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Endeavor Investor Network’s Latin American Venture Forum Gathers 160+ Entrepreneurs and Investors in Bogotá

Last week, Endeavor Global and Endeavor Colombia hosted the inaugural Latin American Venture Forum in partnership with Bancoldex. This event gathered over 30 of the most active regional funds in Colombia for a day of content, discussion […]

September 16th, 2014 — by admin

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Two Mexico Entrepreneurs Named Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs of the Year for 2014

The  Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year Awards is an annual list of the top innovators driving global, regional and industry agendas to improve the state of the world. The 2014 list of 30 entrepreneurs includes […]

March 26th, 2014 — by admin

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A chat with Endeavor network member Fadi Ghandour: how to encourage entrepreneurship in the Arab world [Wamda TV]

Reprinted from Wamda. Original article here.

By Nina Curley

http://youtu.be/TvNKcCS7bSA

At the Abu Dhabi Media Summit last month, Fadi Ghandour discussed opportunities and challenges for entrepreneurs in the Arab world, in an hour-long talk, which you can watch here.

Afterwards, we had a frank chat with him where he explained that “the knowledge economy is the future,” noting that it is important for startups in the Arab world, especially in the tech sector, to realize that copying and pasting a model may be ok, but you have to innovate to make your startup relevant to the region.

By observing trends in developed economies, Ghandour explains that we can get a sense for what will happen in the Middle East and North Africa as the ecosystem develops. “What happens there will happen here,” he says, “but with a twist.”

He also stresses the importance of local innovations; “We don’t want to be only a consumer society, because a lot of the knowledge industry needs to be generated here.”

“Entrepreneurs are the creators of future jobs, and there is a high unemployment rate among all youth in the Arab, and that’s the biggest danger for stability in the Arab world – bigger than any other danger. But we’re not doing enough about it,” he explains. It is thus incumbent upon governments to enable entrepreneurship through easier business regulations, stronger broadband infrastructure, free trade in the region, and a freer movement of peoples between countries.

Ghandour adds that governments need to foster competition instead of protectionism to release entrepreneurs to innovate and build better products and services for consumers. “Small and medium-sized enterprises need to be encouraged,” he says, “Access to capital, access to knowledge, access to networks is where the future lies.”

How to discover your perfect value proposition

Reprinted from Duct Tape Marketing. Original article here.

By John Jantsch

This is part two of a three-part series on Finding Strategy. Each post includes a free template.

So, I’ve been preaching this one pretty hard for a bunch of years and see no end in sight, because it’s just that important.

Find a way to differentiate your business, one that matters to somebody, or you’ll be forever doomed to compete on price.
Get really, really clear about the single-minded point of difference that some narrowly defined ideal client cannot live without and you’ve got the secret to marketing success. Seems pretty simple, right – then why do people fight it so?
I’ll tell you why, because to be unique, you have to actually be different and that scares the heck out of most business owners.
But let me tell you the most important lesson I’ve learned in all my years of owning a business – your customers and prospects want you to be different, they require you to be different.
If you want to succeed in business you have one job – find a way to propose that you are completely different in a way that a market wants and values, exploit that difference in every word that you compose and watch your profits soar.
This is the essence of the elusive marketing strategy so many companies long for.
Okay, enough preaching let me teach you a simple process I’ve used for many years that often helps business owners nail the core difference and value proposition that matters most.

Identify your ideal client
The first step is to identify your ideal client. I wrote about The Secret to Finding Highly Profitable Clients here. You know you have an ideal client in mind when you can ponder how great life would be if you have a dozen or so more just like them.
Create a list of six to eight of your current ideal clients and commit to sitting down with face to face or over the phone for about fifteen minutes. You are going to conduct an interview of sorts that may lead to some fabulous revelations.

Ask them these questions
Once you have your client’s attention pose some variation of the following questions.
A word of caution here, you’re not looking for scientific data here, you’re looking themes and stories that offer clues to what really does make your firm unique. In most cases you will need to use follow-up statements such as – “Okay, we provide great service, that’s awesome, but tell me a story about a time we did.”

1. Why did you hire us/buy from us in the first place? (Here you are looking for clues to what helped them decide to buy, what build trust, what resonated in your marketing and sales processes.)

2. What’s one thing we do that you love the most? (Stick to one thing and help them get as specific as possible)

3. What’s one thing we do that others don’t? (Again one thing – this may sound a lot like the second question, but what you are really trying to do here is get some industry comparison going – you might get some stories of how others have failed them in the past and there offer some interesting opportunities.)

4. If you were to refer us what would you say? (This is your chance to have them describe what you do best as though they were telling a friend. This point of view can be very powerful and this answer might actually turn into a testimonial. In many cases that’s precisely what I’ve done with answers to this question.)

5. Can you tell me about three other companies that you love? (This question does a couple of things. It allows you to better understand what they think best of class looks like and why and it helps you build a list of potential strategic partners. Think about it, your shared client thinks you both rock!)

6. Bonus: If you can pull this off, have them conduct an online search and simply ask them to type the phrase they would enter if you were no longer around and they needed to replace what you do for them. (I like to try to have them physically do this. It’s amazing what you learn from watching what people really do to find things online. Experience tells me you might not be optimizing your content for the same terms your prospects are looking for.)

We’ve created a handy tool that you can use to record your client interviews – Download our free client survey template here

Work with themes that matter

From your interviews you should have some rich themes to work with. Don’t underestimate the power of simple things. Quite often your clients value the little things you do that are special. Resist the temptation to dismiss them as unimportant enough to use as your core point of difference.

I once worked with a remodeling contractor that felt their superior craftsmanship was the key and while their clients acknowledged this they admitted that it was an expectation because the company was also higher priced than most. What they didn’t expect was how thoroughly their people cleaned up the job site every day. That idea was unique and using it in all of their marketing created a dramatic shift in strategy and sales.
In the final part of our Finding Strategy Series we’ll cover how to turn your point of difference into a core message, value proposition and something I call Your Talking Logo.

Endeavor Entrepreneur Rob Sussman: Growing something out of nothing

Reprinted from Integr8. Original article here.

By Lesley Stones

Wired for tech Rob Sussman, Integr8, says he has a particular mindset that understands how computers think.

Visitors to the offices of Integr8 might notice that all the teacups on the shelves are lined up with the corporate logo neatly facing forward. None of them are chipped or cracked, because a company slack enough to tolerate broken cups will also tolerate business proposals sent out with coffee stains on them.

Integr8’s joint CEO Rob Sussman is deadly serious as he tells me this, then sees my expression and grins. “I’m fanatical about everything being organised. I know it’s anal but I believe it’s important,” he says. “If you make a big thing about little things, then the big things become important as well. The office has to be immaculate. I can drive myself berserk so I must drive my people absolutely crazy. I sometimes have to apologise and say this is how I am, everything has to be perfect, but it’s worked well for us.”

Sussman founded and grew the Integr8 group with his brother-in-law Lance Fanaroff. It’s a real family business, with his wife Tami the chief marketing officer, his mother-in-law the client relationship manager, his mother running the company’s property portfolio, Fanaroff’s brother running the IT rental division, his sister in office administration and a brother-in-law working as a project manager. The group has about 540 other employees too, making it the largest privately-owned ICT company in Africa.

Drop-out

Sussman is only 38 and looks younger, with gelled, spiky hair and a lean body honed by daily workouts. “I used to be the youngest guy in the boardroom, but now the average age is 26. So I’m the old, grey-haired one, except I don’t have any yet,” he jokes, finger-combing his funky hair and sipping a Diet Coke.

He’s come a long way since his inauspicious school days and directionless adolescence in Cape Town.

“I did computing in Standard Eight and dropped out, thinking it wasn’t for me. We had to code to make a green turtle run around a screen and we spent ages doing that. At the end you had a turtle running around and I thought, `What on earth was that all about?’”

He also dropped out of biology and accounting, worrying his mother by his lack of academic prowess. But his father was unfazed. “My father was very chilled and laid-back. If I’d followed my dad, I’d be working on Greenmarket Square or renting out chairs on the beach,” he says. “School didn’t interest me. I didn’t like the academic side or the structured environment. Later, I also learned the corporate environment wasn’t something I enjoyed. I’m more in tune with the entrepreneurial world.”

Most of his friends went to university, but Sussman didn’t. He had no plans at all, so he enrolled for the easiest-possible year-long business course, then skipped most lectures.

If I’d followed my dad, I’d be working on Greenmarket Square or renting out chairs on the beach.

His life was going nowhere, but when his father decided to move on, his entire world changed. “You know how people say you have an ‘ah-ha’ moment? Well, I got a proper klap as a wake-up call. Within the space of six months, my parents got divorced, my older sister went to live in Johannesburg, my younger sister went to live in Israel and the family house was sold. My mom and I moved into a guest house and shared a room with our dog. I thought if there’s ever a time to wake up, it’s now.”

Losing his whole family support system was the turning point. He enrolled for electronics at a technical college, followed by a three-year course in electrical engineering. “I excelled. I learned to listen in class, studied hard and did my homework every day.”

Going it alone

A job with IT company Bhekisizwe taught him how to build computers. He also took a Microsoft course and lobbied his managers to let him launch a Microsoft business unit. When they refused, Sussman quit to set up a Microsoft integration company on his own.

“I realised I had a particular mindset that understood how computers think. I just kind of get it; maybe I’m wired that way. So I went on my own and started selling computers to friends and then to businesses.”

With 550 people, it’s not a close-knit family business. It’s not sitting around with pizza by the pool.

Despite his lethargic start, Sussman quickly got his act together. “I missed out on the phase of partying and drugging. I didn’t smoke and I didn’t drink. I was too busy working and looking after my mother. Saturday nights consisted of movies with my girlfriend and my mom.”

If his girlfriend tolerated his mother joining them on dates, she was definitely a keeper, I say. She was, and they’re still together two decades later.

He’s also still very close to his mother, and treated her to a European cruise for her 68th birthday, where she attracted envious glances from old dowagers convinced she was travelling with a toy boy.

Despite good looks and easy charm, Sussman says he’s only had two girlfriends, one from 16 to 18, and Tami from the age of 18. “I’m very much a long-term player,” he says. “I pick something and I give it a proper go.”

Tami now wants children, and Sussman is happy to oblige. “My wife wants kids, so kids she’ll get,” he says indulgently. The reason they are still child-free is because they have both focussed so hard on building the business.

What really kick-started his career was when one of his sisters introduced him to her boyfriend, Lance Fanaroff. Fanaroff was a businessman importing glass at the time, but when he won an IT networking contract, he commissioned Sussman to conduct the work. As the scope of the job grew, they joined forces to launch a company, initially working with business partner Mark Levy, who later left to form Blue Label.

Boom and bust

This was at the height of the dotcom boom, and they sold the business to a bigger company with big dreams of listing. But that plan burst along with the dotcom bubble, leaving the trio with nothing.

“We had nothing. No customers, no income, no money,” Sussman recalls.

The trio each stumped up R150 000 to create another company, Integr8IT, in March 2001.

They continually reinvest the profits into the business, rather than splurging on luxuries. I ask if he has any extravagances at all, and his answer is the gym. He’s serious. Not a flashy car, luxury house or baths in champagne, but fitness sessions. Trying to uncover any vices in this good, clean-living Jewish boy is a hopeless challenge.

He lives in an apartment in Cape Town’s Mouille Point, built when Integr8 first invested in commercial property developments. That shows how Sussman is happy to dip into various ventures rather than being an IT devotee. “I think I’m an entrepreneur,” he says. “I like to grow things out of nothing.” He didn’t come from money or a fancy education, he says proudly, pointing out what a successful enterprise they have grown from three initially small investments.

He’s also learned the importance of a properly structured corporation, overcoming his initial dislike of such formality. “I have figured it out,” he grins. “I now realise why corporate systems exist ? to enable companies to grow.”

His growth plans are hugely ambitious, with an aim of doubling in size every year for the next three years. That could involve listing or a take-over by a larger company. Not chasing growth would be unfair to the young employees who want to learn and join the management team and become partners and directors, he adds.

“I chase success, and I don’t think success is money. Money can come from success, but you can inherit a lot of money and it doesn’t make you a success. For me, success is growing things out of nothing.”

Ideas factory

What he is growing now is ZunguZ, an application developed to let Facebook users securely transfer money to and from their Facebook contacts.

Integr8’s ideas machine usually begins when Sussman comes up with something new and proposes it to Fanaroff. Instead of picking holes or shooting it down, Fanaroff tends to stretch things into even greater possibilities. “As much as I present an idea, he catapults it even further. I plant the seed, he waters it and I have to trim it back. It’s a fantastic relationship and works really well.”

Discussing the creation of new ventures makes Sussman realise that that is what keeps him interested in being at the helm even though Integr8 has grown into a serious corporation. Yet sometimes he questions whether being joint CEO is still the perfect role.

“With 550 people, it’s not a close-knit family business. It’s not sitting around with pizza by the pool,” he says. “As the business grows, it’s no longer about you, it’s about your people and what they demand and their careers. You doubt yourself. You sometimes sit in a meeting and think, ‘I wonder if I’m the right guy for the job now?’ We have put brilliant people in the right roles to run the business on a day-to-day basis and a lot of them are better than I am.”

Yet he’s very much the leader, and still loving it. As our evening interview ends, he tells me he’s going straight back to work. “I can’t wait to see what’s happening and who’s done what. Work isn’t work ? it’s what I want to do. It’s my passion,” he says. “I get into bed at night with my laptop and work.”

Which is one thing that may have to change, or those elusive children could remain some way off yet.

The secret to finding highly profitable clients

Reprinted from Duct Tape Marketing. Original article here.

By John Jantsch

Most people view marketing and selling like this.

You target a market segment, tell them what you have to offer, maybe work in a little solution selling and hope they choose you.

Or

You target a market segment, respond to RFPs and hope they choose your price.

Either way, what you’re building is a recipe for low prices and even lower profits.
See, the secret to high profits is to take price out of the equation to a large extent by offering some unique and desirable element that can’t be compared.

The problem with solution selling and responding to RFPs is that both of these approaches basically make every business look the same so price is the primary issue.
The secret to creating consistently high profits is to understand how to choose your clients and not the other way around.

Yes, you need to select exactly whom you intend to work with and let your unique way of doing business illustrate your premium pricing value proposition.
Now, when I say choose your clients I’m don’t mean making a list of clients you want to work with or that you think would be nice names in your portfolio.

What I’m referring to is the intentional act of identifying the characteristics of an ideal client and going after only prospects that fit that profile. Taking this approach allows you to significantly increase the likelihood that you will only work with clients that appreciate your unique approach and expect paying you what that’s worth.

I have developed a three-step approach for helping you get clearer on this idea. You may want to download our free ideal client template here.

1) The #1 Unmet Need

The first step is to figure out who has a problem you can solve and what their goals are for solving this problem. I know we all think everyone needs what we do, but the key to finding ideal clients is to also find prospects that are in flux, have the desire to make a change and are open to a disruptive approach.

You must find that demographic, help them define their goals and speak to their greatest unmet need.

2) The Crucial Behavior

Once you identify the larger pool of prospects that have the need, it’s time to turn your attention to a narrower subset that has demonstrated a behavior that can give real clues to their willingness to respond to your unique approach.
This element is harder to define because you won’t discover it on a direct mail list of selected fields. But, when you understand it, you’ll have the tool to unlocking this approach in ways that will make you incredibly smart and confident about zeroing in on ideal clients.

Let me give you an example that might apply to any service type business.

I found long ago that there are three behaviors that stand out as crucial markers for an ideal client. It almost doesn’t matter what industry, if one of these three characteristics is apparent I can charge ahead with confidence that I want that client.
We’ve identified these behaviors with names to give us common language to refer to.

Movers – Movers are people who care about their industry almost as much as they do about their business. They have a need to serve and realize that by improving the overall health or impression of their industry, they win as well.
These people serve on industry and association trade group boards and committees and always look for ways to improve their business.

Educators – Educators teach as an approach to selling and business development. They hold classes, create content that educates and are often found leading discussions and presentations both related and unrelated to their core business.
No surprise, this behavior responds very well to an inbound, content based, educational approach in kind.

Skeptics – This last group might seem odd, but the one thing I’ve discovered about skeptics is that sometimes they are as open to anyone for a truly new approach. What they’ve grown skeptical of is that everyone is saying the same thing and no one is delivering results.
Sometimes the only way to uncover skeptics is through networking, but this group may indeed to very open to a disruptive approach.

3) The Ideal Client Sketch

The last piece of the puzzle is to write out a thorough sketch of this ideal client that includes the demographics, the #1 unmet need, goals and central behavior that allows you to pinpoint your hottest prospect.
From this three-step approach you should be able to create a hot list of real prospects that your marketing and selling efforts can take specific aim on knowing that your efforts, when successful, will lead to a profitable client.

Endeavor Entrepreneur SocialWire launches optimized ads for Facebook, announces $2m in investment

Reprinted from Wamda. Original article here.

By Nina Curley

Online advertising has yet to be proven very effective. Yet SocialWire, a company started in Istanbul by a Turkish entrepreneur, is out to transform the way companies think about advertising globally.

“Online advertising today requires a lot of guesswork, testing and manual work. It’s like the evolution of print media. When you look at authentic channels of discovery like recommendations, they don’t rely on guesswork, they rely on data signals,” says [Endeavor Entrepreneur] Selcuk Atli, SocialWire’s Founder and CEO. “

That’s where SocialWire comes in.

Online merchants today might not fully understand Facebook’s Open Graph, but SocialWire has made it simple to create and share extremely targeted ads that reflect actions consumers are already taking, much like a recommndations engine.

“There is so much more to Facebook marketing than building Fan pages and paying for likes,” says Atli.

The company allows merchants to leverage Facebook in two ways:

1. Making social actions on the web visible on shoppers’ Facebook Timelines. Once a merchant adds SocialWire Connect to their website, any action that a shopper takes- a purchase, a wish list addition, a product review, a video viewing- can then become visible on Facebook.

2. Promoting the visibility of those actions on Newsfeed via sponsored stories. Once the actions appear on a user’s Timeline, SocialWire Amp allows merchants to, well, amplify the effect of that action by targeting friends who are most likely to click the ads.
This way, SocialWire combines earned media (organic shares) and paid media (promoted actions), as TechCrunch points out. It monetizes by taking a commission on total ad spend.

“When an action is shared on Facebook, typically less than 12% of a user’s friends see those actions,” says Atli. SocialWire ensures it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, while allowing marketers to choose who to target, when, and on what device (web or mobile).

Competitor Nanigans also allows merchants to promote sponsored stories, but with its Connect platform, SocialWire uniquely offers the ability to monetize almost any action on the web, like reviewing a book on Jamalon or dress on MarkaVIP.

Advantages

1) It democratizes advertising by lowering the cost for small businesses. “SocialWire enables and empowers marketers of all sizes,” says Atli. While a small seller on Etsy won’t have the traffic to make banner ads effective, she could easily promote her whole catalogue on Facebook.

2) It makes mobile advertising effective. By also targeting the 400 million users on Facebook mobile, SocialWire provides a simple way to generate effective mobile advertising in an era when up to 79% of users say they forget typical mobile ads. It can also help mobile startups drive app installs by sharing stories from their apps.

3) It gives users control over their privacy. This point can’t be stressed enough- SocialWire allows users the ability to easily opt out of sharing their actions. Unlike Facebook itself, which makes privacy a tedious and obscure process, SocialWire politely asks users to authorize sharing their actions. “Whenever we share, we let users know,” says Atli.

If you’re skeptical, go ahead and test it out on SocialWire’s demo page.

My biggest concerns when initially assessing SocialWire were: 1) But will I get spammed with actions taken by friends? And 2) how can SocialWire iterate to ensure that its platform helps merchants target the right users?

It turns out both issues have been taken into account: thanks to Facebook’s built-in controls, users can’t see over a certain number sponsored stories in a given time period. When it comes to audience targeting, SocialWire makes this very easy for its merchants, but the company is not an advertising firm itself; it’s up to merchants themselves to assess the data and define their ideal target audience.

Customers and Investors

To launch their product, the company has taken on $2 million in investment from First Round Capital, Wamda Capital, and several angel investors, including Dave McClure of 500 Startups, Wamda Chairman Fadi Ghandour, Wamda board member Joi Ito, and Wamda CEO Habib Haddad.

They’re already taking on customers as well, including apparel retailer Bonobos and Instacanvas, whose CEO says it saw click-through rates of 0.8%, over 10 times that of standard Facebook ads.

A platform like SocialWire is limited to a Facebook audience, but that’s an audience of now around 1 billion globally, and around 50 million in the Middle East and North Africa as of September this year, according to Internet World Stats.

To further help small merchants reach a big audience, SocialWire will also be rolling out a self-service option soon.

Check out screenshots below of SocialWire’s demo platform.


How to use rejection to achieve your business goals

Reprinted from QuickSprout. Original article here.

By Neil Patel

Even though I’ve always been a pretty confident guy, early in my career as an entrepreneur I struggled to deal with the rejection I received.

In part I think I was shocked that somebody would actually tell me no. But even once I got over that feeling rejection still had that sting to it…and if I didn’t do something about that sting my life as a entrepreneur may be short lived.

Why do you fear rejection?

You probably fear rejection for a number of reasons like the idea you will be considered a failure…or you will see it as public humiliation…or you’re a perfectionist…or you have a low self-esteem and just want everybody to approve of you.

Rejection brings those fears to the surface.

One of the reasons I bring this up is because it’s very important that you understand why you fear rejection…you understand your real fear. Because once you do that you can then actually do something about it…and use that fear to your advantage.

Why you must conquer your fear of rejection

The entrepreneurship game is a tough one…and it’s not for those who are weak in the stomach. If you don’t like hearing the word “no,” then you should probably find something else to do.

See, if starting a business was easy…everyone would be doing it. So think of rejection as weeding out the weak.

And the lesson every entrepreneur needs to learn is that rejection never goes away. It doesn’t matter if you are Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg…you will get rejected.

The secret is to let that rejection go…and use it to help motivate you to reach your business goals. Here are some tricks that have proved very helpful for me.

Accept rejection as a challenge

Using rejection to motivate you to prove people wrong can give you a powerful jolt to building your company. In fact, this is such a popular way of thinking among entrepreneurs that it’s almost a cliché, but that probably means there is a whole lot of truth to it…

For some entrepreneurs that response is kind of like an instinct and it’s usually combined with a hardheaded attitude that simply will not take no for an answer. They’re kind of like the bulldogs in business.

That doesn’t mean if you don’t have this instinct you can’t be an entrepreneur…it just means you’ll have to develop it.

How do you develop this kind of tenacity? Well, for starters you have to be completely obsessed with what you do. You have to believe that life has no meaning if you don’t do it. And you have to believe that thousands of people can benefit if you don’t do it.

If that doesn’t describe you, then you need to start looking for something else to do. Otherwise rejection will knock you down…and keep you down.

The other trick to developing this tenacity is to simply remind yourself not to take “no” for answer. Put up signs around your house and in your car to remind yourself.

Finally, hang out with people who will push you and encourage you not to give up. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely game, so find people you can trust who will hold you up when you get discouraged.
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The basics of business structure for emerging entrepreneurs

Reprinted from Under 30 CEO. Original article here.

By Carlene Masker

Success is a ladder that cannot be climbed with your hands in the pocket. A successful business venture is no different in this regard. Hard work, proper planning and smart thinking are the key to a successful business. This article is a guide to business standards and structures for rising entrepreneurs.

In US, the most reputed form of business structures are general partnership, corporation, Individual proprietorship and LLC (Limited Liability Company). Each of these structures has its own merits and demerits in terms of complexity, security, taxation, expenses and other factors. You must have a thorough understanding of how each structure works to emerge as an entrepreneur.

Let’s get into more details on the structures.

General Partnership

When two or more individuals join hands to make profit through business entrepreneurship, it is popularly termed as a partnership. Partnerships can be formed so easily by a simple handshake or an oral agreement. However, it is always good to operate a partnership after a written agreement. A partnership offers relatively simple operation, organization and flexibility that multiple owners can afford to enjoy. One has to bear in mind that partnership is a form of business that is more likely to result in lawsuits and disputes because of its easy formation and informality.

Advantages of partnering

-Easy and Inexpensive
-Fewer formalities and no annual meetings.
-Favorable taxation to small business setups
-Unlike LLC and Corporation, partnership does not demand minimum taxes

Disadvantages

-You are personally liable to losses, debts and liabilities.
-You also have to bear responsibility for the other partners’ actions
-Badly organized partnerships can lead to disputes and lawsuits.
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How to find a good mentor (by an Endeavor Entrepreneur mentee)

Reprinted from Wamda. Original article here.

by Abdullah Alshalabi

Starting a new business is like having a baby. I’m no expert in raising kids, yet I know that when your first baby is born you’ll always seek your parent’s advice. The same thing applies when you have your first startup, you should find your parents (mentors) for your newly born baby (startup). Yes, your mentors will be your new parents.

You’ll need mentors that have gone through the ups and downs of an entrepreneur’s life. The mentors should be experienced entrepreneurs that previously built two to three startups and can advise you against making the same mistakes they did. Ideally, they will guide you when you are lost, support you when everyone is laughing at you, and will be honest with you when everyone else is just being nice. Good mentors are usually nice people too, and tend to follow the “Give before you get” mantra.

Unfortunately, good mentors are rare! I’m super lucky to have two great mentors helping us with our startup, fishfishme.com: [Endeavor Entrepreneur] Omar Koudsi, the co-founder of Jeeran.com, and Migeul Angel Ferrero, the co-founder of quehotels.com. They have opened our eyes to great opportunities and have saved us from doing crazy things.

Now, the question is “how do you get access to great mentors?”

Good question: first you need to do your homework. You need to find out who you want to be your mentor, and why. Don’t be limited by geography or nationality. Next, follow them on twitter and get to know a bit more about them. Let them know who you are by retweeting or replying to some of their tweets.

Next, try to find out if they are participating in regional events and try joining these events. Then, you have two options: 1) talk to them directly, in person or over email. 2) Find someone who can introduce you to them (the better option). Don’t mention anything about mentorship yet.

The next step to ask them one or two specific questions about some challenges you are facing at your startup, asking for their advice (over coffee or a Skype call). Do this a couple of times, and then introduce the idea of being a Mentor and a Mentee.

You can’t imagine the value of having a mentor until you have a good one yourself. It’s still uncommon in our region and people still struggle to understand what does the term “Mentor” means. We need to change this, and Wamda is already working on it; last weekend I attended a great event organized by Wamda called Mix N’ Mentor event (which is also coming to Dubai this Thursday). They invite experienced entrepreneurs and VC investors from all over the world to give entrepreneurs some feedback in their startups and to help them find their new parents (mentors).

I never dreamt I would meet Dave McClure of 500Startups in the Middle East, yet that was what exactly happened. I’m glad I got in touch with Omar and the Wamda team and came to this awesome event.

[From the left in the photo above: Omar Koudsi of Jeeran, Mohammed Alzubi of Global Investment House and Sand Hill Angels, and Dave McClure of 500Startups and Geeks on a Plane. ]

Video interview: Endeavor Entrepreneur Bedriye Hulya of b-fit in Turkey

Reprinted from Wamda. Original article here.

By Nina Curley

This week’s entrepreneur of the week is Bedriye Hülya, an Endeavor Turkey entrepreneur who built b-fit, a chain of gyms for women in Turkey, that are also staffed and run by women.

In a call from Istanbul to New York at the time, Hulya chats with us about staffing the gyms with all women, her challenges creating a gym franchise, scaling up in Turkey, her aspirations to enter the Arab World, and the advice that she typically gives entrepreneurs and women.

“We have to believe that we can do anything that we want to. As long as we decide that it’s our right to start businesses, I am sure every woman will be successful,” she says.

Building a culture of creativity: what companies can learn from Ferrari, art, and jazz

Reprinted from Wamda. Original article here.

By Oubai Elkerdi

Dynamic teams made of passionate, curious, and talented self-starters produce exceptional outcomes.

But building a highly dynamic team is easier said than done. It’s crucial to nurture individual curiosity, develop skills, and create opportunities for personal growth, while designing a workspace that fosters collective ideation, experimentation and improvisation.

Few employers are currently willing to really invest in creating thoughtful institution for growth, but smart companies understand that a focus on team culture is essential to sustainability and success. This is why, a few years ago, Ferrari launched a program that is entirely geared toward employee training and development.

In an HBR article, director of human resources and organization Mario Almondo was asked how Ferrari trains its employees to be creative, to which he responded:

“You can’t methodically teach creativity. But you can provide an environment that nurtures it. Several times a year, we run a program called Creativity Club that is designed to get employees’ creative juices flowing. We have six events at which employees meet various types of artists. We’ve had painters, sculptors, a jazz musician, a writer, a radio DJ, a photographer, a chef, an actor, an orchestra conductor, and others. The goal is for our employees to learn about how artists generate ideas and solutions.”

Ferrari isn’t the only company that cares about the personal growth of its employees. At Pixar University, 110 courses on everything from improv to self defense are taught to all employees. The point of this in-house education “is to push Pixar employees to try new things, work together better and test new ideas.”

In his book Innovate the Pixar Way, dean of Pixar University Randy Nelson says “the skills we develop are skills we need everywhere in the organization. Why teach drawing to accountants? Because drawing class doesn’t just teach people to draw. It teaches them to be more observant. There’s no company on earth that wouldn’t benefit from having people become more observant.”

At IDEO, employees are introduced to new ideas on a weekly basis. Tom Kelley writes, “nearly every Thursday evening, a world-class thinker shows up to share their thoughts with us.” This “Know How” speaker series is not only educational; it also stirs all kinds of fresh conversations and insights.

Environments that stimulate and engage problem-solvers in provocative learning experiences are more likely to give birth to innovative solutions.

Jazz as a first step

But how do we create environments that promote vibrant interplay? Especially when building lean startups?

It turns out there is much to learn from jazz, especially when it comes to mastering the art of improvisation.

A jazz improviser assumes that a melody can be molded out of a chaotic rhythm, so he pays close attention to his surroundings and waits for an opportunity to embellish, to “link the familiar with new utterances, and adjust to unanticipated musical cues that reframe previous material.”

Jazz musicians also take advantage of errors. Which is also how the pacemaker was created, recalls Barrett: “A simple mistake – pulling the wrong resistor out of a bag – and a willingness to stick with it long enough to connect the pulse of the oscillator to [an] overheard conversation about irregular heartbeats… led to an invention that has done untold good.”

Errors are the stuff of new discoveries because they disrupt our expectations and throw us into new territories where we have to look for original approaches and ways to combine previous knowledge with the tools at hand.

This is why innovators like Brian Eno like to disorient the members of a band – while they’re rehearsing in the studio – by having them switch instruments. This may result in less refined music, but “it enlarges the envelope of possibility within which they navigate,” says Eno in a conversation with Stephen Johnson.

Lastly, it is important to allow employees to design their own workspaces within a flexible, relaxed structure. Cross-disciplinary dialogue requires vigilance and followership. It also requires minimal, obtrusive, intervention.

What a manager should do is play the role of the anthropologist; keep her distance and make sure she is observing her team in its most natural state. Or just pick up and instrument and join the groove! Join – as in follow, not lead.

Companies and organizations that are excellent at delivering innovative products and services also happen to be platforms of experimentation and learning, and they often empower employees to become proactive agents of change beyond the walls of their organization.

So go ahead, spread those ideas and give them a try!

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