High-Impact Entrepreneurship

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Endeavor Investor Network Convenes Over 120 Entrepreneurs and Investors in NYC

On May 5th, the Endeavor Investor Network convened growth market leaders in New York City for a day of networking and learning. The invitation-only event gathered over 120 participants including Endeavor Entrepreneurs and leading investors […]

May 13th, 2015 — by admin

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Endeavor Insight Report Spotlights Growing Entrepreneurship in Bogotá’s Tech Sector

Bogotá’s tech entrepreneurs have built over 100 companies and created thousands of jobs over the past two decades, according to a recent study by Endeavor Insight. With the support of Endeavor Colombia and the Omidyar Network, the research team […]

February 17th, 2014 — by admin

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Turkish home décor brand ilio gains traction in high-end design world

Endeavor Entrepreneur brother and sister duo Demir and Mehtap Obuz have been making a splash in the international design world. Products from the pair’s recently launched home décor line ilio were showcased among other cutting edge designs at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) and in a limited edition MoMA design store collection, Destination: Istanbul.

The ICFF took place this past May in New York City and showcased 500 contemporary design brands from across the globe. Visitors to the ilio exhibit saw the line’s tableware, accessories and furniture collection and learned the stories behind the pieces.

The MoMa Store collection highlights emerging Istanbul designers in an effort to make available “lifestyle items usually found only in Turkey.” Click here to shop Destination: Istanbul, which features a number of award-winning ilio pieces, such as the forest-handmade crystalline stemware set designed by Demir and the kat kat storage system designed by Mehtap.

Demir and Mehtap are two of Endeavors newest entreprenuers, selected at the May 2011 London International Selection Panel. Mehtap founded Demirden, which she grew into one of Turkey’s leading design and brand management firms, almost two decades ago. Building on the success of Demirden, she and her brother launched ilio two years ago with the goal of achieving success outside Turkey’s borders. It seems like the two are well on their way!

Who’s presenting at the Endeavor Summit? A complete speaker list, from Reid Hoffman to Marc Benioff to many more

The Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit in San Francisco (June 28-30, 2011) — register here! — is a unique innovation conference held biannually that brings together Endeavor’s worldwide network for three days of inspirational keynotes, informative panels, high-impact workshops, hands on breakout sessions, and intimate networking opportunities. This year’s Summit is all about innovation. We’ve worked hard to put together an amazing agenda packed with opportunities for you to:


To answer one of the most common questions — who’s presenting?! — please refer to the most updated speaker list below, with links to official bios.


Reid Hoffman, Cofounder and Executive Chairman, LinkedIn
Marc Benioff, CEO, Salesforce.com
•Scott McNealy, former CEO, Sun Microsystems
•Bing Gordon, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and former CEO, Electronic Arts
•Josh Silverman, Entrepreneur in Residence, Greylock; Former CEO, Skype; Former CEO, evite.com


Mike Ahearn, Chairman, First Solar
•George Bilicic, Managing Partner, Lazard
Jeff Housenbold, President and CEO, Shutterfly
Hernan Kazah and Nicolas Szekasy, Cofounders, Mercadolibre
David Sacks, Founder and CEO, Yammer
Chris Schroeder, CEO, HealthCentral; former CEO, Washington Post & Newsweek Interactive
Martin Migoya and Guibert Englebienne, Cofounders, Globant
Khaled Ismail, Founder and CEO, Sysdsoft
Firas Al Otaibi, Founder and Managing Director, Think Arabia


Jeremy Utley, Director of Executive Education at Hass Plattner Institute of Design, Stanford
Perry Kleyban, Consulting Professor at the Stanford d.school
•Matt Ackley, VP, Product Marketing, Google
•Gary Briggs, VP , Consumer Marketing, Google
•Sal Giambanco, Former VP, Human Resources, PayPal and eBay
•David Frazee, Partner, K&L Gates
•Taddy Hall, SVP, The Nielsen Company
John Hamm, Managing Partner, VSP Capital and author of Unusual Excellence


•Juan Pablo Cappello, Partner, Greenberg Traurig LLC
Lenny Gravier, Managing Partner, HLB Gravier LLP
•James Joaquin, CEO, XMarks and Angel Investor
Wences Casares, Founder & CEO, Bling Nation; Founder & CEO, Patagon.com; Endeavor Entrepreneur and Endeavor Board Member
Diego Piacentini, Senior Vice President, International Retail, Amazon
Leo Tilman, President, L.M. Tilman & Co, Faculty at Columbia University and author of Financial

Tricia Tomlinson, VP, Human Resources, Genomic Health
•Stuart Francis, Vice Chairman, Barclays Capital
•Vanessa Kay, CEO, Veuve Clicquot
•Gina Bianchini, Cofounder and former CEO, Ning.com
•Bruce Giuliano, VP of Licensing, Sanrio
Terra Terwilliger, Founder, Brigid Executive Consulting
•Curt Alexander, CEO, Owl (branding and fashion expert)
•Nizan Guanaes, Chairman, Grupo ABC (marketing)
•Todd Irwin, EVP and GM, Silicon Valley Office, Edelman (PR company)
•Lou Colasuonno, Senior Managing Director, Financial Dynamics (communications consultancy)
Joi Ito, Chairman, Creative Commons; Advisory Board Member, IDEO
Larry Jacobs, CEO and Founder, Del Cabo Organic Farms
•Ryan Citro, Valuation & Business Modeling Senior Manager, Ernst & Young
•Dan Buchler, Transaction Support Partner, Ernst & Young
•Joe Muscat, Strategic Growth Markets, Ernst & Young
Tina Seelig, Director, Stanford Technology Ventures Program, Stanford University
•Theresa Lina Stevens, Stanford Technology Ventures Program, Stanford University
Janet Walkow, Cofounder, Leading Women Project and Director, Drug Dynamics Institute at The University of Texas at Austin
Christine Jacobs, Cofounder, Leading Women Project and Practice Leader, Operations at Core Risks
Watson – artificial intelligence computer system and winner of Jeopardy!
•Bruno Bowden, Engineering Manager, Google (known for Google Earth and Enterprise Gmail)
•Hiten Shah, CEO, KISSmetrics
•Travis Pearson and Aaron Cheris, Partners, Bain
•Susan Phillips, Vice President, Omidyar Network
Pat Rawa, Principal, Dynamic Consulting
•Adam Richardson, Creative Director, Frog Design
•David Snell, Chief Marketing Office, Quick Mobile
•Richard Binhammer, Social Media and Corporate Reputation Management, Dell
•Emerick Woods, CEO, Global IP Solutions (acquired by Google)
Rodrigo Jordan, CEO, Vertical and Endeavor Entrepreneur
Carlos Baradello, Associate Dean, USF and Angel Investor in Argentina
Irma Becerra-Fernandez, Director, Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center
•Erik Dithmer, Vice President & General Manager, Dell Small & Medium Business
Om Malik, Founder, GigaOM
Paul Walborsky, CEO, GigaOM
•Heidi Locke Simon, Partner, Bain
Patrick Payne, CEO, QuickMobile
Cate Ambrose, President and Executive Director, Latin American Venture Capital Association (LAVCA)
•Bedy Yang, Founder, Brazil Innovators
•Vanesa Kolodziej, Founder, Palermo Valley and Founder and CEO, BA Accelerator
Sheila Marcelo, Founder and CEO, care.com
•Jane Metcalfe, TCHO Chocolate
•Jeff Joerling, Turnstone, A Steelcase Company


Jeff Bussgang, General Partner, Flybridge Capital and author of Mastering the VC Game
•Elizabeth Clarkson, Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ)
Jason Green, Emergence Capital Partners
Jeff Brody, Redpoint
Matt Cohler, Benchmark
Paul Hsiao, NEA
•Stewart Alsop, Alsop Louie Partners
Oleg Kaganovich, Director, Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship, KAUST
•Leslie Jump, Partner, Sawari Ventures LLC
Joanna Rees, VSP Capital
Luke Nosak, Founders Fund
Carol Sands, Angels Forum
Dave McClure, 500 StartUps
•Walid Bakr, Riyada Enterprise Development (RED), Abraaj Capital
Dado Banatao, Tallwood Capital
•Dan Senor, Rosemont
•Phil Wickham, President and CEO, Center for Venture Education (Kauffman Fellows Program)
Ariel Muslera, CAP Ventures; Regional Advisor, Latin American Venture Capital Association (LAVCA)
Peter Kellner, Founder and Managing Partner, Richmond Capital LLC and Cofounder, Endeavor

Who’s attending the Endeavor Summit? A complete list of registered Endeavor Entrepreneurs

As we all gear up for this year’s Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit in San Francisco (June 28-30, 2011) — register here! — we want to answer a question on everyone’s mind…who’s coming?!

In addition to the speakers, sponsors, and other participants, we’re proud to have a large showing of Endeavor Entrepreneurs. Below is the current list (and growing) of all Endeavor Entrepreneurs scheduled to attend. All of their names are linked to their profile pages on Endeavor.org, so you can learn more about these inspiring individuals.

Sebastian Letemendia and Luis Navas, Conexia, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Alejandro Larosa, FyO (Futuros y Opciones), Finance & Investment
Néstor Nocetti, Martín Umaran, Guibert Englebienne, Martin Migoya, Globant, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Service
Diego Cheja, Medix, Health Care/Life Sciences: Pharmaceuticals & Medical Devices
Hernán Kazah, MercadoLibre.com, Technology: Internet/Web 2.0
Esteban Wolf, Progen, Health Care/Life Sciences
Norberto Loizeau Compte and Pablo Trench, Promored, Business/Professional Services: Advertising, Marketing & PR
Santiago Pinto, Andres Alterini, Mariano Elizari, Smowtion, Technology: Internet/Web 2.0
Martin Enriquez, Social Metrix, Technology: Internet/Web 2.0
Patricio Jutard and Mariano Suárez Battán, Three Melons, Technology: Internet/Web 2.0
Rodolfo Montes de Oca and Patricio Miranda, Zott Producciones, Consumer Goods & Services: Other

Patrick Lisbona, Aorta, Technology: Telecom/Mobile
Alexandre Pi, APPI Tecnologia, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Guilherme Bruno, Arizona, Business/Professional Services: Design/Architecture
Leila Velez, Beleza Natural, Consumer Goods & Services: Health & Beauty
Luis Alexandre Chicani, BenCorp, Health Care/Life Sciences: Health Care Equipment & Services
Pedro Paulo Chiamulera and Bernardo Lustosa, Clearsale, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Rodrigo Azevedo, Comunique-se, Technology: Internet/Web 2.0
Osvaldo A Lucho Jr, Gigalink, Technology: Hardware & Equipment
Marcelo Salim da Silva, Ibmec Rio, Government & Nonprofit: Universities & Education
Arnaldo Goldemberg, LAN Designers, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Maristela Mafei, Máquina da Notícia, Business/Professional Services: Advertising, Marketing & PR
Fernando Ortenblad and Daniel Wjuniski, Minha Vida, Technology: Internet/Web 2.0
Marcelo Sales, Movile, Technology: Internet/Web 2.0
Alexandre Luis Pigatto, Pigatto, Industrials: Transportation & Logistics
Daniel Li, Pixel Labs, Business/Professional Services: Advertising, Marketing & PR
Joao Mendes de Carvalho and Marcelo Romcy, Proteus, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Eduardo Pizarro Mello Ourivio, Spoleto, Consumer Goods & Services
Arnold Eugenio, Subway Link, Consumer Goods & Services: Media & Entertainment
Valério Paz Dornelles, Tecno Logys, Industrials
Bento Massahiko Koike, Tecsis, Energy & Utilities

Jorge Nazer, Alto, Business/Professional Services: Other
Tiburcio de la Carcova and Esteban Sosnik, Atakama Labs, Technology: Internet/Web 2.0
Juan Eduardo Neuenschwander, Autobahn, Industrials: Airlines & Automotive
Boris Kraizel and Eduardo Stekel, Buscalibre S.A, Consumer Goods & Services: Other
Greg Barton, Business News Americas, Consumer Goods & Services: Media & Entertainment
Erik Torreiter, Colaboracion Virtual Comunicaciones Ltda.,Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Javier Donoso, Geomar, Consumer Goods & Services: Food & Beverage
Mario Araya, Kibernum, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
David Assael and David Basulto, Plataforma Networks, Technology: Internet/Web 2.0
Luis Vera, Scopix, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Juan Carlos de la Llera, SIRVE S.A., Industrials: Construction
Felipe Hurtado and Juan Pablo Swett, Trabajando.com, Business/Professional Services: HR, Training & Recruiting
Rodrigo Jordán, Vertical, Consumer Goods & Services: Travel & Leisure
Olivier Paccot, Woodtech, Technology: Hardware & Equipment
Michael Yorston, Woodtech, Technology: Hardware & Equipment

Andrés Angulo, Hugo Fernando Novoa and Alvaro Hoffmann, Campo Alto, Business/Professional Services: HR, Training & Recruiting
Diego Ramírez Schrempp, Dynamo, Consumer Goods & Services: Media & Entertainment
Nicolás Cock Duque, Ecoflora, Healthcare/Life Sciences
Pedro Tosín, Oruga, Consumer Goods & Services
Martin Schrimpff, Pagosonline, Technology: Internet/Web 2.0
Kenneth Mendiwelson, Refinancia, Finance & Investment: Other Financial Services
Ximena Patiño, Servinformación, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Ricardo Leyva, Sistole, Business/Professional Services: Advertising, Marketing & PR

Hind Wassef and Nadia Wassef, Diwan Bookstore, Consumer Goods & Services: Media & Entertainment
Omar EL Sanhoury and Moatasem Osam, E-Masary, Technology: Telecom/Mobile
Khaled Ismail, SySDSoft, Technology
Amr Shady,T.A. Telecom, Technology: Telecom/Mobile
Basel Mashhour,The Bakery Shop, Consumer Goods and Services: Food & Beverage

Wences Casares, Bling Nation, Technology

Amin Amin, Cader, Business/Professional Services: HR, Training & Recruiting
Thabet Al-Nabulsi, Challenger Team, Business/Professional Services: HR, Training & Recruiting
Imad Malhas, IrisGuard, Technology: Other
Laith Zraikat and Omar Koudsi, Jeeran, Technology: Internet/Web 2.0
Zafer Younis, Modern Media (The Online Project), Business/Professional Services
Wael Attili, Mohammed Asfour and Firas Al Otaibi, Think Arabia, Consumer Goods & Services: Media & Entertainment

Marc Dfouni and Nemr Badine, Eastline Marketing, Technology: Internet/Web 2.0

Juan Manuel Alvarado, Acento Mexicano, Consumer Goods & Services: Personal & Household Goods
Alfredo Suárez, AliBio, Health Care/Life Sciences: Biotechnology
Víctor Calderón, Arccanto, Finance & Investment: Other Financial Services
Gabriel Oropeza and Guillermo Oropeza, DocSolutions, Technology: Business & Professional Services
Mois Cherem Arana, Raúl Maldonado and Jorge Camil, Enova, Technology: other
Patrick Streubi, Fairtrasa, Consumer Goods & Services
Ezequiel Farca, Ezequiel Farca, Business/Professional Services: Design/Architecture
Jorge Gonzalez Gasque, G2 Consultores, Business/Professional Services: Consulting
Pedro Zarur Ménez and Armando Tortoledo, Gruindag, Industrials: Basic Materials & Chemicals
Jaime Cater, HDS, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Ricardo Villareal Zambrano, Imagen Dental, Health Care/Life Sciences: Health Care Equipment & Services
Ernesto Vidal Flores, Christian Vidal Flores and Patrick Vidal Flores, Ingenia Muebles, Consumer Goods & Services: Personal & Household Goods
Felipe Labbé, Intellego, Business/Professional Services: Consulting
Guillermo Casares González, Mexis, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Xavier Briseño, Neve Gelato, Consumer Goods & Services: Food & Beverage
Enrique Gómez Junco, Optima Energia, Energy & Utilities: Renewable Energy/Clean Tech
Christian Guerra and Morgan Guerra, Previta, Health Care/Life Sciences: Health Care Equipment & Services
Mauricio Pariente, Procesa Chiapas, Consumer Goods & Services: Food & Beverage
Daniel Schneeweiss Bernstein, Tequilera Milagro, Consumer Goods & Services: Food & Beverage
Moises Guindi, Tequilera Milagro, Consumer Goods & Services: Food & Beverage
Fernando Martinez, Vialux, Technology: Telecom/Mobile
Hugo Hernández Basulto, Vidrios Marte, Industrials: Basic Materials & Chemicals
Jorge Soto and Oscar Salazar, CitiVox, Technology: Internet/Web 2.0 (Monterrey)
Roberto Quintero, Cinemagic, Technology: Consumer Goods & Services (Puebla)
-Francisco Javier Cardenas Ibarra, Orcius, Technology: Other (Puebla)
Oscar Carrillo, Mex Q, Industrials (Aguascalientes)

Richard Dewing, Cibecs, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Robert Sussman and Lance Fanaroff, Integr8, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Yossi Hasson and David Jacobson, Synaq, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Vinny Lingham, Yola (formerly Synthasite), Technology

Bülent Çelebi, AirTies, Technology: Hardware & Equipment
Emre Aydin, Ciceksepeti.com
Erdem Yurdanur, Kokteyl, Technology: Other
Bahadir Kuru, PIWorks, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Fatih Işbecer, Pozitron, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Aytül Erçil, Vistek, Technology: Hardware & Equipment
Melih Ödemis, yemeksepeti.com, Technology: Internet/Web 2.0

Gabriel Colla and Martín Naor, Infocorp, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Federico Cella, Lynkos, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Ariel Lijtenstein and Pablo Elenter, RobTec, Industrials: Manufacturing/Equipment
Carlos Ameglio and Andrés Ameglio, Salado Media, Consumer Goods & Services
Raul Polakof, Scanntech, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services
Alvaro Domínguez, Top Systems, Technology: IT, Software & Computer Services

Two Endeavor Entrepreneurs in the running for top Authentic Arab Brand: vote by June 9!

Fatma Ghaly and Nada Debs, Endeavor Entrepreneurs from Egypt and Lebanon, are in the running for the best Authentic Arab Brand. The 100 Authentic Arab Brands campaign, hosted by Dubai-based branding consultancy Zaman, aims to highlight Arab brands that have “transitioned from ideas to successful stories and names to be recognized on a global platform.”

Click here to vote for Azza Fahmy / click here to vote for Nada Debs.

Of the 100 brands selected by Zaman, Fatma’s Azza Fahmy Jewelry and Nada’s Nada Debs furniture line currently sit at #4 and #6, respectively. Voting for the competition ends on June 9 at midnight in Dubai (4:00PM Eastern Time).

Azza Fahmy is a family-owned jewelry business that Fatma successfully grew into Egypt’s first designer brand and a leading Arab jewelry brand. Azza Fahmy’s hand-crafted jewelry has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Vanity Fair, and Harper’s Bazaar, and worn by the likes of Queen Rania of Jordan and British supermodel Naomi Campbell.

Nada Debs is an elite brand of furniture and accessories, manufactured by 150 artisans in Lebanon. Nada’s products are showcased in top furniture stores throughout the world, and have been featured in 120 publications, including the New York Times, Vogue, Monocle, and the Wall Street Journal.

Financial Times looks at Argentinean investment culture, spotlighting Endeavor Entrepreneurs

The Financial Times, in a recent article, “Argentina has talent but a lack of investment cash,” discussed Argentina’s investment environment, the opportunities available to enterprising entrepreneurs, and the challenges in starting a new company.

According to the article, while Argentina has impressive talent, innovative thinkers, and an educated, relatively inexpensive workforce, access to start-up capital is difficult to come by. A lack of faith in the banking system and a historically unstable currency has resulted in a small stock market and limited trust in banks.

Endeavor Entrepreneur Jessica Trosman and other business owners note that while it’s not impossible to come by cash in Argentina, it’s more difficult to find investors who add value to the company. As a result, they often turn to international funding sources, which in turn creates other challenges.

“‘What hit me worst here was the crisis of 2009. Mine is a very international brand,’ [Trosman] says, sitting in the flagship store in an upmarket Buenos Aires shopping centre where once 60 per cent of her customers were tourists. Now it is 20 per cent. ‘I got to the stage when I couldn’t stand it any longer. I could keep things going, but I wanted to be able to focus on what I want to do,’ she says. That includes growing her brand abroad (she still oversees international strategy).”

Another Endeavor company, Globant, also looked internationally to grow its business.

Endeavor Entrepreneur and Globant co-founder Néstor Nocetti notes that the software developer and information technology company “saw a niche: running a business for US and UK clients, but from Argentina. That means competing with Indian outsourcers, but Argentina has time-zone advantages and comparable labour costs.” The article notes that Globant has been profitable from the start, mostly because their first client, EMC knew some of the founders, but still “took a leap of faith.”

Argentina has a talented, well-educated workforce. Referring to the fact that many Argentines are descendants of European business owners, Alejandro Mashad, Managing Director of Endeavor Argentina notes, “We have entrepreneurship in our veins.” He emphasizes that “accessing a network of contacts and finding mentors are crucial,” especially since there are so many barriers that entrepreneurs must overcome in Argentina.

While there are considerable challenges to starting a business in Argentina, there are new resources available. The article notes that the city of Buenos Aires has created a program to provide financial assistance to entrepreneurs. Additionally Staples, which bought OfficeNet from Endeavor Entrepreneurs Andy Freire and Santiago Bilinkis, has begun a support network and offers deals on office supplies for new ventures.

The article sums up by quoting an Argentinean entrepreneur who found he “could open a business in under a week in the US, but it took six months in Argentina. However, he says, ‘there are advantages too…There are great opportunities for those who [take the] risk.'”

Endeavor June 2011 newsletter

To view Endeavor’s June newsletter, a recap of all the top news stories from the previous month, please CLICK HERE.

Reminder: To receive our monthly newsletters by email, please enter your email address in the sign-up box at the bottom of our homepage.

Silicon Valley Trek (Emerging Market Venture Day); June 28th, San Francisco

Open to members of the Endeavor Investor Network and Endeavor Entrepreneurs, Emerging Market Venture Day (June 28 – 9am – 3pm) will bring together US investors and Emerging Market investors with over a dozen of the fastest-growing emerging market companies from around the globe.

Organized as a pre-conference to Endeavor’s larger Summit event, this day will include market snapshots of Latin America and the Middle East, “speed-dating” with Endeavor Entrepreneurs, and unparalleled networking opportunities.

For more information, please contact investornetwork@endeavor.org.

Endeavor Entrepreneurs Martin Migoya and Guibert Englebienne on Globant (World Economic Forum report)

In collaboration with Endeavor Global and Stanford University, the World Economic Forum recently released a new report, “Global Entrepreneurship and Successful Growth Strategies of Early-Stage Companies.” Click here to learn more.

The report, which demonstrates the importance of High-Impact Entrepreneurship in driving economies forward, includes interviews and insights from eight Endeavor Entrepreneur companies: DocSolutions, Globant, MercadoLibre, Petfor, Pharmacy 1, Refinancia, Technisys, and Yola.

In this special series on Endeavor’s blog, we are reprinting the published interviews with each Endeavor firm. Below is the section on Globant.

Globant was formed in 2003 by four founders (Martin Migoya, Martin Umaran, Nestor Nocetti and Guibert Englebienne) to combine the technology skills of LatinAmericans (initially Argentineans) with the IT needs of global companies. The aspiration was to be the leading Latin America outsourcing company. The Latin America advantages Globant promotes include real-time communication, geographic proximity and integrated teams. The ‘Day 0’ focus on software development includes design and innovation to meet scaling as well as engineering and infrastructure needs. Products are built using a combination of open source technologies and proprietary software. In July 2005, Globant was selected as an Endeavor company by meeting criteria of being an emerging entrepreneur-driven market leader with high potential and a passion to excel.

Martin Migoya, co-founder and CEO, has an engineering degree from National University of La Plata and an MBA from the University of CEMA, both in Buenos Aires. Prior to Globant, he was Director of Business Development and Regional Business Manager for Latin America at a large consulting and technology company. He has worked in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

Guibert Englebienne, co-founder and CTO, has a computer science/software engineering education from UNICEN University in Buenos Aires. He previously worked as a scientific researcher at IBM and later headed technology for CallNow.com. He has worked in Argentina, Venezuela, the United Kingdom and the US.

What was the source of the initial idea and how did that idea evolve into a viable high-growth business venture? How did it change over time?

Migoya: “After the Argentine financial crisis in 2001-2002 and the destruction of the currency, my salary plummeted. I had US$ 20,000 in savings and I thought I could make more money trading. The only stock I made money on was an Indian-based outsourcing company. That started me thinking about starting a business from Argentina by packaging up Latin American talent for software development and selling these services to first world global customers. The financial crisis devastated many Argentine businesses but the devaluation of the currency allowed us to compete on price and talent with other outsourcing companies in other countries. I called Guibert, (Englebienne), Martín (Umaran) and Néstor (Nocetti) – all engineers working for multinationals – and said, ‘Look, we have a big opportunity here and we need to take it.’ We started the company with US$ 5,000. We had a very clear idea from the start to build better and more software products for global audiences. We wanted to make a change in the IT services industry and build a service organization oriented to develop premium software for global markets with a fresh approach from Latin America. While I didn’t expect the success we have had to date, we started the company with a long- term view and every decision was about building for the long term.”

What was the initial growth vision or aspiration of the founding team? Was there a sizeable change in this growth vision or aspiration over time? If a change, please describe.

Migoya: “From day one we were clear about two things. We wanted to change the status quo of the software industry in terms of how to design and build software, and we wanted to build a company for the long term. We always wanted to be the leader in what we did outside of Latin America. From the beginning, we operated differently than most Argentine IT companies that tend to hire contractors and extract dividends immediately. We hired everyone as direct employees and re-invested 100% of everything we earned. We were also prepared for our ownership to become diluted as we sought outside investors to help us grow. In 2004, when we had reached 100 employees, we realized we had something bigger than we had imagined and that’s when we sat down with our first group of investors. It took us nine months to raise our first venture capital round, which was US$ 2 million. We held onto the right to sell the company or take it public when we – as founders– wanted to. That is still very important to us today. After that, Google selected us as their first outsourcing partner, and with Google as a customer it became easier to introduce ourselves to other companies, so our growth exploded. We raised another US$ 8 million in 2007 and another US$ 14 million in 2008, which was amazing because it was in November, just after the global financial crisis, when we asked for this money. We used the cash to make a couple of small acquisitions in Argentina that gave us important relationships and customers.”

Describe the strategy or business model that enabled your company to achieve its high rate of growth.

Migoya: “We create innovative software products that appeal to global audiences. That’s what we do. But the key concept was to change how this was done to create more intellectual property for our customers. Software creation has been driven by an engineering approach. We brought more innovation in design to the industry because this is something we (Argentineans) have a unique sensibility for. We also leveraged our expertise in both Open Source software and commercial, proprietary software and blended them in a very smart way to get the lowest cost of ownership for our customers. To service big global customers, we created the concept of a software service company where robust engineering, innovation and design meets scale, and that’s how we sell ourselves. Our development methodology is also unique. We use a methodology called ‘Agile’ which breaks down large design, development and implementation projects into smaller pieces that we call ‘sprints’. It is very efficient, allows for more flexibility and the customer gets to see results at every step.”

What were the major growth accelerators for your company in its high-growth years?

Migoya: “Part of our growth has been due to geopolitical or cultural differentiators in that we have exploited a huge talent pool for software creation in Argentina and Latin America. We are also working on the same time zone as our US and European customers for the bulk of the day, unlike in India or China. But there are other Globant-specific reasons for our growth:

1. Engineering: We base a lot of what we do on open source technologies whereas most companies are not doing that because they are restricted in their partnerships with big commercial companies. We have partnerships with big commercial software companies, too, but from the outset we blended both open source and proprietary technologies to create better software at a lower cost. This is key.

2. Design: The Argentinean creativity and taste, when applied to software design, has resulted in better interfaces. We have excellent art and design teams at Globant.

3. Innovation: We are constantly innovating and challenging and have structured the company to foster those traits. Therefore, instead of having a centralized team of innovators to solve specific customer challenges, we send the challenges out company-wide. We choose the best handful of solutions and then work through them. This approach to problem solving has won us big projects like Nike and many others and is very important to our growth.

4. Infrastructure: We know that our applications must be up and running 24/7, so we have a team of experts working to enable high availability and security of our products.

5. Signature customers: We grew with the likes of EMC, Google, Sabre and Electronic Arts. After we got Google, we didn’t have to explain ourselves anymore.”

Englebienne: “We learn fast. Like any organization, we make mistakes but at Globant we put a huge premium on learning from them. Growth factors include:

1. The complementary nature of the founding team. We each have different skills that we respect. We also found extra strengths of
each other over time.

2. Organization structure. Each of our areas of expertise (such as
gaming, mobile and consumer experience) is now run as a studio with its own founding team. Each team is now managing a studio organization larger than Globant was for several years after 2003.

3. Communication within the company. We share our plans with everyone within the company. Our telephone operators can tell you our revenue budget numbers. We also run an ‘Accounting for Non-Accountants’ programme every month to improve our employee knowledge base.”

Briefly describe the financing of your company and how this financing impacted the growth of your company.

Migoya: “We started the company in 2003 with US$ 5,000 and we self-funded through revenues and by reinvesting everything back into the company until the end of 2004 when we needed additional investment to grow in scale and infrastructure. In 2005, we raised US$ 2 million initial capital from Argentine investors managed by FS Partners. By then, we already had 150 employees. We raised an additional US$ 8 million in October 2007 from Riverwood Capital, a US venture fund. We raised a second US$ 14 million round with Riverwood Capital and FTV Capital a year later, right after the global financial crisis exploded. We used the money for headcount growth, to bring in experienced executives and professionals, and for a few small, strategic acquisitions. In 2008, we acquired Accendra, which is headquartered in Buenos Aires and had cultivated a strong relationship with Microsoft that we wanted to leverage. We also bought Openware, based in the city of Rosario in Santa Fe, Argentina. Openware had expertise in infrastructure and security software, and that acquisition resulted in consulting firm Deloitte & Touche becoming a Globant customer. So, our acquisition strategy at the time was for technology or customers.”

What were the major challenges your company had to handle in its high-growth years, and how were they managed?

Migoya: There were two major challenges:

1. “Finance: Financing was a nightmare in the early stages. Although we were earning revenue from day one (doubling revenue each year until 2008), we were trying to build the company for the long term and that meant we had to re-invest everything we earned for working capital and to hire people not as contractors, but as full- time employees. This consumed everything we had. We worked hard to get outside financing, but this was a learning experience because we also wanted a lot of control. We had to learn how to hand over certain rights without losing control of the company. This is a huge psychological challenge.

2. Scale: In the early years we did not have enough power and influence to convince big customers that we could scale as fast as they wanted from a software services company. Each new customer helped give us more infrastructure in a sense. Many VCs were also concerned about scale challenges. Being a services company tends to have a lower return than a pure product company. But we are a services company and we do it very well because we are doing it from Latin America and can compete on talent and price.”

Give examples of dark moments or negative periods that your company or you faced as part of your journey as an executive with this company.

Migoya: “The global financial crisis (October 2008) was a painful hit. We had been growing at 100% per year since 2003. Then, in 2008, it was 15% in terms of revenue. We had grown to more than 500 employees. This changed the dynamics of the company and we worked very hard to get through it. We turned it around by exploiting customers’ need for value-added services at a lower cost, which is what we can deliver using Latin American talent for software services. This was the idea from the start of the business, but after the crisis, we ran even harder and had renewed focus. Money crunch. “Other dark moments have more to do with the entrepreneurial side of things like financing and not having enough money to pay salaries or enough power to convince customers they could scale as fast as they want. There are particular problems of every entrepreneur that once you’ve lived through, you don’t want to face again. Another dark moment was a failed attempt at a spin-off. We started a small spin-off company for VOIP. We thought we could be successful in everything we started, but the people we placed to operate it were not very good and it failed. We suffered because of that. We found we were not as good as we thought.”

Englebienne: “There have been many dark moments, but our ability to learn fast has meant we have been able to leave those moments behind without regretting so much. We learned a lot from the 2008 global financial crisis, including the need to remain close to our customers. We also learned to run a tighter ship and trim our sails to survive the rocky seas.”

What are the key lessons about entrepreneurship and successful growth strategies you’ve taken from your company experience?

Migoya: “We are trying to continually teach and inspire new rounds of entrepreneurs in Latin America. There are several key lessons we try to convey:

1. Think Big. I think if you want to be a successful entrepreneur you can’t afford not to. You need to really believe that you can alter your environment with what you are doing.

2. Money will follow. Don’t pursue entrepreneurship for money alone. You need to pursue your convictions and your passion instead of just the money. It took us a long time to learn that. This is very important.

3. Serve others: if you are starting a company and you think that you are doing this just for you and your partners, then you are wrong. You are doing it for a lot more people. What you are doing will affect many, many families and people. You have to teach, learn and influence all the way.

4. Enjoy it. Because if you are not, then you will be suffering a very long time.”

Englebienne: “Beyond Martin’s points I would add: 1. It’s essential to build a strong team 2. Create a culture that is extremely appealing to those who work there 3. Develop an ability to learn fast”

Endeavor Entrepreneur Amjad Aryan on Pharmacy 1 (World Economic Forum report)

In collaboration with Endeavor Global and Stanford University, the World Economic Forum recently released a new report, “Global Entrepreneurship and Successful Growth Strategies of Early-Stage Companies.” Click here to learn more.

The report, which demonstrates the importance of High-Impact Entrepreneurship in driving economies forward, includes interviews and insights from eight Endeavor Entrepreneur companies: DocSolutions, Globant, MercadoLibre, Petfor, Pharmacy 1, Refinancia, Technisys, and Yola.

In this special series on Endeavor’s blog, we are reprinting the published interviews with each Endeavor firm. Below is the section on Pharmacy 1.

Pharmacy 1 is the largest chain of pharmacies in Jordan. The founder, Amjad Aryan, emigrated from the Palestinian Territories to the US at age 18. In 1995, the Aryan family founded Pharmacy 1 in the US. Two years later, they acquired Miami’s oldest pharmacy, Robert’s Drug Store. In 1999, they changed the company name to Pharmacy 1 and added other stores in Miami. Amjad Aryan opened the first Pharmacy 1 in Amman, Jordan, in 2001. After fully relocating to Jordan in 2004, he led a rapid expansion of the company. There are now 47 stores in Jordan and four stores in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with further aggressive expansion planned. Having equipped each pharmacy with a modern logistics network, Pharmacy 1 applies state-of-the-art pharmaceutical store management in a sector of the Jordan economy where this standard did not exist prior to 2001. The AllWorld Arabia 500 selected Pharmacy 1 as the number one fastest-growing company in the Jordan 25.

The son of a pharmacist, Amjad Aryan has spent his entire life in the pharmacy industry. He graduated in 1995 from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences with a specialty in Retail Pharmacy Management. While attending college in Boston, Aryan worked at CVS, a large US pharmacy chain, where he continued until 1997. In 1999, he and his family acquired and then further expanded a small pharmacy chain in Miami. They renamed the chain from Robert’s Drug Store to Pharmacy 1. Returning to the Middle East in 2001, Aryan set up the first Pharmacy 1 store in Jordan. He is a board member at Jordan University of Science and Technology’s College of Pharmacy and is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization Jordan chapter. He is board-certified from both Massachusetts and Florida.

What was the source of the initial idea, and how did that idea evolve into a viable high-growth business venture? How did it change over time?

Aryan: “Born to a pharmacist father in Palestine, I spent my entire life in the pharmacy business. At 18, I emigrated from Palestine to Boston, USA. I was admitted to the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, where I earned a degree in Pharmacy with a specialty in Retail Pharmacy Management in 1995. During my education and following graduation, I worked my way up from an intern to a manager at CVS in Boston. After leaving CVS in 1997, my siblings and I acquired a small chain of pharmacies in Miami. However, after observing the successful business model of CVS and other chains in the US, I easily recognized a market gap in my home region. “At that time, the retail pharmacy sector in Jordan was characterized by poor quality of service, low-level technology and inconsistent management among pharmacies. Seeing opportunity despite these challenges, I opened the first Pharmacy 1 in 2001 in Amman. I went back and forth to the US until fully relocating to Jordan with my family in 2004. With emphases on customer service and easily accessible products, Pharmacy 1 was an immediate success, and the business began to expand rapidly.”

What was the initial growth vision or aspiration of the founding team? Was there a sizeable change in this growth vision or aspiration over time? If a change, please describe.

Aryan: “Jordan as well as the entire region is changing very rapidly. Jordan of 2001 was totally different from Jordan of 2010. Consumer behaviour, spending habits, quality of service and size all changed and influenced our initial growth and vision. “The original plan was to open 10 pharmacies in Jordan. Today, we have 47 outlets and plan to open 13 new branches by the end of 2011. In Saudi Arabia, we were initially aiming for a gradual growth: open one outlet, then add one more, and so on. Our plans now are to roll out five new outlets by the end of this year and 50 outlets in 2011.”

Describe the strategy or business model that enabled your company to achieve its high rate of growth.

Aryan: “I started with a single pharmacy in 2001. Since then, the business has grown to become Jordan’s first retail pharmacy chain, with 47 branches employing more than 400 people. With a modern logistical network, customer-friendly stores and a wide range of products dealing in all manners of customer health, Pharmacy 1 strives to become the largest pharmacy chain of the Middle East and North Africa. All of Pharmacy 1 branches are designed in keeping with modern pharmacy standards. Each store is divided into a prescription area and a retail area. Pharmacy 1 outlets are located in both residential and commercial areas, and they range from 80 to 650 square metres in size. The smallest branch employs only two pharmacists, while the largest branch employs approximately 15.

To ensure quality of service and ease of shopping, Pharmacy 1 offers valet service at branches located in areas with limited parking. It operates several of its facilities as 24/7 pharmacies as well as offering 24/7 free delivery anywhere in Jordan.

Pharmacy 1 is raising the bar for pharmaceutical healthcare in the region through the following practices:

1. Being experts in the field of pharmaceutical care. Once pharmacists join Pharmacy 1, they go through extensive induction training. This training includes several important topics needed to execute their jobs with the highest degrees of professionalism and excellence, such as:
• Pharmacology
• Customer care
• Effective counselling
• Communication skills
Our pharmacists are continuously updated with the latest scientific knowledge through the continuous education programme. Pharmacists are required to pass a specific number of credit hours of training each year.

2. State-of-the-art prescription processing using PH1 system. Pharmacy 1 is equipped with software that stores patient pharmaceutical history and permits easy and fast retrieval of patient information in any branch of Pharmacy 1. This software runs 14 checks and performs the following actions:
• Lists important precautions, such as duplication of therapy, food
warning and patient drug allergies
• Identifies potential drug-drug and drug-disease interactions
• Prints a patient leaflet explaining how to use the medication, proper storage conditions, most common side effects and contraindications; this leaflet can be printed in both English and Arabic
• Provides separate yellow warning stickers advising the patient
to take the medication with food, on an empty stomach or any other compliance recommendations
• Bills the patient’s insurance company directly, saving the patient
both time and money
• Reminds patients to refill their monthly prescription

3. Patient counselling service. All of our pharmacists possess scientific knowledge and are professionally trained on patient counselling, a private service that is provided to our customers at no cost. Patients may take advantage of our private counselling
services by:
• Meeting with any of our well-trained pharmacists in the pharmacy
• Calling our toll-free phone number at 080022922
• E-mailing info@pharmacy-1.com
• Making an appointment with our drug experts

4. Educational updates. At Pharmacy 1, we offer special educational materials that provide both advice and consultations on several topics, such as proper use of medication, the importance of vitamins, first-aid tips, etc.

5. Pharmacy 1 training and drug information centre. Guided by our profound belief in corporate social responsibility and in accordance with our strong sense of purpose and ethical standards, Pharmacy 1 works to respond to the rising needs of society through its different healthcare initiatives. Pharmacy 1 operates a training and drug information centre, the first of its kind in the Middle East. The drug information centre (DIC) provides free, unbiased medical and pharmaceutical information to consumers and healthcare providers. The DIC offers consultation services to answer any query on disease state, medications used to treat these disease states and any necessary lifestyle modifications. Customers can benefit from our services either by visiting, calling (toll-free in Jordan), faxing or e-mailing the centre.

6. Accessibility. 47 branches covering Jordan that are open 24/7, and provide free delivery to anywhere in Jordan.”

What were the major growth accelerators for your company in its high-growth years?


1. “Having the right team members who shared with me the same vision – the solid unwavering belief in what we can achieve. There was never a moment of doubt or a ‘whether we can do it’ mindset. It was ‘when can we do it’ and trying to prioritize what to do first. Our growth rate exceeded even our own very ambitious expectations. The culture of determination to succeed and entrepreneurial leadership that cascaded to each team member – making all of them feel like owners of the business and true stakeholders – played an essential role in growth. Simply put, it was their own baby, and solid growth was the only focus and obsession.

2. Market gap: retail pharmacy business in Jordan was an underserved area. Professionalism, availability of products, customer service and convenience were previously unheard of and became much sought-after.

3. Returning talents: whether individuals who have studied abroad and returned to their country or who are simply frequent travellers, they are all accustomed to the established concept of chain pharmacies. Jordan was terribly lacking in this domain, and, with Pharmacy 1, their needs were finally met as we created big business opportunities, a large customer base and loyal clients.”

Briefly describe the financing of your company and how this financing impacted the growth of your company.

Aryan: “I started Pharmacy 1 with self-financing. In 2001, banks and investment companies did not view pharmacies as viable business opportunities. Pharmacies were viewed as mom-and-pop shops with very limited growth potential, which made it impossible to obtain financing. The lack of external financing was not a hindrance to the business growth. Other factors such as regulatory restrictions held us back and postponed the planned growth, resulting in pharmacies financing themselves. This situation continued until Pharmacy 1 became a known brand that financial institutions acknowledged and extended their services to. These facilities boosted the growth through year 2006 and beyond.”

What were the major challenges your company had to handle in its high-growth years, and how were they managed?

Aryan: “Starting out, my biggest challenges were:

1. Laws and regulations: the law allowing for the existence of chain pharmacies was there. However, it lacked implementation. It was up to Pharmacy 1 to bring it to action and implementation. That, as we all know, is always a big challenge.

2. The human element: in a country swamped by huge talents, the lack of appreciation and understanding of the role of a retail pharmacist makes it very challenging to attract these talents. That, coupled with the relatively high employee turnover, represents a big challenge. Because Pharmacy 1 invests in a lengthy training for all employees, finding employee replacements is a time-consuming affair. To overcome that, we built several simulation pharmacies in the local schools of pharmacies, including: Jordan University of
Science and Technology, Isra University, and Zitouna University. This has helped with reaching developing talents and has acted as a recruitment centre for these talents.

3. Besides the above, maintaining our success and keeping up with people’s expectations are ongoing challenges that need to be addressed continuously. Our business is dynamic, and we need to stay abreast of what happens around us and always look for ways to better serve our customers.”

Give examples of dark moments or negative periods that your company or you faced as part of your journey as an executive with this company.

Aryan: “The first three years were very hard. Naysayers were all over the place, and negative remarks were an everyday occurrence. “The law of chain retail pharmacy was there but not activated nor implemented. That burden fell on Pharmacy 1 to activate that law and set the precedent. Going against the flow and facing set-in-stone mindsets caused probably some of the darkest times. There were times when people around me did not only doubt the success of the business but fought it, wholeheartedly driven by the fear of change. Some of these people were influential in our business, such as suppliers. We had to purchase products from them and conduct business, and we needed them to extend customary credit terms. Today,
these same people now shop in our outlets regularly and swear by our business model.”

What are the key lessons about entrepreneurship and successful growth strategies you’ve taken from your company experience?

Aryan: “I do not believe there is a custom-tailored formula for each industry out there. My belief is that whatever line of business you are in, what it takes is to just do it. Don’t sit around waiting for somebody to give something. Take charge of your life and take full accountability of your future. Believe in yourself and always listen to your inner voice pushing you forward. The talents we have in Jordan are incredible and can achieve so much in a very professional way. Believe you can, and you will.”

Endeavor Entrepreneur Vinny Lingham on Yola (World Economic Forum report)

In collaboration with Endeavor Global and Stanford University, the World Economic Forum recently released a new report, “Global Entrepreneurship and Successful Growth Strategies of Early-Stage Companies.” Click here to learn more.

The report, which demonstrates the importance of High-Impact Entrepreneurship in driving economies forward, includes interviews and insights from eight Endeavor Entrepreneur companies: DocSolutions, Globant, MercadoLibre, Petfor, Pharmacy 1, Refinancia, Technisys, and Yola.

In this special series on Endeavor’s blog, we are reprinting the published interviews with each Endeavor firm. Below is the section on Yola.

Yola (initially SynthaSite) was formed in Cape Town, South Africa, in March 2007 to provide website creation tools. A key early market was the many small-to-medium-sized companies that all needed to have company websites. Since its launch, Yola has grown to over five million users by 2010. Its goal is to be the pre-eminent place on the web where anyone can go to create their own websites.

Vinny Lingham is a serial entrepreneur who grew up in a small town in South Africa. In 2003, he founded and was chief executive officer of incuBeta, an investment house that focused on the ownership and management of online marketing companies, and Clicks2Customers, a subsidiary of incuBeta, which provides performance-based search marketing solutions. In 2007, he founded Yola Inc., a South Africa- and San Francisco- based company. He is a co-founder of the Silicon Cape Initiative, which is a NGO that promotes the development of Cape Town as a technology hub. He studied information systems at the University of Cape Town, received an Endeavor High Impact Entrepreneur award in 2006, and became a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader in 2009.

What was the source of the initial idea, and how did that idea evolve into a viable high growth business venture? How did it change over time?

Lingham: “The initial source of the idea to build Yola was that it was clear that applications were moving to the web and that the transition from desktop applications to web applications represented a paradigm shift and an opportunity to disrupt. We looked at where we thought the big growth opportunities were as well as the existing products in those areas. The traditional Office suite of products – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, FrontPage – represented the largest chunk of small business software sales. Within this space, Google had just acquired Writely and were building out Google Spreadsheets. There were other players getting into the online presentation space. We felt the biggest opportunity was in the website creation space. A leading product (FrontPage) was not very functional. There was a true disconnect between the function FrontPage performed – creating websites and connecting to online services – and the reality of it being a desktop-based, isolated and siloed product. We believed that there was a better way to help people get a presence online. We also believed that many small- to medium-sized businesses often lacked the capital to pay an external company to create their own website. A company that provided them with a kit of tools to create their own website had a potentially large market opportunity. The increasing shift of software products to being on the web, as opposed to a CD, created a stimulus to us building our own product. In 2006, we started the development within incuBator, which I had co-founded earlier. I then bought the technology and intellectual capital from that company, and in March 2007 created a new company – initially called SynthaSite, and later, in April 2009, it became Yola. I decided that incuBator was stable and it was time for me to pursue my dream of building a company that had both a South African and a Silicon Valley aspect. We would do the back-end operations and services in Cape Town and do the front-end user facing applications in Silicon Valley.”

What was the initial growth vision or aspiration of the founding team? Was there a sizeable change in this growth vision or aspiration over time? If a change, please describe.

Lingham: “The initial vision for the founding team was to create a website building platform that would allow users to consume third-party web services without the constant need for hand coded integration. It should all be visual, drag and drop and in the browser. We believed that we could reach tens of millions of users and make their web creation experience seamless and powerful.

“The vision has not changed. We have however, focused on shorter-term metrics, such as making the core product more usable and functional before tackling the broader, big vision product requirements. While it’s great building amazing technology, it doesn’t help if your core product is very hard to use. We wanted to be mainstream rather than appeal to just the 5% to 10% of users that are technically savvy and smart. We wanted to solve the usability problem first and later add complexity, if that made sense from a market perspective.

“In short, we have had a very linear path, vis-à-vis our original business plan. The one thing that we shifted in our priorities was the greater emphasis on usability. We are also a little less grandiose in our aspirations. At one stage, we said we wanted to be the Home Depot of the web – a one- stop shop for website development. We are more modest than that now.”

Describe the strategy or business model that enabled your company to achieve its high rate of growth.

Lingham: “In less than three years since launching our beta version, we’ve grown to five million users worldwide. The marketing strategy has been to focus on search engine marketing. There are millions of people searching each month for our product category (web site creation tools). So far, this has been the low hanging fruit for us. By ensuring high visibility in the search engines through a process of both paid search marketing and natural search engine optimization, we have captured a large part of a fast-growing market.

“We have used the so-called ‘freemium’ business model – we offer a basic free product, but charge for upgrades and extras. A challenge with this model is the mix between free and charged products and services. Initially, I think we erred too much on the side of free. When you give your core functionality away free, the number of people who are willing to pay to upgrade is relatively small. You have to limit the core features you provide for free. The aim should be to introduce the product to the user for free, have them get comfortable using it for free, and then to start charging for it as they become active users. Giving away unlimited functionality means you do not get to capture the value you create for your users. Going forward, we will aim to charge for some core features. One help here is that there is a switching cost for users after they have gone down the learning curve with your product. We have some customers who have been using our products for three years and are only just upgrading to our premium products now. That is one reason our five million user base is such an asset, as they are all potential customers at some stage, who are down the learning curve with Yola. One benefit of our large user base is that we are minimally-affected by a small number of our users going out of business, which inevitably some do. Another benefit of the huge user base is that even those who don’t purchase can become great advocates of the product and help increase the word-of-mouth marketing around our product.”

What were the major growth accelerators for your company in its high-growth years?

Lingham: “Gaining important distribution deals via partnerships with one or more of the PC manufacturers certainly would be major growth accelerator and one we are committed to achieving. We believe Yola has much to offer in such a partnership over and above a very well received product. Yola can offer a large PC manufacturer or other large partners agility – we can customize our products for our larger partners in the shortest possible time. Yola can turn its whole organization around to make sure we deliver what the partner needs. The partner is core to our revenue stream. You have to walk a fine line here. You do not want to turn your business model upside down to satisfy a large potential customer.

“My past experience with start-ups and their early growth challenges meant I had a road map of some key likely challenges. That was very useful. Putting people in the right places is a key growth accelerator in start-ups. In my prior companies, I erred too much on the side of not giving people enough room to use their own judgment. In the early years of Yola, however, I probably over-compensated and gave people too much discretion. Now I am trying to strike the right balance between stepping back and still monitoring what is going on. The CEO has to be a key guardian of the vision, but you cannot be the only one working on its execution.”

Briefly describe the financing of your company and how this financing impacted the growth of your company.

Lingham: “We had an initial challenge. The few South African venture capitalists did not buy into our business concept. The US venture capitalists were not interested in investing in a South Africa-based company. We initially had Angel funding of only US$ 500,000 – this resulted in a low burn, low staff count, and very focused product development. I planned on it taking three to four months to raise significant financing. It took closer to nine months. Luckily, I had money and I also sold some shares in other companies to keep Yola afloat. Our main investor has been the Swiss-based Richemont Group run by Johann Rupert, a leading South African industrialist.

“We used Series A and Series B money to build growth. With the Series A (2007) funding of US$ 5 million – proof of concept delivered, scaling up customer acquisition and adoption and building a large core team. With the Series B (2009) funding of US$ 20 million – rapidly scaling up the platform to deal with increased customer acquisition forecasts. Focus on internationalization and creating core functional units within the company to deal with product, marketing, customer support and engineering.

“In 1996, I was privileged to become an Endeavor company and Endeavor entrepreneur. Endeavor helps early stage companies in multiple ways, one of which was linking us up with a Harvard Business School student (Brian Elliot) who helped write our business plan and helped with the post-funding business plan.”

What were the major challenges your company had to handle in its high-growth years, and how were they managed?

Lingham: “Major challenges faced were largely linked to building out offices in two countries – Cape Town, South Africa and San Francisco, US. Two issues dealt with time zone issues, and cross-functional reporting.

“We deal with the time zone issues by using online collaboration tools such as Jira, Skype and Google Docs. We also created application ownership areas, which were geographically located to ensure that there were minimal interdependencies between the two offices.

“Hiring the right people as we ramped up from 20 people to 70 people was a big issue for the company. We are hiring in both South Africa and Silicon Valley. We have a lot of our back office in Cape Town. Both our call centre and customer support are run there. One challenge there is the lack of depth in the South African labour market. In Silicon Valley, a high flyer can grow by hundreds of people every three months and still keep hiring quality people. In Cape Town, it is not yet possible to scale that quickly. A challenge in recent years in Silicon Valley is the tremendous number of quality companies hiring. We have been recruiting in a Twitter/Zynga/Facebook hiring festival. Notwithstanding that, we have kept to high standards. It’s better not to hire than to hire the wrong person. We have also become far less tolerant with non-performers – opting to remove them sooner rather than later from the organization. This is essential in a start-up. Feeling sorry for people and giving them multiple chances does not cut it in this business.”

Give examples of dark moments or negative periods that your company or you faced as part of your journey as an executive with this company.

Lingham: “From 2007 to 2008, we had just a free offering. Then in 2008, we switched to the ‘freemium’ model. My darkest moment was associated with this switch from a free product to a freemium product. We always knew that we had to start charging for upgrades. However, in our initial budgets we expected a much higher conversion and monetization rate. When we first started charging, our conversion rates were dismal and very disappointing for what we believed was a great product. However, we had to believe in our business model, and through that process we continued to iterate and evolve our product offering. Since that first day of launching, our conversion rates have increased over 500% and are much more in line with our expectations. Our beliefs in the business were not unfounded, but our expectations of the effort required to get it there were simply unrealistic, given the timeframes.”

What are the key lessons about entrepreneurship and successful growth strategies you take from your company experience?

Lingham: “Key lessons:
1. Trust your gut, as an entrepreneur-although sometimes you will be wrong.
2. Don’t be afraid of taking risks-that’s why you’re not working in a corporation.
3. Follow the money-find where customers are looking for you and go to them.
4. Always raise more money than you think you need-you will need it.
5. Hire the right person fast-but fire them faster if they’re not what you expected.

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