who in the midst of the country’s revolution and unrest, “likens the Endeavor Summit to Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. ‘It is a place where you can play around with ideas, experiment, and renew your drive.'”

As Elmira points out, “It is also a place they’re looking forward to connecting with the world’s greatest business and entrepreneurial minds. With keynotes from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and LinkedIn founder (and Endeavor board member) Reid Hoffman, along with insights from top names from Google, Dell, Kleiner Perkins, Ning, and IBM – including Watson himself, Endeavor’s summit is a gathering of entrepreneurship and venture capital’s best.”

As more than 400 participants are currently gathering in San Francisco for the Summit which will begin tomorrow, there is much excitement and anticipation for the exchange of ideas. While the entrepreneurs look forward to guidance from seasoned start-up gurus, Fatih İşbecer adds, “I’m also looking forward for them to hear about what’s going on in Turkey.” He notes that it used to be that Turkish entrepreneurs, like those throughout emerging markets, could only learn from American talent. “Now they want to learn from us.”

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.”

Endeavor Entrepreneur Pamela Chávez-Crooker on attracting investment and scaling her Chilean biotech firm

Pamela Chávez-Crooker, founder of Aguamarina, recently spoke with the Latin America Venture Capital Association about how she took her biotech company from garage start-up to a go-to company for some of the world’s largest copper mines.

Find the full LACVA interview here.

LAVCA: When talking to investors, how do you describe Aguamarina?

Chávez-Crooker: Aguamarina SA is a biotechnology services company that combines industry expertise and innovative biotechnology to improve operational efficiency in mining.

LAVCA: Media attention surrounding recent mine collapses, including in Chile, has brought a lot of attention to the outdated extraction methods in mines that are potentially harmful to miners’ lives and the environment. How does Aguamarina address this problem?

Chávez-Crooker: We are currently focusing on the world’s main copper mines as clients and work with them to customize services that will address their main challenges in productivity and/or operations through biotechnology.

Biotechnology reduces the environmental impact of the operations by reducing contamination. Water is used in a more efficient way and we’ve developed processes so mines can reuse materials and water. In other words, we help produce a cleaner copper. We work in the areas of biocorrosion, bioleaching, bioremediation and water treatment.

We are able to do this by leveraging our expertise in microbiology and industry relationships to provide targeted research, diagnose problems and provide the technical services the client needs.

We believe there is a lot of work to be done over the next few years in order to build a more sustainable industry, and biotechnology provides a viable option to help the industry achieve this.

LAVCA: How did you come up with your business idea?

Chávez-Crooker: My scientific background allowed me to understand the main challenges to improving recovery and productivity for the copper mining industry. By identifying these challenges and understanding how biotechnology could help resolve obstacles, I knew we’d have an opportunity to scale up our own technologies more quickly than traditional methods. Aguamarina’s main investor, Juan Manuel Aguirre, brought practical business experience, which allowed the company to develop more quickly than if I had been trying to do it alone.

We started Aguamarina in my garage in 2007 and within a year moved to a bigger facility where we built a scientific lab. After another year, we built new offices and expanded the lab. Now we are fully operational and accelerating growth. Through Endeavor, I was able to present Aguamarina to a team from the Ross Business School, Michigan (MAP program), and they helped us to refine and build our business plan. Now, we are focusing on implementing the updated model with two technologies that we will be launching soon.

LAVCA: What sort of financing have you received thus far?

Chávez-Crooker: We attracted capital from a Chilean VC firm that has a new program focused on clean technology. We just signed a new partnership with them for 25% of the company for US$1.2M. We are very proud and excited about this.

LAVCA: How are you putting your latest round of funding to use?

Chávez-Crooker: Most of the money is being use as working capital. We are hiring a new CEO at the moment in order to improve our organizational structure, connectivity and oversee the overall business plan.

However, the investment will also continue to help us grow in other ways. We have started exporting to Peru, and I am looking to move to the United States in the next couple of years.

LAVCA: Why the US? Will you continue operations in Chile?

Chávez-Crooker: Yes, we would definitely like to keep our operations in Antofagasta. However, we’ve realized that Aguamarina is one of the top biotech companies in Chile, and having reached this level, there is a real opportunity to scale up very fast. To do so, we need to be connected to the main research centers in the world. Opening an office in US would help position us strategically to build these additional relationships.

LAVCA: What feedback have you received from investors about where to make improvements in your business model?

Chávez-Crooker: The input from investors has been very helpful. The first thing they recommended was to incorporate a CEO into the company, so I can focus on my responsibilities as Chief Technology Officer. This is really our main priority right now, in addition to finalizing the other two technologies we’re currently working on. We need someone who understands how to bring these technologies to market.

LAVCA: Can you tell us about some of the clients you are working with now? What do you see as your competitive advantage?

Chávez-Crooker: Aguamarina’s current clients in Chile represent some of the world’s largest mining companies, including CODELCO, Mineria Escondida, Compania Minera de Collahuasi, Minera El Abra, among others. We are located next to mines, which allows us to work closely with them on technological solutions. With our trained staff of experienced scientists, we are creating solutions that produce the cleanest and safest copper in the world.

LAVCA: As a scientist by training, what do you find most challenging about running a business? Do you have advice for other scientists with a business idea?

Chávez-Crooker: The day to day operations of running a company are new to me. Through Endeavor I have been able to connect and work with great professionals to help in the aspects of running a business where I have no experience. In addition, I am studying at the School of Business at the eCLass program of Universidad Adolfo Ibañez in Chile so I can prepare myself for the changes and challenges we will face as the company grows.

LAVCA: Where do you hope to see Aguamarina five years from now?

Chávez-Crooker: We see Aguamarina as a biotechnology developer for the world’s copper mining industry. We will have plants scaled up and a clear understanding of how much value we add to the operations, production, environment, health, safety and community.

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.

Washington, DC sixth-grade class interviews an Endeavor Entrepreneur

As part of their global studies curriculum during the 2010-2011 school year, students in Kimberly Clarkson’s 6th Grade class at Sidwell Friends Middle School in Washington, D.C. explored ideas related to entrepreneurship. Students participated in and reflected on online simulation activities, researched and discussed mission statements of established businesses, and learned about and experimented with developing basic business concepts, including options for funding and marketing. They learned about real entrepreneurs, ranging from students their own age to adults.

Part of the experience involved coming up with business concepts that interested them. According to Kimberly, some of the business ideas students proposed included: a cattle ranch where the manure is converted into a source of fuel; an internationally funded organization to buy back weapons from African militants and then melt them for other uses; a microcredit that used profits to fund charity organizations; an organization solely focused on providing comfort items (toys, books and games) to homeless children; a play zone where animals in shelters could be brought to have time away from their enclosures; and a charity which provided financial support to families who have lost wage-earning loved ones in the drug-related violence in Mexico. [Editor’s note: what an advanced sixth-grade class!] As a part of their year-end project, students proposed a social or environmental outreach business related to the country on which they had focused their research. As an example, this website was created by one student for her end-of-year proposal.

During the school year, Kimberly contacted Endeavor with a request to put her students in contact with an entrepreneur. The students composed a list of questions and were put in touch with Adolfo Rouillon, an Endeavor Entrepreneur (selected in 2000) and Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Argentina for 2011. The students’ questions and Adolfo’s answers are below. The class was thrilled to receive a response from an experienced and internationally recognized entrepreneur, and was inspired to sustain their entrepreneurial spirit in the future.

1. How did you get the idea for the type of business you started? What experience (something that happened or work background) did you have that motivated you to choose it?

My first company was a technology consulting firm. By 2001, we sold it to a big Mexican company called Neoris. We worked with Neoris for five years and by 2006 my business partner and I decided it was time to start a new company again, but we wanted to explore a different industry. We were interested in the food industry, so we started to research what was going on — the trends, challenges and opportunities. In 2007 we started Congelados del Sur was born, as a business which makes frozen food (from pizza to chicken nuggets) in Latin America.

2. Why did you choose this business over another business idea?

We thought there would be good opportunities for growth, as the food business faces serious challenges in the years to come. The combination of global population growth (9 billion people by 2025), a growing middle class (more than 900 million people by 2015), and limited natural resources calls for innovative solutions. Additionally, Latin America has great weather and growing conditions—all of the necessary factors to become a leading supplier of high-quality food products.

3. What or who were your inspirations?

We look to other successful businessmen who build huge companies from scratch, overcoming obstacles and difficulties. One of them is Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of the consumer electronics company Panasonic.

4. How did you choose a way to finance your business? With a bank loan, your own money or another alternative?

We started with our own money. After a year we had a business plan and were able to raise venture capital money and funds from private investors. In the beginning, it’s difficult to get bank loans.

5. How would you raise money to start your business if you were to start over?

I would start the business with my savings, and once I had a clear idea how much money I would need and for what, I would write a business plan.

6. How do you know when a business is a good investment and won’t end up bankrupt?

It’s impossible to know. An investor will look at three things: 1) a good management team, with a credible story and track record; 2) a clear business model in a big market; and 3) a billion dollar industry.

7. What are the disadvantages about being an entrepreneur verses having a “regular” job? Obviously there are advantages, but is there another side to the story?

For one thing, there’s a lot of uncertainty, and everything depends on you which is a big responsibility. Also, you give up the certainty of getting paid every week, since there’s no guarantee of a fixed salary at the beginning. And of course there’s other disadvantages, like a temptation to lose focus and needing to work on limited resources.

8. What age were you when you started your first business? How about your first successful business?

I was 17 years old when I started my first venture as a honey producer (harvesting my own honey) and at 19, I stated a clothing business producing t-shirts. At 23, after finishing my university studies in Business Administration, I started Amtec.net, a technology consulting firm that was very successful.

9. Do you make enemies or rivals in your business?

Of course you have competitors — it’s part of the game. But as a final thought, I love being an entrepreneur. It’s not for everyone, but if you have a big idea, there’s nothing more satisfying that making it happen.

Endeavor network member David Frazee on IP strategy in emerging markets

Recently, Endeavor Global Network Member David Frazee gave a presentation to Endeavor Global staff on common startup mistakes and IP strategy. This blog post is adapted from his presentation.

Endeavor Entrepreneurs often tell us they have no need for IP strategy; in their countries, IP enforcement is seen as comedy and filing for a patent is tantamount to handing your blueprints over to competition. David Frazee, a partner in the Palo Alto office of K&L Gates LLP, disagrees with this sentiment and argues that IP strategy is important regardless of your company’s location and size.

What is good IP strategy?

In thinking about intellectual property, many people conjure images of engineers hunched over esoteric designs corresponding with engineers at the U.S. Patent Office and doing the secret engineer handshake. David advocates an alternative vision of intellectual property, one that goes far beyond a company’s engineering team.

In David’s view, the legal question—What is patentable?—comes last when formulating an IP strategy. The first and more important question to ask is, What is really worth patenting? Implicit in the question is a business strategy perspective rather than a legal or even a technical perspective.

To determine what is really worth patenting, David suggests a process of competitive mapping in which members from diverse groups within a company get together for a brainstorming session. By asking three questions—What are we doing today? What are we not doing today? Could our invention apply in other fields?—a company can map out how its technology fits into the competitive landscape. Soliciting answers from everybody, from engineers to marketing personnel, guarantees that every innovation is viewed from multiple vantage points, and the cross-examination helps wring out maximum utility from each innovation. It’s a great team-building exercise and one that drives further innovation.

This is the real magic of the process: innovation changes from being technically delightful to being the platform for future growth. As for patents? They are the byproduct of this strategic process, and when the legal question finally arises—What is patentable?—cost-benefit analysis should be applied.

Pragmatic paranoia is advised

At Endeavor, we often hear from our entrepreneurs that the proper legal counsel required for pursuing sound IP strategy is prohibitively expensive. David’s Silicon Valley experiences tell a different story. Relative to the cost of making IP mistakes, legal counsel is cheap and the most cost-effective IP strategy is to start off on legally sound footing.

Early stage IP mistakes are surprisingly easy to make. In most non-U.S. countries, patent rights are forfeited from the first moment of public disclosure. Entrepreneurs should be aware of their country-specific regulations, but regardless of legal domicile, it is clear that IP mistakes made early in a company’s history can have dramatic repercussions.

Of course, not everything that can be patented should be patented. There are expensive patents and there are cheap patents. The expensive ones are those obtained for vanity’s sake, and the cheap ones are those that have withstood the strategic process mentioned above as well as rigorous cost-benefit analysis. The costs of filing for a patent are the same regardless of company size; this uniformity of cost bodes well for nimble startups, which can stake their ground and gain the attention of bigger players by filing strategically.

The bottom line? IP strategy is as relevant to an emerging market startup as basic business strategy—in fact, the two are inseparable. The beauty for emerging market entrepreneurs is that patents, along with their sometimes shoddy legal enforcement, are not integral to the process.

A&N Media makes first Latin American investment in Endeavor firm Socialmetrix

The press release below highlights Endeavor Entrepreneurs Gustavo Arjones, Juan Manuel Damia, and Martin Enriquez‘s social media analysis firm Socialmetrix, and is reprinted from Socialmetrix’s blog.

“Endeavor played a crucial role in helping us raise capital,” says Martin. “They were there throughout the entire process, from making introductions to supporting us as we structured the terms of our agreement.”

Martin first met the investor as an Endeavor candidate at an Endeavor Argentina breakfast event, prior to selection. He made several presentations to investors during the October 2010 Endeavor Tech Retreat in Silicon Valley. After this event, Socialmetrix received three investment proposals, eventually choosing A&N Media.

Congratulations to the Socialmetrix team!

Socialmetrix, the leading Social Media Analytics company in Latin America, today announced that A&N Media (A&N) had acquired a minority stake in the business.

A&N took the decision to invest having monitored Socialmetrix’s rapid growth across South America over the past two years.

Vivian Baring, Chairman of AN International Media said: “This is A&N Media’s first investment in Latin America. Socialmetrix is an exciting, cutting edge company, with a strong entrepreneurial team.

“Socialmetrix offers high quality products and services to both brands and agencies, which should enable it to continue its rapid growth. We look forward to working closely with the founders in driving the business forward.”

Socialmetrix was founded in 2008. The company specialises in analyzing online information in English, Spanish and Portuguese. It has partnerships with some of the biggest corporations, marketing and PR agencies in the world – helping them to understand what people are saying about their brands in the social media space.

The company has developed its own technology which, contrary to other products in their sector, is based on ontology matching rather than simple keyword counting.

Martín Enriquez, CEO of Socialmetrix, said: “We are delighted to welcome A&N Media’s investment and it is a real honour to be in partnership with them.

“We are confident that we will significantly benefit from A&N’s strategic added value. Its international coverage and extensive expertise in the technology and new media industries will play a pivotal role in expanding Socialmetrix’s reach and helping the company fulfil its considerable potential.

“The investment will directly finance the company’s international expansion, as well as an innovative and aggressive plan in product development.”

Socialmetrix offers two products. The first, Socialmetrix Echo, is a fully customizable solution that monitors not only the social media arena, but also traditional media online.

The second is Socialmetrix Brands, which monitors a pre-defined universe of brands across regions and industries, giving clients the ability to compare and analyze hundreds of brands in different languages and regions/countries.

Keys to a successful partnership: Video presentation by Endeavor Entrepreneur Wences Casares and business partner Micky Malka

Endeavor Entrepreneur and Endeavor Global Board Member Wences Casares, who this week is featured in Newsweek as a “Foreign-Born Job Creator,” recently delivered a talk on collaboration as part of The Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP) Entrepreneurship Corner, an online archive of entrepreneurship resources. Joining him was his long-time business partner, Meyer “Micky” Malka.

Click HERE to watch the full video or key excerpts, or to read a transcript of the talk. Or here to see the Stanford blog post.

The lecture is described as such: “The two are serial entrepreneurs who believe in the fundamental power of partnerships. Empowered by working in close collaboration for years, these co-founders have started multiple companies including Patagon, Lemon Bank and Bling Nation. In this lecture, Wences and Micky describe the value of over-communication, the decision process in making a pivot, and the challenges of entrepreneurial ecosystems outside the United States.”

Wences articulates that partnerships are the “core” of successful companies, and that often problems that arise — e.g., running out of money, a perceived bad market fit — stem from the dynamics between partners. When he and Micky advise companies and consider whether they should invest in them, they often discover more by hearing the story of the partnership than by looking at the spec sheets or numbers.

In discussing why their own partnership has been so sustainable and successful, they share lessons they have learned over the last thirteen years of doing business together.

A few excerpts:


The first night the two met, Micky had flown in from Venezuela. They were starting similar businesses in different countries. Over some beers, the two men got into a fight with someone else and they recall of the night, “something clicked there, some important factor about trust. There we were two guys who met the same day and even after that we were covering one another’s ass and trying to make it out of the place alive. And it has stuck with us.”


Wences: “In general I find a lot more success when the founding team has met and sort of chosen each other based on merit, in some meritocratic way. And maybe then because of the things that you go through together starting a company, you sort of have no choice about but become friends. Often the opposite is not true. When you start, when you see teams that started being friends and then they tried to also become good partners, it brings a yellow light — not a red one — but it’s harder. You have to make a number of decisions that are very hard to make with someone who you didn’t choose based on merit but who you chose based on friendship and attachment or emotion, etc. In our case, it happened by chance the other way around and we think that there is something to that. Becoming a partner starting with something that is based on merit that goes from there to friendship, that’s fine, but don’t go the other way around.”


Wences: “We have a lot of ego from the door out, but when we’re together, there is nothing like that. We leave it at the door. I still remember the shock, I left [for a sailing trip across the Pacific] as the CEO and I came back and Micky was the CEO. But all it took was a phone call to understand why it was the best decision. I never doubted that it was done in the best interest of our company. It’s a tricky thing because I believe that to be an entrepreneur, you need to have a high ego or at least a very strong conviction about what you do. It would be very hard to be an entrepreneur with a low ego, I don’t know if that’s possible. So like Micky says, from the door outwards, you need to have a very, high strong ego, strong conviction but between the partners I think a low ego is a requirement. A good partnership cannot work without that. Sometimes you see a partnership when one of the two partners is OK not taking the credit. I think it’s healthier when neither of the partners really cares who takes it, as long as the partnership is successful.”


Wences: “It’s being able to communicate more than average. I mean we, we overcommunicate. It’s the way to have a very coherent think-through process. We had times where we were overcommunicating. We were going for lunch everyday just the two of us and going over all the issues that we had in our minds that we wanted to bounce back and forth to make decisions on, etc. And at one point as it all got larger I said, ‘Hey Micky, you know what? Why don’t we start going to lunch. You go with some people and I’ll go with another group. It would probably be good that we don’t do this lunch you and I alone. It would be very helpful that we use lunch to spend time with the rest of the team.’ And, also at the same time we had our desks in an open office but together and I said to put them on opposite ends. And it was a disaster of an experiment. In less than three months we were back to having the lunches just the two of us and the desks together again. We tried to figure out why it didn’t work. You have to feel like one, and for that you have to be really overcommunicated. Also, when we have issues between us — and we have tons of them — that they don’t become public and open to the organization. It’s not a matter of secrecy and not being transparent, it’s sort of the opposite. It is because it would be a problem for people to understand what to do, who to follow. When it’s outward facing we show one face, that we agree. And if there’s something we don’t agree on, it would be very, very counterproductive to the partnership to show those sort of different faces. The organization doesn’t know what to do with that. Acting as one, we think it’s super important and it requires overcommunicating to the point where it can be funny.”

HBS professor and Endeavor Global Network member William Sahlman transforms leaders into entrepreneurs

Harvard Business School professor, Endeavor Global Network member, and Endeavor Global Advisory Board Emeritus member William Sahlman shared his strategies for transforming future business leaders into entrepreneurs in a recent Forbes article. Through case studies in his Entrepreneurial Finance class, Sahlman teaches students about what he considers to be the core concepts of entrepreneurship:

• Finding an opportunity
• Marshalling the resources needed to capture the opportunity
• Executing
• Exiting

Of course, nothing is ever as simple as it sounds, but Sahlman emphasizes that he wants students to understand that entrepreneurship is a process they can (and should) learn. Sahlman invites the subjects of the case studies to join his classes and answer students’ questions, hoping that exploring entrepreneurial sucesses and failures will help students envision themselves managing like an entrepreneur.

Over the years Sahlman has been a leading advocate for High-Impact Entrepreneurship, co-authoring and teaching three Harvard Business School case studies about Endeavor: “The Endeavor Initiative” (2001); “Endeavor—Determining a Growth Strategy” (2003); and “Endeavor: Creating a Global Movement for High-Impact Entrepreneurship” (2009).

Recently, he also moderated a panel on global entrepreneurship and venture capital’s role in emerging markets, in which Endeavor’s Co-founder and CEO Linda Rottenberg participated.

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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