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Three Keynote Speakers Announced for the 2015 Endeavor Entrepreneur Retreat

The invite-only 2015 Endeavor Entrepreneur Retreat will take place May 6-8 in Westchester, NY. Three top-tier keynote speakers have been confirmed for the event: – Kenneth I. Chenault is Chairman and CEO of the American Express Company. He joined […]

March 2nd, 2015 — by admin

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South Africa’s wiGroup Wins 2014 PwC Vision to Reality Award

South Africa’s wiGroup was recently honored with the 2014 PwC Vision to Reality Award, which celebrates dynamic companies in the technology sector that have demonstrated growth and innovation. wiGroup’s mobile transactions application is leading the region’s point-of-sale sector […]

September 23rd, 2014 — by admin

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Endeavor Entrepreneur Diego Saez-Gil honored with “Most Innovative Travel Startup of the Year” award

By Hilary Saccomanno, Endeavor intern

Endeavor Entrepreneur Diego Saez-Gil and his partners have been honored by the travel industry with the “Most Innovative Travel Startup of the Year” Award.

Wehostels was recognized and awarded the honor by 12 travel executives, including CEOs and VPs from companies like Expedia, Priceline, Sabre, Google and Viator among others at the PhocusWright Confrence’s Travel Innovation Summit.

When Diego and his partners created Wehostels, they aimed not only to allow people to book affordable accommodation quickly and easily but also to connect them with other travelers to build a community of young global adventurers. Beginning by constructing a website that facilitated travel and accommodation, they immediately recognized a trend in people’s increasing use of mobile devices instead of the web to book their arrangements. They also noticed that travel companies were not facilitating this trend. So, they made a shift in the way they connected people through virtual space by deciding to get rid of their website and “go mobile or go home.”

With a beautifully crafted application and a simple design that facilitates booking and even makes it fun (never before has credit card payment been enjoyable), Wehostels is not only creating a new use for technology but also facilitating new friendships by creating a new social forum and network of similarly minded adventurous individuals. Moreover, and as validated by industry experts, they have proven to possess obvious entrepreneurial instincts that promise to continue guiding their business decisions.

The PhoCusWright Confrence attracts the world’s leaders in travel, who attend or tune in annually to get the latest in research, ideas and inspiration from the industry’s innovators. The Travel Innovation Summit is a feature of the conference that is used to bring innovative ideas, applications and individuals center stage. Previous winners have gone on to develop the ideas for companies like Tripit, Gogobot, EveryTrail, Hipmunk and Groundlink. No less is expected from Diego. His company just announced their ambition to become the World Largest Mobile Travel Agency for the Youth Travel Market. Be sure to connect with him and Wehostels to see how they continue innovating to connect people and facilitate their experiences. In addition, if you invite friends, both you and your friends will receive $10 to use on future bookings.

Endeavor Entrepreneur company Fairtrasa wins 2012 Social Entrepreneurship award

The Americas Business Council (abc*) Foundation, a self-defined “think-do tank”, is on the forefront of empowerment and innovation in the Americas. The recent abc* Continuity Forum was held last week in Miami, and with keynote speakers such as Kofi Annan, Steve Wozniak and many other leaders in the field, the event was an impressive meeting of influential minds. Over 500 initiatives applied for support and funding from abc* to implement their initiatives over the next two years. Of these 500 entries, 32 finalists were given a chance to present their ventures at the forum. Endeavor’s own Fairtrasa was chosen as a 2012 winner.

Fairtrasa, Fairtrade South America, champions sustainable fair trade in Latin America through technical support and greater access, Fairtrasa ensures fair compensation for small-scale farmers as well as a high-quality product to markets overseas.

Patrick Struebi, Endeavor Entrepreneur and founder/CEO of Fairtrasa, was gracious in the acceptance of the award, stating that “this award is not only a very important recognition for the work we have been doing but also a clear sign that large organizations and political leaders increasingly recognize the importance and value of sustainable food projects and the need for including small scale-farmers into the world’s food supply systems. As a winner we will now receive support from the most influential business leaders over the course of the next two years to further scale our business to increase the positive impact for many more farmers.”

With the support of The Americas Business Council, the next two years will be full of growth not only for Fairtrasa, but for the small-scale farming initiatives they sponsor as well.

Silicon Valley to Beirut: Recommendations for Entrepreneurs

As highlighted in a new report by Endeavor Insight, entitled “How to Improve Access to Finance in Lebanon,” Lebanon is primed to make its mark on entrepreneurship.

To make this mark, all actors in the ecosystem have specific roles to embrace in order to expand access to finance—a crucial piece of successful entrepreneurial ecosystems.  From interviews with nearly 20 influential Lebanese actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem (including VCs, incubators, entrepreneurs, etc.), it is evident that entrepreneurs themselves have an important, immediate role to play in the development of the Lebanese funding landscape.  Be on the lookout for actionable recommendations for other ecosystem actors over the next few days.    Below are key actions which emerged in interviews:

1)      Learn to bootstrap: Too many entrepreneurs see successes in Silicon Valley as evidence that funding should fall into their lap. As Elie Khoury, co-founder of YallaStartup says, “YallaStartup means ‘start working!’ YOU as an entrepreneur have to start figuring out how to make it work with low funding.” Entrepreneurs in Lebanon need to learn the importance of making sacrifices and bootstrapping. Plenty of entrepreneurs have created highly successful businesses with only limited funding in the early stages, but it required great sacrifice to pursue what they believed in.

2)      Be investment-ready: Entrepreneurs should not worry about approaching VCs until they are ready. They need to have something to show–a prototype, a demo or a proven model–before approaching funders. Too often, entrepreneurs show up with a “great idea” and a business plan without any proof of concept or revenue model. “Take the time to go through the process,” advises Walid Hanna of MEVP. “Build the business, work with incubators, be patient, get good mentors and wait until you are ready to approach VCs.”

3)      Look for strategic partnerships: After seeking out family and friends, most Lebanese entrepreneurs approach VC firms for funding. However, there is an alternative to traditional VC that can often be a better match – strategic partnerships or smart money. “Liaise with bigger companies that can benefit you in ways other than capital,” recommends Fadi Daou, serial entrepreneur and founder of MultiLane SAL. For example, rather than seeking traditional VC funding, a startup focused on providing media services might consider developing a partnership with a top media agency in Beirut.  These types of partnerships can provide strategic direction in addition to funding.

To learn more about where Lebanon is now, as well as read recommendations for how it can fully capitalize on its bright future, please read the full report here.

Video interview: Endeavor Entrepreneur Wael Attili of Kharabeesh [Wamda TV]

Reprinted from Wamda. Original article here.

By Nina Curley

This week’s entrepreneur of the week is Wael Attili, the founder of animation and Arabic digital media company Kharabeesh and Endeavor Jordan company Think Arabia, a creative production, technology and publishing company for the Middle East and North Africa.

Kharabeesh is one of Jordan’s success stories currently, not just because they created our icon, The Mini Entrepreneur. After several of its political cartoons went viral during the Arab Spring, the company began expanding and now offers five seperate content streams, Toons, its adult animation channel, Dawsha, its music production channel, Tahsheesh, its comedy center, Kharabeesh Street, its talk show channel, and Rusoom, its channel for caricatures.

Attili, who spoke at CoE Animate about how the internet democratized animation, chats about how Kharabeesh monetizes digital content, why Kharabeesh has launched a roadshow in Amman and Ramallah that will come to Dubai, and how his family has supported him through the company’s tougher moments.

It’s a new era for digital media in the region. “This is the first time we see young celebrities from YouTube and people are waiting to get their autograph. This is something we’ve never been able to see before,” he says.

[Disclosure: Think Arabia has received funding from MENA Ventures, the investment vehicle run by Wamda’s Chairman, Fadi Ghandour].

Silicon Valley to Beirut: Recommendations for Government officials

As highlighted in a new report by Endeavor Insight, entitled “How to Improve Access to Finance in Lebanon,” Lebanon is primed to make its mark on entrepreneurship. To make this mark, all actors in the ecosystem have specific roles to embrace in order to expand access to finance—a crucial piece of successful entrepreneurial ecosystems.  From interviews with nearly 20 influential Lebanese actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem (including VCs, incubators, entrepreneurs, etc.), it was evident that government has an important, immediate role to play in the development of the Lebanese funding landscape.  Be on the lookout for actionable recommendations for other ecosystem actors over the next few days.    Below are key potential governmental actions which emerged in interviews:


1)      Focus on infrastructure: “The government needs to work on providing the basics” (Elie Akhrass, Kafalat). 100% of the funders and facilitators interviewed said that the main thing the government should work on was developing infrastructure. In order to foster a truly dynamic entrepreneurial environment, the basics, electricity and internet, need to be reliable utilities.

2)      Create a space to foster entrepreneurship: The government should invest in creating a space, or “Entrepreneur City” that is exclusively for entrepreneurs. Similar to the concept of New York’s General Assembly, which receives city funding in order to promote education around technology, design, and innovation, providing a home for this sector will encourage collaboration and foster education amongst entrepreneurs. “We need a home for this space,” comments Omar Christidis of Arab Net. “This is a key way to stimulate growth in the sector.”

To learn more about where Lebanon is now, as well as read recommendations for how it can fully capitalize on its bright future, please read the full report here.

Recognizing the power of digital dreams: Eastline Marketing’s founders among Executive‘s “Top 20 Entrepreneurs”

Reprinted from Eastline Marketing. Original press release here.

Beirut, Lebanon, November 10, 2012: Executive, a highly respected Lebanese business magazine, selected 20 outstanding entrepreneurs and featured them in an article published online on the 2nd of November 2012. Eastline Marketing’s founders, [Endeavor Entrepreneurs] Marc Dfouni and Nemr Nicolas Badine, were among the privileged few to receive this prestigious magazine’s stamp of approval. Dfouni and Badine were chosen since they have shown they have the drive to succeed and the ability to rise to the challenges inherent in a country brimming with instability.

Founded in 2006, Eastline Marketing specialises in online marketing and has gained a solid reputation over the years. The team is now 15 members strong and revenues are steadily growing. In 2011 they were $800,000 and are expected to soar to $1.2 million in 2012 and $2 million in 2013.

The 35 year old entrepreneurs were honoured to receive this stamp of approval from Executive. Nemr Nicolas Badine commented that this was “Another great accolade for Eastline and the best is yet to come…” While Marc Dfouni stated, “We are very flattered to have been selected amongst the top 20 entrepreneurs in Lebanon and this comes with great gratification. Our aim is to become the leading digital marketing player in the Middle East region by 2016. This recognition is an encouraging sign that we’re on the right track.”

An award-winning online marketing firm, Eastline Marketing focuses on strategies that best address their clients’ needs and goals. Specialized in social media marketing, search engine optimization, paid search marketing, online advertising and online public relations, the firm has also created its very own technology to garner optimal results and impact.

Eastline Marketing has a vision and is taking steps to make it a reality by offering comprehensive digital marketing services (social media marketing, search engine marketing, display advertising and mobile marketing) and enlarging the potential of its social media marketing software platform. Badine and Dfouni’s digital dreams look set to leave their mark on the real world of business and online marketing.

Silicon Valley to Beirut: Recommendations for a Lebanese entrepreneurial ecosystem

As highlighted in a new report by Endeavor Insight, entitled “How to Improve Access to Finance in Lebanon,” Lebanon is primed to make its mark on entrepreneurship.  To succeed in this goal, all actors in the ecosystem have specific roles to embrace in order to expand access to finance—a crucial piece of fostering a true culture of innovation.  From interviews with nearly 20 influential Lebanese actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem (including VCs, incubators, entrepreneurs, etc.), it was evident that there are actionable steps that can be undertaken by the government, entrepreneurs, and funders.  (Be on the lookout for a series of blog posts which focus on each of these actors.)  Below is the high-level recommendation which all Lebanese actors should work toward:

1) Engage and organize the Lebanese diaspora: With an estimated 10 million Lebanese living outside of the country versus just 4 million in Lebanon, a large untapped population lives outside of Lebanese borders. Ecosystem stakeholders should develop a strategy to leverage this brain drain.

2) The government could invite prominent expat business leaders and entrepreneurs to visit Lebanon, meet with dynamic Lebanese entrepreneurs, and experience the entrepreneurial ecosystem. IDAL (Investment Development Authority of Lebanon) plans on employing this tactic by working with organizations such as LIFE (Lebanese International Finance Executives) and LebNet, to engage the diaspora.  Their combined goal is to help build the technology startup community within the country in order to encourage more mentorship and angel investment.

3) VCs should try to engage Lebanese entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and other locations, similar to what is being done by LebNet. By involving these entrepreneurs on their boards and in their investment committees, VCs can expose the Lebanese start-up community to the influence, inspiration, and guidance of the most successful Lebanese entrepreneurs.

To learn more about where Lebanon is now, as well as read recommendations for how it can fully capitalize on its bright future, please read the full report here.

Fred Wilson: How to be in business forever

Reprinted from A VC. Original article here.

By Fred Wilson

I will be doing office hours today at 6pm eastern. You can watch them here on this link. If you want to submit questions for office hours, you can do that here. Just like last week, I will review a few business model canvas projects and then will answer questions for the rest of the office hours.

This week I’d like to talk about company culture and how it impacts sustainability. If you want to be in business forever, you need to build a culture that sustains the business. I talked a lot about this in a post on culture a while back. You should give that a read as part of the assigned reading for this course. Here is the money quote from that post:

“Companies are not people. But they are comprised of people. And the people side of the business is harder and way more complicated than building a product is. You have to start with culture, values, and a commitment to creating a fantastic workplace. You can’t fake these things. They have to come from the top. They are not bullshit. They are everything. There will be things that happen in the course of building a business that will challenge the belief in the leadership and the future of the company. If everyone is a mercenary and there is no shared culture and values, the team will blow apart. But if there is a meaningful culture that the entire team buys into, the team will stick together, double down, and get through those challenging situations.”

I bumped into a friend last week who works at a company that is going through a difficult time right now. I asked him about the “talent drain” that is going on in his company. He said “the ones who were in it for only the money are long gone, the doubters are gone now too, and we are left with the true believers now.”
I thought to myself that the mistake the CEO of that company made was bringing the mercenaries and doubters into the company in the first place and allowing them to stay.

Mercenaries have no place in your company and your culture. Doubters are a bit different. You certainly don’t want to create a culture of “yes maam” in your company. So some doubting is healthy. But it should be out in the open. The doubts should be expressed upfront and they should be discussed and debated. But once the decisions have been made, everyone needs to get behind them. Ongoing doubting is not helpful to a culture.

True believers are required to get through the hard parts. And you need to be the leader who inspires the true believers. Watch this short video where @dens described what he did when Facebook launched a competing product to Foursquare.

You get true believers in your company by giving them something to believe in and someone to believe in. That is you. Even if you are scared shitless or bummed out, you can’t show that to the team. You have to lead if you want the team to follow.

The thing that you give them to believe in is called a vision. Make it a long one, a very long one. I like Bill Gates’ vision for Microsoft:

“When Paul Allen and I started Microsoft over 30 years ago, we had big dreams about software,” recalls Gates. “We had dreams about the impact it could have. We talked about a computer on every desk and in every home.”

A computer on every desk and in every home. That was a big hairy audacious goal in the late 70s. And it is exactly what happened, at least in the developed world.

The cool thing about that vision is it is drop dead simple to understand but took decades to execute. That’s a long vision that your team can buy into and stick with for the long haul. That’s what you need.

So if you want to build a business that lasts, you need a big and long vision and you need to be a leader who can inspire the team to believe in the vision and to believe in you. You need to hire folks who will stick around for the long haul and you need to be open to the doubts and doubters. But if they keep doubting, you need to part company with them. Don’t hire mercenaries. They won’t work no matter how hard you try.

Building a culture that can sustain the business is the most important investment you can make in your company. Once you’ve gotten a product into the market and proven product market fit, there is nothing that is more important than team, culture, and values. It is the glue that holds the whole thing together for the long haul.

Have every new employee do customer support for two weeks

Reprinted from Feld thoughts. Original article here.

By Brad Feld

A few weeks ago an entrepreneur of a fast growing consumer-oriented company told me that he has every new employee do customer support for two weeks. Their approach is they onboard the new person, given the a one week “get settled into your role / get up to speed on the company” period and then they spend weeks two and three full time in the customer support organization.

I’ve let this roll around in the back of my head and think it’s absolutely brilliant. The first week is a typical “first week at a new company” which includes a formal day of orientation on the first day. The next four days are structured around on-boarding the person and getting them involved in their role and their team, but not too deeply. This allows there to be a “break in period” where the person is learning the systems and structure of the company.

Week two is a full time immersion in the customer care organization. Total front-line stuff. The same first week any new customer care rep would get. Day one is whatever the normal orientation is followed by four days of “training wheels customer care.”

Week three is a fly on the wall from a managers view of customer care. Rather than front-line support, this is involved in all the meetings – up and down the customer support organization – to understand what people are dealing with. The last day includes a debrief meeting with the CEO.

I think a version of this process could be created for virtually any size company in any market segment. You are trying to have the person do three things: (1) be on the front-lines of the company and understand what that looks like, (2) engage directly with the product and customers, and (3) understand how the organization works from the customer point of view.

There’s a powerful second order effect, especially if every employee does this regardless or rank or title. In the first month of their tenure, they see the organization from the inside out. This creates a powerful common view that can generate an entirely different set of early actions for anyone in a new role. It also creates a powerful culture dynamic. And it does a little of what we try to do in the first month of TechStars – which is to “slow down to speed up.”

Hatching an international office: 6 tips for startups going global

Reprinted from OnStartups. Original article here.

Guest post by Diana Urban.

International expansion can provide a startup with tremendous growth opportunities. It allows your company to grow faster by casting a wider net, and helps diversify your revenue stream. While global expansion can be an exciting time, it’s a significant undertaking and requires some careful planning and making some hard decisions.

Today, HubSpot announced its European Headquarters launch in Dublin, Ireland. As part of the HubSpot International team, I wanted to share some of our learnings with you.

Here are six important things to consider when expanding a startup internationally:

1. Follow your customers and prospects

To determine where your biggest global opportunity exists, take a look at your customer base. If 50% of your International customer base is in Europe and only 8% is in Latin America, it makes a lot of sense to choose Europe as your International HQ. Let your domestic team build your Latin American segment up to a point where it’s ready for its own HQ. Make sure you have enough proven revenue in a region before opening up a new branch.

Also take a look at where the majority of your non-domestic prospects, or leads, live. You may notice that you’re generating the most leads in a country other than your largest international customer base. If this is the case, take conversion rates and cultural factors into consideration. Even though you’re generating a lot of leads in a particular country, can its population afford your products’ price point?

Finally, as much as we’d like to “follow the metrics” and make purely data-driven decisions, the choice of location might come down to people. Does one of the founders have a particular affinity or background in a location? Do you already have one of your stars anxious and eager to start an office in a particular country? These “people-based” factors should be considered. Often, the “optimal” decision from a metrics and revenue perspective is not the “best” decision.

2. Set ambitious international goals

Expanding internationally is a big investment, so it’s important to set ambitious goals to get the highest ROI possible. For example, plan for 30% of your business’ revenue to come from your global HQ within 3-5 years. Defining an international revenue goal for your international office will help you determine things like:

-How many sales reps do you need to generate $X in revenue?
-How many marketing leads do you need to generate to make those reps successful?
-How quickly does your international customer segment need to grow to reach that goal within 3 years?
-How many customer service reps will you need in order to serve this segment?
Whatever numbers you set to suit the needs of your own business, make sure you set those goals ahead of time so that you can plan accordingly every step of the way. Setting clear goals ahead of time will help keep the team that opens up the international headquarters accountable for its success.

3. Hire locally but be consistent culturally

A major benefit of opening up an office overseas is being able to recruit local talent, who will be experts in your industry in their culture. No matter how much you’ve been educated in the nuances of the culture you’re entering into, nobody will be better prepared than the people who grew up in the region.

If budget allows, try to bring over your new global employees for a couple weeks of training in your primary office. They will likely be teleconferencing frequently with your primary HQ, so having them join for training in-person helps put a face to the name for all future interactions.

Even though you should plan to hire mainly locals to staff your International Headquarters, be sure to maintain your company culture by sending over a group of expats, even if for a limited time range — six to 12 months can suffice.

Most importantly, ensure that from Day 1, members of your international team feel like they’re part of the company. Give them training. Give them career opportunities. Give them access to information and resources.

4. Network and attend conferences

Although America is becoming very dependent on virtual communication, in-person interaction is highly valued in cultures like Europe and East Asia. Use conferences and networking events to make connections with local industry-leaders in the region you’re opening your new office. Plan to stay a couple extra days after the conference for 1:1 meetings with your new connections. Meet with local press in-person to provide interviews on your global expansion plans.

Networking with the locals will help you spread the word not only about your product, but about the career opportunities now available to the local marketplace. You may need to hire aggressively your first couple years in your new office branch, so networking is imperative to drive high-quality candidates to your business.

5. Don’t underestimate cultural differences

Just as marketing best practices vary culture-to-culture, so do business practices. For example, in the U.S. it is typical for employees to have 10 non-holiday vacation days. However in Europe, it is customary for employees to have at least 20 non-holiday vacation days — and be required to take all of them. It’s important to take this cultural difference into account when projecting sales quotas and development sprints.

6. Get support from finance, HR, and ops experts

When opening an office abroad, there are a lot of overhead elements to plan for, such as:

-Negotiating leases and contracts
-Determining company structure
-Setting up accounting and tax reporting systems
-Supporting expat and local employees’ HR needs

Expect that you will need ongoing support from your finance, HR, and operations departments, and plan to hire agencies to help if you don’t have the resources in-house. Again, global expansion is a big investment, and it’s important to get these basic elements right from the get-go.

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