High-Impact Entrepreneurship

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Endeavor Jordan Hosts Second Annual “Catalyzing Conversations” Event with Top Members of the Global Network

Endeavor Jordan hosted the second annual ‘Catalyzing Conversations’ event in collaboration with the 59th Endeavor International Selection Panel in Amman. ‘Catalyzing Conversations’ is a multi-tiered event featuring a series of interactive and motivational discussions with business leaders, entrepreneurs […]

June 30th, 2015 — by admin

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Endeavor Greece Research Spotlights Local Entrepreneurship Scene; Featured in The New York Times and BloombergTV

Endeavor Greece recently released findings in an infographic highlighting  the nation’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene, the rise in local startups, and the influx of both domestic and foreign investment capital. With ventures in the ICT sector dominating, […]

March 25th, 2014 — by admin

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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.

Video: Didem Altop, Endeavor Turkey Managing Director, discusses the art, science and mindfulness of the entrepreneurship journey

Didem Altop, Endeavor Turkey‘s Managing Director, spoke as part of a series of TurkishWIN (Turkish Women’s International Network), a global networking platform for women with family, cultural or professional ties to Turkey. In her 24-minute presentation, she discusses the art, science and mindfulness aspects of the entrepreneurship journey — particularly for women entrepreneurs. Watch the full video HERE.

With an audience of entrepreneurial, international women, Didem speaks first about “third culture kids.” Drawing on her experience as a Turkish-American growing up in the United States, she notes that her dual cultural identity — e.g., attending Fourth-of-July barbecue picnics that included traditional Turkish foods and dance, and now living in Turkey celebrating Thanksgiving with Turkey — helped foster a sense of adaptability and flexibility.

She articulates that “third-culture kids” are particularly well-suited to entrepreneurialism as they have the “amazing perspective of comparison” and a “huge advantage in identifying opportunity” — and because they are adept at “seeking like-minded people,” as Didem herself did at Johns Hopkins University and at Carnegie Mellon. The “third culture kid” feeling, she says, leads to a sense of being simultaneously comfortable everywhere and nowhere, and produces the drive to create something and be proactive, which are essential entrepreneurial traits.

She compares building a company, starting a venture, to building a community and family, which is something that “third-culture kids” and women, do naturally. Elaborating on why women are natural entrepreneurs, she says that they are inherently:

– dreamers;
– multi-taskers;
– boot-strappers;
– nurturers;
– ego-managers;
– self-improvers; and
– networkers.

She explains why these qualities translate to good businesswomen and also acknowledges the flip side of these attributes. The most successful businesses must be at once personally significant and also have a clear audience. As part of the art of entrepreneurship (as opposed to the science of it), women must be mindful, “listen, ask, internalize and repeat,” and learn to accept the realities of their situation before they can adapt, come up with alternatives and a subsequent action plan and move on.

Didem expresses that women must also embrace the realities of business — needing to be a capable leader, and understanding basic financing and cash flow management. She talks about the need to plan a business from the bottom up, finding the first customer and then the second. Lastly, she emphasizes the importance of “digesting risk” and recommends having the confidence to hire the smartest, most talented people available. The presentation also explains the relevance of the Endeavor network and the opportunities opened up by becoming part of what Didem calls the Endeavor “tribe.”

Linda Rottenberg discusses Endeavor’s experience and future in Latin America

Recently the magazine Alternative Latin Investor interviewed Endeavor CEO & Co-Founder Linda Rottenberg. Click HERE to read the full article [note: requires free registration].

In the interview, Linda discusses her motivation for starting Endeavor, and what Endeavor has done for those trying to start businesses in Latin America. She notes:

“Before Endeavor the word entrepreneurship was not in the dictionary in Portuguese, Spanish or Arabic. Endeavor Entrepreneurs did not know they were entrepreneurs until they entered the Endeavor Search & Selection process. We’ve come far in thirteen years since the Argentine taxi cab driver with a PHD in physics inquired ‘How can I possibly start my own company when I don’t even have a garage?'”

In sharing her expertise, Linda notes the particular importance of High-Impact Entrepreneurship: “Historically in most economies it is only a small number of high-impact, high-growth entrepreneurs that create the vast majority of new jobs.” From there she describes how Endeavor tailors its efforts to supporting truly promising companies that think BIG as well as its continuing role in supporting High-Impact Entrepreneurs in Latin America by providing access to mentors, networks and role models.

Endeavor Mentor of 2011 (Global) nominees announced

Congratulations to the 12 nominees for Endeavor Mentor of 2011 (Global), to be revealed at our Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit later this month! The list of nominees reflect some of those Endeavor Network Members –- based in the United States or Europe –- who have best embodied the spirit of Endeavor and had the highest impact over the past 12 months through a combination of mentoring Endeavor Entrepreneurs, participating in the network, and supporting and guiding Endeavor’s continued growth. A big congratulations to all the nominees.

Mike Ahearn (Phoenix)
Managing Partner, True North Venture Partners
Endeavor Global Board Member

Mike Ahearn is Managing Partner at True North Venture Partners, a venture capital company that invests in early stage innovative businesses addressing some of the world’s most challenging problems in areas such as energy, water, agriculture and waste. He also serves as Chairman of the Board of First Solar, where he served as CEO from 2000 to 2009. Mike serves on Endeavor’s Global Board of Directors and as a mentor to Enrique Gómez Junco of Optima Energia (Mexico). This past year Mike spoke at Endeavor Mexico’s CEO Summit. He has served as a panelist at International Selection Panels (ISPs) in Brazil, California and Mexico.

Gina Bianchini (Silicon Valley)
Founder & CEO, Untitled
Endeavor Global Advisory Board Member

Gina Bianchini is the Co-Founder and former CEO of Ning, the largest social platform for interests and passions in the world. She led Ning from its inception in 2004 to its current position as an exponentially growing top 100 global website with over 46 million members and 90 million unique visitors per month. In March 2010, Gina left Ning to join Andreessen Horowitz as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence and is now starting a new company. Gina is a member of Endeavor’s Global Advisory Board, spoke at the California Tech Retreat, and served as a panelist at ISPs in Mexico and Turkey.

Juan Pablo Cappello (Miami)
Principal Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig LLP, PE & VC Latin America
Endeavor Global Advisory Board Member

Juan Pablo Cappello is senior partner at Greenberg Traurig, a Miami based international law firm. His practice focuses on financing transactions in emerging markets. Previously, he was the Executive VP, Corporate Secretary, and General Counsel of Patagon, an international financial institution with retail brokerage. Juan Pablo often speaks at international conferences on the structuring of international business transactions and cross-border investments. Juan Pablo was a Panelist at the ISP in Brazil, attended the Endeavor Chile Retiro and frequently meets with Endeavor Entrepreneurs visiting his hometown of Miami.

Wences Casares (Silicon Valley)
Co-CEO, Bling Nation
Endeavor Global Board Member; Endeavor Entrepreneur (Class of 1998)

Wences Casares is a true Endeavor success story, launching multiple successful ventures since being selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur in 1998. He is currently co-CEO of Bling Nation, a mobile payments company based in Palo Alto. Wences serves on Endeavor’s Global Board of Directors, was a panelist at the California ISP, frequently mentors entrepreneurs from Latin America visiting Silicon Valley, and co-organized a trip of 50+ Silicon Valley founders, executives and investors to Brazil, Chile and Argentina in May 2011.

David Frazee (Silicon Valley)
Partner, K&L Gates LLP

David Frazee is a partner in the Palo Alto office of K&L Gates, where he represents innovative technology companies, entrepreneurs, and funds, helping them to succeed through the creation and execution of comprehensive international corporate, business, finance, and IP strategies. Using his experience as a former Silicon Valley startup entrepreneur, David has donated countless hours to mentoring Endeavor Entrepreneurs at all stages – including a self-designed week-long mentoring trip to Argentina and Uruguay in April 2011. He was a panelist at ISPs in South Africa, Mexico and London.

Matt Harris (New York)
Co-Founder & Managing General Partner, Village Ventures

Matt Harris is the co-founder and Managing General Partner of Village Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm with over $175m under management. Matt left Bain Capital in 1997 to become the founding Managing Director of The Berkshires Capital Investors, a venture capital fund associated with Williams College. Under Matt’s leadership, BCI’s first fund of $5 million invested in 12 companies, with eight successful exits to date. Matt has mentored Fatih Işbecer from Pozitron (Turkey) and was a panelist at ISPs in Egypt and London.

Shari Loessberg (Boston)
Entrepreneurship Faculty, MIT Sloan School of Management

Shari Loessberg is an experienced entrepreneur with expertise in emerging markets. Since 1999, she has taught at the MIT Sloan School of Management about venture capital and emerging market entrepreneurship, including leading MIT’s Global Entrepreneurship Lab (G-Lab), a key partner for Endeavor’s Entrepreneur Services. Outside of MIT, Shari founded and runs Big World, which focuses on startups in the financial services sector in emerging markets. Shari serves as a director of National Financial Partners and several tech start-ups. Shari is quite active with Endeavor through the G-Lab program, spoke at the inaugural Endeavor Investor Network event in Brazil, and was a panelist at ISPs in Egypt and Mexico.

John McIntire (New York)
Principal, Nexstar Capital Partners & Chairman, Open English
Endeavor Global Advisory Board Member

John McIntire is a Principal of Nexstar Capital Partners, a New York-based fund focused on Latin American credit and private equity. He retired in 2004 as a Partner at Goldman Sachs, where he spent 12 years focused on Latin America. During his last four years he led all of the Latin American activities of the firm, a portfolio of financial businesses with over $400 million in revenue. Prior to Goldman, John spent seven years at Credit Suisse/First Boston and five years at Chase Manhattan Bank. John serves as the Chairman of Open English, an online English teaching venture targeting the Spanish-speaking world. He is a member of the Council of the Americas and is active in policy initiatives and humanitarian work benefitting his native Cuba. John is a member of the Executive Committee of Endeavor’s Global Advisory Board and served as a Panelist at ISPs in Brazil and Mexico.

Roberto Muller (New York)
CEO & Founder, The Muller Sports Group

Recognized as one of the most innovative and successful leaders in sports, media, and product marketing, Roberto Muller created and was the first CEO of Pan-American Sports Network, which became Latin America’s most watched cable sports network. Previously, Roberto was the president of Reebok and was instrumental in taking the company from a women’s fitness brand to a worldwide diversified performance sports brand. Prior to Reebok, he founded PONY Sports and Leisure, developing products for professional athletes. He has been a mentor to Oscar Fuenzalida & Ricardo Duch from Doggis (Chile) and participated in the Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness in Latin America (ECLA) program put on by Endeavor and Columbia Business School in New York City.

Diego Piacentini (Seattle)
Senior Vice President – International, Amazon.com
Endeavor Global Advisory Board Member

Diego Piacentini has served as Senior Vice President International since joining Amazon.com in February 2000 and is a member of the Amazon executive team; he is responsible for all international retail operations. Previously, Diego was Vice President and General Manager of Apple Computer Europe. An Italian national, he has traveled and worked extensively across Europe, Asia, and North America. A member of Endeavor’s Global Advisory Board, Diego has mentored over a dozen Endeavor Entrepreneurs, including frequent sessions with the founders of Betazeta (Chile) and Minha Vida (Brazil).
He has spoken at Endeavor events in several countries and was a panelist at ISPs in Chile, Brazil and London.

Ariel Poler (San Francisco)
Angel Investor

Ariel is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor. He is currently the CEO of TextMarks, and has been involved with a number of successful internet start-ups, including roles as founder and CEO of Topica, founding board member of Kana Software and founding Chairman of LinkExchange. Ariel currently serves on the board of directors of Bills.com, LOLapps and SpeedDate. He was a speaker at Endeavor’s California Tech Retreat, a mentor to the founders of Arizona (Brazil), part of the Mentor Capital Program (MCP) and a panelist at the ISP in California. Ariel frequently meets for mentoring breakfasts with Endeavor Entrepreneurs visiting San Francisco.

Joanna Rees (San Francisco)
Founder & Managing Partner, VSP Capital
Endeavor Global Board Member

Joanna Rees is a candidate for mayor of San Francisco. She is the Founder and Managing Partner of VSP Capital, where she raised and managed more than $400 million. Joanna focuses on consumer technology and marketing software & services investments. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Posit Science, Branders.com, AccountNow and QuinStreet. She has served on the board of more than 20 venture backed startup companies as well as numerous non-profits. In addition to managing investments, Joanna also serves as Chairman of the USA for Madrid-based FON, the world’s largest WiFi community. Joanna is an Adjunct Professor in the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University where she teaches Leadership. She is a member of Endeavor’s Global Board of Directors, was a panelist at ISPs in Egypt and Turkey, and graciously hosted the Endeavor California team for its first 18 months of operation at her San Francisco offices.

100 rules for being an entrepreneur – by investor and entrepreneur James Altucher

James Altucher is a professional trader, investor and entrepreneur. With a degree in computer science from Cornell University, he built and founded StockPickr, which sold to TheStreet.com in 2007, in addition to starting other websites. Through his experience and insight, Altucher began to write about the industry, serving as a weekly columnist for the Financial Times and other financial publications. He has also authored four books: Trade Like a Hedge Fund, Trade Like Warren Buffet, Supercash, and The Forever Portfolio.

Altucher currently works as a hedge fund manager and columnist for the Wall Street Journal and writes a popular blog, The Altucher Confidential: Ideas for a World Out of Balance,” from which this post is reprinted with the author’s permission.

If you Google “entrepreneur” you get a lot of mindless cliches like “Think Big!” For me, being an “entrepreneur” doesn’t mean starting the next “Faceook”. Or even starting any business at all. It means finding the challenges you have in your ife, and determining creative ways to overcome those challenges. However, in this post I focus mostly on the issues that come up when you first start your company. These rules also apply if you are taking an entrepreneurial stance within a much larger company (which all employees should do).

For me, I’ve started several businesses. As I’ve described in the rest of this blog, some have succeeded, many have failed. I’m invested in about 13 private companies. I’ve advised probably another 50 private companies. Along the way I’ve compiled a list of rules that have helped me deal with every aspect of being an entrepreneur in business and some in life.

Here’s the real rules:

A) It’s not fun. I’m not going to explain why it’s not fun. These are rules. Not theories. I don’t need to prove them. But there’s a strong chance you can hate yourself throughout the process of being an entrepreneur. Keep sharp objects and pills away during your worst moments. And you will have them. If you are an entrepreneur and agree with me, please note this in the comments below.

B) Try not to hire people. You’ll have to hire people to expand your business. But it’s a good discipline to really question if you need each and every hire.

C) Get a customer. This seems obvious. But it’s not. Get a customer before you start your business, if you can.

D) If you are offering a service, call it a product. Oracle did it. They claimed they had a database. But if you “bought” their database they would send in a team of consultants to help you “install” the database to fit your needs. In other words, for the first several years of their existence, they claimed to have a product but they really were a consulting company. Don’t forget this story. Products are valued higher than services.

E) It’s OK to fail. Start over. Hopefully before you run out of money. Hopefully before you take in investor money. Or, don’t worry about it. Come up with new ideas. Start over.

F) Be profitable. Try to be profitable immediately. This seems obvious but it isn’t. Try not to raise money. That money is expensive.

G) When raising money: if it’s not easy then your idea is probably incapable of raising money. If its easy, then take as much as possible. If its TOO easy, then sell your company (unless you are Twitter, etc).

H) The same goes for selling your company. If it’s not easy, then you need to build more. Then sell. To sell your company, start getting in front of your acquirers a year in advance. Send them monthly updates describing your progress. Then, when they need a company like yours, your company is the first one that comes to mind.

I) Competition is good. It turns you into a killer. It helps you judge progress. It shows that other people value the space you are in. Your competitors are also your potential acquirors.

J) Don’t use a PR firm. Except maybe as a secretary. You are the PR for your company. You are your companys brand. You personally.

K) Communicate with everyone. Employees. Customers. Investors. All the time. Every day.

L) Do everything for your customers. This is very important. Get them girlfriends or boyfriends. Speak at their charities. Visit their parents for Thanksgiving. Help them find other firms to meet their needs. Even introduce them to your competitors if you think a competitor can help them or if you think you are about to be fired. Always think first, “What’s going to make my customer happy?”

M) Your customer is not a company. There’s a human there. What will make my human customer happy? Make him laugh. You want your customer to be happy.

N) Show up. Go to breakfast/lunch/dinner with customers. Treat.

O) History. Know the history of your customers in every way. Company history, personal history, marketing history, investing history, etc.

P) Micro-manage software development. Nobody knows your product better than you do. If you aren’t a technical person, learn how to be very specific in your product specification so that your programmers can’t say: “well you didn’t say that!”

Q) Hire local. You need to be able to see and talk to your programmers. Don’t outsource to India. I love India. But I won’t hire programmers from there while I’m living in the US.

R) Sleep. Don’t buy into the 20 hours a day entrepreneur myth. You need to sleep 8 hours a day to have a focused mind.

S) Exercise. Same as above. If you are unhealthy, your product will be unhealthy.

T) Emotionally Fit. DON’T have dating problems and software development problems at the same time. VCs will smell this all over you.

U) Pray. You need to. Be grateful where you are. And pray for success. You deserve it. Pray for the success of your customers. Heck, pray for the success of your competitors. The better they do, it means the market is getting bigger. And if one of them breaks out, they can buy you.

V) Buy your employees gifts. Massages. Tickets. Whatever. I always imagined that at the end of each day my young, lesbian employees (for some reason, most employees at my first company were lesbian) would be calling their parents and their mom and dad would ask them: “Hi honey! How was your day today?” And I wanted them to be able to say: “It was the best!” Invite customers to masseuse day.

W) Treat your employees like they are your children. They need boundaries. They need to be told “no!” sometimes. And sometimes you need to hit them in the face (ha ha, just kidding). But within boundaries, let them play.

X) Don’t be greedy pricing your product. If your product is good and you price it cheap, people will buy. Then you can price upgrades, future products, and future services more expensive. Which goes along with the next rule.

Y) Distribution is everything. Branding is everything. Get your name out there, whatever it takes. The best distribution is of course word of mouth, which is why your initial pricing doesn’t matter.

Z) Don’t kill yourself. It’s not worth it. Your employees need you. Your children or future children need you. It seems odd to include this in a post about entrepreneurship but we’re also taking about keeping it real. Most books or “rules” for entrepreneurs talk about things like “think big”, “go after your dreams”. But often dreams turn into nightmares. I’ll repeat it again. Don’t kill yourself. Call me if things get too stressful. Or more importantly, make sure you take proper medication

AA) Give employees structure. Let each employee know how his or her path to success can be achieved. All of them will either leave you or replace you eventually. That’s OK. Give them the guidelines how that might happen. Tell them how they can get rich by working for you.

BB) Fire employees immediately. If an employee gets “the disease” he needs to be fired. If they ask for more money all the time. If they bad mouth you to other employees. If you even think they are talking behind your back, fire them. The disease has no cure. And it’s very contagious. Show no mercy. Show the employee the door. There are no second chances because the disease is incurable.

CC) Make friends with your landlord. If you ever have to sell your company, believe it or not, you are going to need his signature (because there’s going to be a new lease owner)

DD) Only move offices if you are so packed in that employees are sharing desks and there’s no room for people to walk.

EE) Have killer parties. But use your personal money. Not company money. Invite employees, customers, and investors. It’s not the worst thing in the world to also invite off duty prostitutes or models.

FF) If an employee comes to you crying, close the door or take him or her out of the building. Sit with him until it stops. Listen to what he has to say. If someone is crying then there’s been a major communication breakdown somewhere in the company. Listen to what it is and fix it. Don’t get angry at the culprit’s. Just fix the problem.

GG) At Christmas, donate money to every customer’s favorite charity. But not for investors or employees.

HH) Have lunch with your competitors. Listen and try not to talk. One competitor (Bill Markel from Interactive once told me a story about how the CEO of Toys R Us returned his call. He was telling me this because I never returned Bill’s calls. Ok, Bill, lesson noted.

II) Ask advice a lot. Ask your customers advice on how you can be introduced into other parts of their company. Then they will help you. Because of the next rule…

JJ) Hire your customers. Or not. But always leave open the possibility. Let it always dangle in the air between you and them. They can get rich with you. Maybe. Possibly. If they play along. So play.

KK) On any demo or delivery, do one extra surprise thing that was not expected. Always add bells and whistles that the customer didn’t pay for.

LL) Understand the demographic changes that are changing the world. Where are marketing dollars flowing and can you be in the middle. What services do aging baby boomers need? Is the world running out of clean water? Are newspapers going to survive? Etc. Etc. Read every day to understand what is going on.

LLa) Don’t go to a lot of parties or “meetups” with other entrepreneurs. Work instead while they are partying.

MM) But, going along with the above rule, don’t listen to the doom and gloomers that are hogging the TV screen trying to tell you the world is over. They just want you to be scared so they can scoop up all the money.

NN) You have no more free time. In your free time you are thinking of new ideas for customers, new ideas for services to offer, new products.

OO) You have no more free time, part 2. In your free time, think of ideas for potential customers. Then send them emails: “I have 10 ideas for you. Would really like to show them to you. I think you will be blown away. Here’s five of them right now.”

OOa) Depressions, recessions, don’t matter. There’s $15 trillion in the economy. You’re allowed a piece of it:

PP) Talk. Tell everyone you ever knew  what your company does. Your friends will help you find clients.

QQ) Always take someone with you to a meeting. You’re bad at following up. Because you have no free time. So, if you have another employee. Let them follow up. Plus, they will like to spend time with the boss. You’re going to be a mentor.

RR) If you are consumer focused: your advertisers are your customers. But always be thinking of new services for your consumers. Each new service has to make their life better. People’s lives are better if: they become healthier, richer, or have more sex. “Health” can be broadly defined.

SS) If your customers are advertisers: find sponsorship opportunities for them that drive customers straight into their arms. These are the most lucrative ad deals (see rule above). Ad inventory is a horrible business model. Sponsorships are better. Then you are talking to your customer.

TT) No friction. The harder it is for a consumer to sign up, the less consumers you will have. No confirmation emails, sign up forms, etc. The easier the better.

TTa) No fiction, part 2. If you are making a website, have as much content as you can on the front page. You don’t want people to have to click to a second or third page if you can avoid it. Stuff that first page with content. You aren’t Google. (And, 10 Unusual Things You Didn’t Know About Google)

UU) No friction, part 3. Say “yes” to any opportunity that gets you in a room with a big decision maker. Doesn’t matter if it costs you money.

VV) Sell your company two years before you sell it. Get in the offices of the potential buyers of your company and start updating them on your progress every month.  Ask their advice on a regular basis in the guise of just an “industry catch-up”

WW) If you sell your company for stock, sell the stock as soon as you can. If you are selling your company for stock it means:

a. The market is such that lots of companies are being sold for stock.
b. AND, companies are using stock to buy other companies because they value their stock less than they value cash.
c. WHICH MEANS, that when everyone’s lockup period ends, EVERYONE will be selling stock across the country. So sell yours first.

XX) Ideas are worthless. If you have an idea worth pursuing, then just make it. You can build any website for cheap. Hire a programmer and make a demo. Get at least one person to sign up and use your service. If you want to make Facebook pages for plumbers, find one plumber who will give you $10 to make his Facebook page. Just do it.

YY) Don’t use a PR firm, part II. Set up a blog. Tell your personal stories (see “33 tips to being a better writer” ). Let the customer know you are human, approachable, and have a real vision as to why they need to use you. Become the voice for your industry, the advocate for your products. If you make skin care products, tell your customers every day how they can be even more beautiful than they currently are and have more sex than they are currently getting. Blog your way to PR success. Be honest and bloody.

ZZ) Don’t save the world. If your product sounds too good to be true, then you are a liar.

ZZa) Your company is always for sale.

AAA) Frame the first check. I’m staring at mine right now.

BBB) No free time, part 3. Pick a random customer. Find five ideas for them that have nothing to do with your business. Call them and say, “I’ve been thinking about you. Have you tried this?”

CCC) No resale deals. Nobody cares about reselling your service. Those are always bad deals.

DDD) Your lawyer or accountant is not going to introduce you to any of their other clients. Those meetings are always a waste of time.

EEE) Celebrate every success. Your employees need it. They need a massage also. Get a professional masseuse in every Friday afternoon. Nobody leaves a job where there is a masseuse.

FFF) Sell your first company. Don’t take any chances. You don’t need to be Mark Zuckerberg. Sell your first company as quick as you can. You now have money in the bank and a notch on your belt. Make a billion on your next company.

GGG) Pay your employees before you pay yourself.

HHH) Give equity to get the first customer. If you have no product yet and no money, then give equity to a good partner in exchange for them being a paying customer.  Note: don’t blindly give equity. If you develop a product that someone asked for, don’t give them equity. Sell it to them. But if you want to get a big distribution partner whose funds can keep you going forever, then give equity to nail the deal.

III) Don’t worry about anyone stealing your ideas. Ideas are worthless anyway. It’s OK to steal something that’s worthless.

Endeavor Mentor of 2011 (Emerging Markets) nominees announced

Congratulations to the nine nominees for the Endeavor Mentor of 2011 (Emerging Markets) Award, to be revealed at our Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit later this month! These nominations recognize some of the Endeavor network members –- based in the emerging markets where Endeavor operates –- who have most embodied the spirit of Endeavor and had the highest impact over the past 12 months through a combination of mentoring Endeavor Entrepreneurs, participating in the network, and supporting and guiding Endeavor’s continued growth. A big congratulations to all the nominees.

Nicolas Szekasy
MercadoLibre.com (Argentina)

Since helping take MercadoLibre.com (an Endeavor company) public as its CFO in 2009, Nicolas Szekasy has been supporting entrepreneurs in the internet startup space as an investor and board member. He is a member of the Endeavor Argentina board, an Entrepreneur Services Committee member, and a well-respected mentor, advising Endeavor Entrepreneurs on strategy definition and execution, general management, finance, M&A, and team building.

Edson Rigonatti
Astella Investimentos (Brazil)

Edson Rigonatti is one of the most engaged mentors for Endeavor Brazil, donating more than 60 hours in 2010. Not only does he have a close relationship with many of the entrepreneurs, he is also engaged in internal strategic discussions, especially in Search and Selection and Entrepreneur Services, helping to train the team, add structure to the departments and improve Endeavor Brazil’s services. Edson actively participates in Endeavor events and programs such as the Gala Dinner and CEO Summit, and has spoken at several workshops and classes in Brazil’s Outreach and Education programs. Edson is also one of the first Brazilian members of Endeavor’s recently launched Investor Network.

Eduardo Novoa
Novoa Inversiones (Chile)

Eduardo Novoa is an independent consultant and a Board Member for Soquimich & Mainstream Renewable Power. He has held positions in business development, corporate strategy, and asset management at a number of Chilean and multinational companies. Eduardo joined Endeavor Chile’s Advisory Board in 2007. He spends countless hours mentoring Endeavor Entrepreneurs and is one of the creators of the high impact “Endeavor (YPO) Forum”. In the months following the earthquake in Chile in 2010, Eduardo and a group of Endeavor Entrepreneurs and Venturecorps members raised over US$1 million to support the reconstruction of the area, by far the most important social impact achieved in the history of Endeavor Chile.

Diego Garzon
Azurian (Colombia)

Diego Garzon is a partner at Azurian, a regional IT consulting firm. In 2010, Diego donated more than 80 hours to Endeavor Colombia, assisting with Search and Selection and Entrepreneur Services. Diego has been particularly committed to supporting Endeavor Entrepreneur Felipe Vergara of Lumni, leading meetings of the company’s technology advisory committee twice a month, and even traveling to Mexico to support Lumni’s expansion and growth.

Marianne Hesni
Hesni Group (Egypt)

Marianne Hesni is CFO of the Hesni Group, one of the leading companies in Egypt’s textile industry, and a long time Endeavor mentor. She recently became the first member of the country’s VentureCorps to join the Board of Endeavor Egypt. She is an active participant in local panels, roundtables, and events and is planning on attending the upcoming International Selection Panel (ISP) in Jordan.

Julio Gutiérrez
Grupo Metiz (Mexico)

In 2010, Julio donated 128 hours to Endeavor Mexico, more than any other Endeavor Mexico mentor. In addition to being a member of Endeavor Mexico’s Advisory Board, he serves on the advisory boards of four Endeavor Entrepreneur companies: Grupo MYT; Procesa Chiapas; Maskota; and Chilim Balam. He was a panelist at the International Selection Panel (ISP) in Chile and has offered his time in 46 Second Opinion Reviews and Mentoring Sessions since 2009. He is Endeavor Mexico’s Mentor of the Year for 2010.

Tanya Petzer
Engineer Your Tomorrow (South Africa)

Engineer Your Tomorrow (EYT) is a Talent Management and Organizational Culture Consultancy that has facilitated HR Peer Mentorship Sessions for Endeavor companies in South Africa. Tanya Petzer, a partner at EYT, has played a key role in facilitating these meetings since November 2009. With her guidance, HR professionals have found ways to engage with top management at their firms to bring HR to the forefront in important decisions. Endeavor Entrepreneurs have highlighted Tanya’s leadership in these meetings, which have allowed directors to engage in a dialogue about challenges they are facing at their respective firms. They have praised Tanya for helping them link HR-related issues to the core values and objectives of their overall business.

Ziya Boyacigiller
Angel Investor (Turkey)

Ziya Boyacigiller is an entrepreneur and investor who makes early-stage investments in technology start-ups—in Silicon Valley and Istanbul—and works with founding teams to help them grow their companies. He lectures MBA students on Entrepreneurship at Sabanci University in Istanbul. Ziya is currently on the advisory boards of three Endeavor companies in Turkey. Has been coaching the Endeavor Turkey team on developing a new TV program and can be found in their office every other week, meeting with entrepreneurs or with the staff. He is a nationally recognized entrepreneur and entrepreneurship advocate.

Andrés Cerisola
Ferrere (Uruguay)

Andrés Cerisola is partner of Ferrere, one of the most important Uruguayan lawyers’ groups. He has been a member of Endeavor Uruguay’s Board of Directors since 2007 and is very committed to Endeavor’s mission. In 2010, he donated many hours as a mentor in his home country, and actively participated in the most recent International Selection Panels (ISPs) in Mexico and London, representing Endeavor Uruguay and its entrepreneurs.

Endeavor Entrepreneur of 2011 nominees announced

Congratulations to the nine entrepreneurs nominated for our Endeavor Entrepreneur of 2011 Award, to be revealed at our Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit later this month! These nominations recognize some of the Endeavor Entrepreneurs who have most embodied the spirit of Endeavor and had the highest impact over the past 12 months through a combination of growing his/her company, participating in the network, and giving back to Endeavor.

Rodolfo Montes de Oca and Patricio Miranda
Zott Producciones (Argentina)

The brainchild of childhood friends Rodolfo and Patricio, Zott Producciones exports innovative high-quality corporate promotional products to more than 40 countries. Zott has produced over 100 million products while building a reputation for efficiency, quality, and social responsibility. Zott generates $25 million in revenues and has more than 120 employees. Patricio and Rodolfo have given back to Endeavor in time and in-kind, speaking at conferences, participating in the selection process, and printing Endeavor Argentina’s annual Impact Reports free of charge.

Leila Velez
Beleza Natural (Brazil)

Leila and her co-founder opened the first Beleza Natural salon in 1993, aiming to give underserved women an affordable way to feel “naturally beautiful.” The franchise currently includes 26 salons in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Beleza Natural has also developed a line of hair care products, operates a cosmetic research lab and maintains partnerships with several universities. Since selection by Endeavor, Beleza Natural has increased employment by 214%. The company is in the top 5 Endeavor Brazil companies in terms of revenue and has excellent market foresight, targeting the fastest growing segment of the population in Brazil. Leila has helped Endeavor Brazil at several events, including the Endeavor Entrepreneur Annual Retreat, Gala Dinner, CEO Summit (which she attended as a speaker), and the Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness in Latin America program. She is also a columnist for Endeavor Brazil’s website and was one of the first entrepreneurs to teach in their education program.

Juan Carlos de la Llera
SIRVE (Chile)

SIRVE designs, produces and implements devices that protect structures from damage caused by earthquakes. When SIRVE-equipped buildings withstood the fifth-strongest earthquake ever recorded, SIRVE’s projects tripled. Today, the company is ready to capitalize on the estimated US$300 million seismic protection devices and services market. SIRVE’s significant investment in R&D and its ability to both develop and implement superior technology at a lower cost separates it from its competition. Juan Carlos has been a role model to an entire generation of engineers and entrepreneurs, showing how excellence in creating a better and safer environment is rewarded in the business world.

Kenneth Mendiwelson
Refinancia (Colombia)

Kenneth has developed an innovative approach to Colombia’s Non-Performing Loan (NPL) market, buying NPLs from banks and implementing a unique program for loan collection to treat debtors as respected clients instead of “defaulted loans.” Kenneth has already built a client base of more than 250,000 individuals. The company continues to make a significant social impact in Colombia, a country with almost no history of debt markets and very limited individual access to credit. Kenneth has not only focused on his company’s growth, but also on being an Ambassador for Endeavor Colombia, participating in several events, donating time to the Search and Selection process, and contributing to the World Economic Forum Report “Global Entrepreneurship and Successful Growth Strategies of Early-Stage Companies.”

Amr Shady
T.A. Telecom (Egypt)

T.A. Telecom is positioned to become Middle East North Africa (MENA) region’s premier mobile platform for time- and location-specific content. It recently experienced tremendous growth thanks to an increase in the population’s interest to consume more information. Despite being only recently selected at the Mexico ISP, Amr Shady is very actively involved in Endeavor. He has attended multiple local and international events and is making good use of connections, services and mentorship. He is the first entrepreneur in Egypt to commit to the give-back program.

Mauricio Pariente and Alejandro Chaljub
Procesa Chiapas (Mexico)

Mauricio and Alejandro’s vision was to positively impact employment and wealth in Chiapas, one of the poorest regions in Mexico. In only three years, their company, which commercializes frozen foods and tuna in pouch packets, grew from 100 to 300 employees and more than doubled annual sales from US$7.3 million to US$15.6 million. Mauricio and Alejandro serve on the advisory boards of several other Endeavor Entrepreneurs’ companies and have helped Endeavor set up an office in Chiapas.

Natalie Killassy
Stitch Wise (South Africa)

Since 1997, Stitch Wise has been producing leading-edge safety equipment and protective clothing for mining and other hazardous industries, protecting mining workers from the accidents that crippled its employees in the past. With over half the workforce made up of paraplegic former miners, Natalie’s socially conscious business restores dignity to those whose lives have been forever changed by on-the-job accidents. Natalie was a 2009 Veuve Clicquot “Business Woman of the Year” and was honored as “Entrepreneur of the Year” at Endeavor’s annual Gala in New York City in 2009. She championed the idea of Entrepreneur “Give Back” before a formalized program was in place. She frequently donates her time and resources to the organization and serves on local selection panels.

Bülent Celebi
AirTies (Turkey)

Bülent founded AirTies in 2004 to develop, produce and market network and wireless modems and accessories for the residential and small business market in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Since being selected by Endeavor, company revenues have grown by 466%. AirTies continues to create R&D jobs in Turkey and set new standards for management practices and customer support services. An active network member, Bülent serves on the board of another Endeavor company and has participated as a speaker, panelist, search and selection interviewer and ambassador for Endeavor. He is a major supporter of the “Give Back” program and is always ready to share constructive feedback on how Endeavor Turkey can improve their service.

Gabriel Colla
Infocorp (Uruguay)

Gabriel Colla founded Infocorp at age 22 in 1994 and successfully grew his company at an average of 35% per year for the past seven years. Its products are present in more than 18 countries, and the company has offices in Puerto Rico, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay. In 2009 Gabriel hired a CEO for Infocorp, and transitioned from the role of CEO to that of President, focusing on strategic issues. Gabriel launched a second company, Lynkos, in 2010 together with Federico Cella, another Endeavor Entrepreneur. He donated more than 20 hours as mentor in 2010 and is a member of Endeavor Uruguay’s Board of Directors.

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