High-Impact Entrepreneurship

Join the global conversation


Minha Vida Acquires TecnoNutri; Creates Dominant Player in Brazil’s Healthy Eating Market

Brazil’s Minha Vida Group, which manages a medical/health care website of the same name and a popular online diet program called Dieta e Saude, took a major step forward in its growth this week with […]

July 6th, 2015 — by admin

Read more

In the news

2014 Endeavor Gala Honoring The Abraaj Group’s Arif M. Naqvi Brings Together 400+ Members of the Global Network

On Friday, November 7, 2014, the Endeavor Gala brought together over 400 entrepreneurs, business leaders, Endeavor Board members and supporters in New York City to celebrate the power of Endeavor’s network. As Endeavor’s only annual fundraising event, […]

November 9th, 2014 — by admin

Read more
Get RSS Feed

¡De una! One year in Bogotá at Endeavor Colombia, by PiLA Fellow Melissa Tran

After recently returning from a Princeton in Latin America fellowship at Endeavor Colombia Melissa Tran reflects on her experience.

De una, short for de una vez, has quickly become my favorite Colombian phrase. The literal translation for de una vez is “all at once,” but in Colombia, the phrase has a meaning that is closer to “Okay! Let’s do it!” or “Yes! I’m all in!” For example, a common response to a friend’s invitation to lunch would be a wholehearted, “¡De una!” After a year living and working in Bogotá, de una has also come to embody the optimistic spirit that I love about Colombia and its people—a willingness to embrace opportunity and say yes to challenges without hesitancy and with passion and enthusiasm.

One year ago, I came to Bogotá to begin a yearlong fellowship at Endeavor Colombia through the Princeton in Latin America program. Since then I have been working with the Search and Services team to help search for, select, and support high impact entrepreneurs in Colombia. The Endeavor selection process begins with a series of interviews between entrepreneur candidates and our accomplished business mentors. Our team facilitates these interviews in which mentors scrutinize and evaluate the entrepreneurs’ businesses for innovation, growth potential, and fit with Endeavor.

Entrepreneurs that make it through this rigorous process and past a local selection panel have the chance to present their companies at an International Selection Panel along with candidates from Endeavor offices around the world. Before each International Selection Panel, I work with our entrepreneurs to write a detailed company profile, which describes their personal history, as well as outlines all aspects of their company’s business model. Through my interactions with our entrepreneur candidates, I have learned that what distinguishes high impact entrepreneurs is a de una attitude—that is, an ability to embrace opportunities without hesitation—as well as the propensity to think big and a desire to promote social and economic change in their country and the world.

Luckily for me, my PiLA fellowship happened to coincide with Colombia’s turn to host an International Selection Panel in May. The ISP, as we call it, is an event that represents the pinnacle and culmination of the Endeavor selection process, where candidates pass their final rounds of interviews and are selected to become Endeavor Entrepreneurs. The process of planning this large scale event—hosted in the beautiful Caribbean coast city of Cartagena, and involving over 100 participants from around the world—was both challenging and rewarding. After many months of planning and coordination, it was amazing to convene such a talented and impressive group of entrepreneurs, mentors, and Endeavor staff from all over the world, and to see the Endeavor model at its very best in action.

Besides accompanying entrepreneurs through the selection process, I also had the chance to work closely with selected entrepreneurs as part of my work with Entrepreneur Services. Once entrepreneurs have been selected to become a part of the Endeavor network, we help them identify challenges that their companies are facing, and then match them with mentors within our network that can help. Through facilitating mentorships and work sessions, we work with our entrepreneurs on such diverse projects as launching a new line of business, designing a new media marketing plan, and expanding their companies internationally. It has been a truly humbling and inspiring experience to work with and learn from the many talented Endeavor entrepreneurs and mentors who are setting positive examples for future generations of Colombian entrepreneurs.

Fortunately, my year in Colombia wasn’t all trabajo and no play. Colombia is a country of amazingly diverse landscapes: from the expansive highlands of the antiplano, to the lush plantations of coffee country, and the jungle-lined sparkling beaches of the Caribbean coast. Here in Colombia, I discovered that half the fun of traveling is being open to adventure and embracing the unexpected and unknown. Five-hour truck ride with 19 other Wayuu passengers? An exploding game of tejo with locals at 2am? Salsa dancing outside with 10,000 people in Bogota’s largest central plaza? ¡De una!

Reflecting on this last year, the highlight of my time in Colombia has definitely been the many wonderful people that I have had the privilege of meeting. Colombians have a reputation for being some of the friendliest people in the world, a title that is very much deserved. I am especially grateful for my co-workers who have been so patient with me and have inducted me into the world of entrepreneurship and business in Colombia. Even though I was foreigner and a recent college graduate, my coworkers welcomed me as a respected member their team and always took my ideas and opinions seriously. They, and the many other Colombians and gringos whom I met during the last year, have made this experience worthwhile for me.

As I am wrapping up my one year in Colombia, I now catch myself using de una almost as much as a Colombian! More significantly, though, I have also adopted the Colombian approach of facing new opportunities and challenges with enthusiasm and passion. I am very thankful to have had the experience of living and working in Bogotá for the last year, and I hope that I can approach my next adventure with the same de una attitude that Colombia has taught me.

GigaOm on Endeavor’s Silicon Valley Tour (“As VCs edge into Latin America, founders come stateside for an education”)

Reprinted from GigaOM. Original article here

By Eliza Kern

As some of Silicon Valley’s investors move toward Latin American to find the next hot startups, international founders still look to the United States for models of entrepreneurship and innovation that can be applied back to their home countries — with or without VC dollars.

It’s a beautiful, quintessentially Silicon Valley sight: a throng of entrepreneurs and investors, paired off with notebooks and wine glasses under the umbrellas and palm trees of Stanford’s business school. The founders are pitching, and the investors asking questions as they do business on a breezy Friday afternoon in Palo Alto. It could be any VC cocktail party in the Valley, except that nearly all of the founders are Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs from Latin America, and they’re here to learn from the startup mecca.

More than 100 entrepreneurs, mainly from Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil, gathered in the Valley Friday to meet with investors and startup mentors. The group was organized through Endeavor, a global non-profit that promotes entrepreneurship by connecting foreign startups with resources and mentors in their home countries. While Endeavor has been around since 1997, the group’s early focus on Latin American markets makes it particularly valuable as Silicon Valley’s investors are expressing greater interest in that market.

But what were Friday’s founders looking to bring home? Sure, a check from investors would be great. But just as many seemed to be looking for a better understanding of the culture in Silicon Valley that they’re trying to emulate at home.

“What I love about Silicon Valley is that it has an ecosystem ready for everything,” said Juan Manuel Alvarado Bustamante. “You have the ideas and the money and the companies all in one place. In Mexico, we still need role models. We need Bill Gates, we need Zuckerberg, we need Steve Jobs.”

Venture capital investors are talking a lot about Latin America right now, and several of them are putting significant money into the market. Redpoint and BV Capital’s eVentures launched a VC firm in Sao Paolo that closed a $130 million fund for Brazilian investments, 500 Startups recently took entrepreneurs and investors to Mexico City, Sao Paulo, and Buenos Aires with the Geeks on a Plane trip, and 500 Startups also recently acquired a Mexican accelerator. Investors have been interested in Brazil for a while now, and Mexican investments are growing too.

Just how much the folks on Sand Hill Road are heading south is still questionable. As Katie Fehrenbacher noted in her profile of 500 Startups founder Dave McClure, investing in foreign markets requires a serious degree of travel and hard work that not every investor is willing to put in when so many opportunities are right here at home. Several investors at Friday’s event expressed doubt that the trend was more than the work of a few passionate individuals, and several Latin American founders said they’d been told by investors not to bother looking for funding until they’d relocated to California.

But even if investor interest and record in Latin America is mixed, there’s no question that international startups are looking to Silicon Valley for guidance as their own startup cultures grow at home. The Buenos Aires government provided funding for some of its most promising companies to visit the United States for a week, attending TechCrunch Disrupt and meeting with CEOs and investors as well as Endeavor, with the recognition that the exposure could kickstart the country’s economic growth.

“We can see what is happening here, and it generatates ideas for generating business in Latin America,” said Augustin Gau, one of the Argentinian entrepreneurs picked to make the visit. “For us, it’s about coming to the best place in the world, with the most developed market in the world, so we see a lot of things you’re not going to find in Latin America.”

These can be difficult markets to grow companies in, with entrepreneurs facing challenges from high taxes, to local investors taking huge percentages of equity, to cultural norms making it incredibly difficult to accept failure. A big part of Endeavor’s philosophy is that if one or two startups in a region really take off, those founders can serve as the best mentors to other local companies, often better than distant American CEOs. But seeing American counterparts who’ve taken risks and achieved global results is huge, said [Endeavor Entrepreneur] Santiago Subotovsky, an Argentinian entrepreneur-turned-investor with Emergence Capital.

“The biggest thing they get coming here is the vision of thinking big,” he said.

Press release: Ernst & Young launches Global Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

LONDON, 6 SEPTEMBER 2012. Ernst & Young is delighted to announce the launch of its Global Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, an online platform providing guidance to entrepreneurs and innovators on their growth journey as well as enabling fast growing companies to connect to each other sharing their different perspectives.

The new online platform showcases relevant entrepreneurial programs, conferences and forums from around the world and provides access to an extensive global network. The center also aims to help entrepreneurial companies with their future growth plans and how best to access funding.

Maria Pinelli, Global Strategic Growth Markets Leader at Ernst & Young, says: “As the world leader in advising, guiding and recognizing entrepreneurs and high-growth companies, we aim to bring together entrepreneurs, investors, major corporations and governments from around the world to accelerate companies to market leadership and facilitate the connections that help businesses to grow.

“Growth is hard to come by as businesses battle increased economic volatility, global power shifts, disruptive technology and new ways of working. Against this backdrop, only the most innovative and entrepreneurial businesses will continue to grow. By sharing our over 30 years of experience working with the world’s most dynamic and ambitious companies, from start up, through emerging enterprises, to rapid growth and market leadership, we hope the center will be a valuable help to established and future entrepreneurs.”

To access the Ernst & Young’s Global Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, go to www.ey.com/entrepreneurship

Lesson #1 from Endeavor’s fastest growing entrepreneurs: Think big to achieve big

CLICK HERE to read the full Endeavor Insight report, “Emerging Market Entrepreneurs Have Emerged: A look at the fastest growing entrepreneurs in Endeavor’s portfolio”

The fastest growing Endeavor Entrepreneurs (13 of whom would have qualified for the Inc. 500 list this year) set aggressive growth targets; on average, they aim for 80% yearly growth. When asked if they had met the ambitious goals they had set three years prior, more than 90% had met or exceeded their target. This high success ratio seems to give credence to the notion that ambitious goal setting is crucial to aggressive growth. As the saying goes, “think big, achieve big.”

Endeavor Entrepreneur Yunus Güvenen, CEO and founder of Digitouch, explains that Digitouch was able to meet its goal of growing approximately 100% yearly for three years due to relentless drive and focus. “We fell short [of our revenue goals] in some areas and went above in others. When you don’t make the targets in one area of the business, you try to find another area to make up for it.” Still, setting targets remains a clear motivator for Yunus, as he explains that “believing that you can build this market, that you can make it, is something emotional, but it also gives you the drive to do it.”

Do ambitious goals work as a self-fulfilling prophecy? To read more about “Thinking Big” and other lessons from Endeavor’s fastest-growing entrepreneurs, check out the full report.

[issuu width=550 height=425 embedBackground=%23f2f2f2 backgroundColor=%23222222 documentId=121001195247-6ce58c68bdfe4ae9ad3e19a301cca0cf name=inc500 username=endeavorglobal1 tag=endeavor unit=px v=2]

Coming up (Oct 14-17; Dubai): SuperReturn Middle East 2012

The largest private equity event in the MENA region returns for 2012 with its strongest ever line-up of regional investors, international fund managers and fabulous guest speakers. With more in-depth commentary from independent academics and analysts, SuperReturn Middle East 2012 will discuss and debate private equity trends in the region and beyond. This is your opportunity to hear from 120+ leading regional and international speakers including top representatives from Silver Lake, Emirates Investment Authority, Al Murjan International Holding, Abraaj Capital, Stepstone Group, Citadel Capital, Rashed Al-Rashed & Sons Co, Khalid Ali Alturki & Sons Co and many more. Plus meet 100+ top LPs at the excellent networking opportunities, giving you the opportunity to really push your business forward.

Find out more at http://www.superreturnme.com/FKR2332ENV

Chris Dixon: Once you take money, the clock starts ticking

Reprinted from Chris Dixon. Original post here.

One of the interesting things about having been investing in startups for a number of years is that at any moment you get an inside peek at startups at a variety of different stages. In the course of a few weeks, I might talk to people who are ideating around new business ideas, people raising seed rounds, people raising later (VC) rounds, people whose products are blowing up, people whose product are struggling, people getting acquired, people leaving acquirers to start new companies, etc. Sadly, there are also usually a few companies that are struggling and facing the serious possibility of running out of money and being forced to shut down.

One side-by-side comparison struck me recently.  Company A is just now raising a seed round. The money they raised will last 12 months (personally, I strongly recommend raising 18 months of runway – if you have the option to do so). Company A was also, in my opinion, not ready to raise money (they needed to work on their plan and team more). Company B raised a seed round about 10 months ago and is now struggling to raise more. Company B had the option to raise more money back then but chose to only raise 12 months runway in order to minimize dilution. Company B also made the mistake of having a large VC invest $100K in the round (a meaningless amount to a large VC). The large VC has since said they won’t support the company (despite the fact that the company made pretty good progress on the business) creating a massive signaling problem.

In the current “frothy” environment, where seed investors are aggressively offering money to entrepreneurs, it is easy for an entrepreneur to think “well, if I’m getting offered money this easily at the seed stage, I’ll get offered money easily later.” In fact, once you take professional investor money, the attitude of investors (both insiders and outsiders) changes dramatically: you’ve gone from planning mode to operations mode. When you do planning, research, experimenting etc. without having raised money, investors think you are prudent (I recently interviewed the Warby Parker founders for TechCrunch and they said they spent 1.5 years planning/researching before they raised money). When you do it with other people’s money, and don’t make what they perceive to be enough progress, the investors can quickly lose faith.

The obvious lesson is well known by experienced entrepreneurs. Don’t raise money until you are ready, and when you do, raise enough to have a good shot at reaching “accretive milestones” so you can raise more money, become profitable, or whatever your goals might be.

Endeavor Entrepreneurs and network members recognized as Middle Eastern tech stars

If you’re a keen reader of the Endeavor blog you’d know already about the other Arab Spring. The Middle East’s tech industry has become a hotbed of innovation and development, and many Endeavor affiliated companies are leading the way. Listed below are a few of those rising tech stars, as selected by Al-Monitor (original post here).

Endeavor Network Members:

Habib Haddad, Lebanon

The World Economic Forum has recognized Habib Haddad as a Young Global Leader, while Arabian Business ranks him as one of the most influential Arabs under 30. This tech entrepreneur founded bothYamli.com, an Arabic search engine, and YallaStartup!, which nurtures early-stage ventures in the Middle East and North Africa. Now Haddad is CEO of Wamda, where he helps fund, educate and empower the region’s entrepreneurs.

Fadi Ghandour, Jordan

It took three decades of innovating within the Middle East’s logistics industry, but Fadi Ghandour has grownAramex into a $700 million-a-year company with a presence in more than 60 countries. He built Aramex into the Arab world’s first business to list on New York’s Nasdaq exchange, and has recently been adding new e-commerce services to boost company revenues via technological innovations. Ghandour, known for mentoring promising young business owners, was named a high-impact entrepreneur of the year in 2011 and is set to retire from Aramex this year.

Maktoob, Jordan

It’s been nearly three years since Yahoo! forked over $164 million for Maktoob, an Arab news site founded in Amman, and the deal still remains one of the region’s most talked about tech acquisitions. Co-foundersSamih Toukan (shown) and Hussam Khoury helped grow Maktoob’s base from 2 million users a decade ago to more than 18 million today. But both men have since moved on to run another online giant together:Jabbar Internet Group, which has spun-off the brands not acquired by Yahoo and include Souq.com andCobone.com.

Endeavor Entrepreneurs

Jeeran, Jordan

Since Omar Koudsi (left) co-founded Jeeran.com in Amman in 2000, he has evolved the blogging service into a user-generated review site that’s similar to Yelp and attracts more than 25 million page views each month. Last month, the company received seed funding from the 500 Startups accelerator. Koudsi still oversees Jeeran as its CEO, though Laith Zraikat (right), a co-founder who left the venture, is now reportedly working on a new mobile app service.

Peak Games, Turkey

Peak Games is another fast-growing online gaming company, and its founders Rina Onur (left) and Sidar Sahin (right) secured a $5 million investment a few months ago from Earlybird Venture Capital. Their Istanbul-based business boasts more than 30 million active players, many who play the company’s traditional Turkish and Arabic card and board games. Peak Games has grown to become the world’s third-biggest social gaming company.

Khaled Ismail, Egypt

In 2007, Endeavor, an organization that finds and grooms high-impact entrepreneurs from around the world, selected Khaled Ismail (pictured) as its first member in the Middle East. Last year, Ismail became Endeavor’s board chairman in Egypt just months after having most of the assets from his successful software company, SySDSoft, acquired by Intel. The Egyptian now mentors other entrepreneurs in his home country and works as managing director of Intel Mobile Communications.

Curl Stone Studios, Jordan

Fadi Bargouti (left) and Majdy Abo-Mathkoor (right) have created one of the region’s most promising digital entertainment houses, Curl Stone Studios, which is introducing many of their characters through web episodes and mobile apps. Their venture was incubated at Oasis 500, a well-known Jordanian accelerator, and both men were just selected to be mentored through Endeavor, a group that identifies high-impact entrepreneurs. Fadi Ghandour, the founder of Aramex, sits on their company’s board of directors.

An Endeavor Entrepreneur’s mantra: wisdom from Daniel Daccarett

Nice SmilesAfter a recent Endeavor retreat for Chilean Endeavor Entrepreneurs, Daniel Daccarett shared some inspirational words about his experience as an Endeavor Entrepreneur…

I share with you my mantra which has helped me at various points in my life as an entrepreneur, starting from the day when I decided not to wait for opportunities but rather go out to find them.

I decided to look at every problem as an opportunity to find a solution. I decided to look at every night as a mystery to solve. I decided to look at every day as an opportunity to be happy. That day I discovered that my only rivals were my own weaknesses and that in these lay the only and best way to excel. That day I stopped fearing losing and started fearing not winning. I discovered that I was not the best and that perhaps I never had been; I stopped caring about who would win and who would lose; now I simply care about knowing that I am better than I was yesterday.

I learned that the best you can do is not reaching the top, but rather continuing to climb. I learned that love is more than simply being in love…love is a philosophy of life.

That day I stopped being a reflection of my few triumphs and started to be my own dim light of the present; I learned that being a light is worthless without lighting the path for others. That day I decided to change so much…that day I learned that dreams only exist so that they can come true.

Since that day I don’t sleep to get rest…now I simply sleep to dream. That day was May 14, 2002, when Endeavor opened its heart to me.

– Daniel Daccarett, Endeavor Entrepreneur


Daniel’s original words in Spanish…


Endeavor Entrepreneur Diego Noriega discusses the Endeavor Experience, offers advice to High-Impact Entrepreneurs

Recently, we caught up with Argentine Endeavor Entrepreneur Diego Noriega (selected in 2009) to learn more about his dynamic entrepreneurial journey…

In June 2011, eBay acquired your company alaMaula, the fastest growing local classifieds network in Latin America. What was the role of Endeavor throughout the process?

Let’s be clear. I know that if I wasn’t an Endeavor Entrepreneur, and I didn’t attend Endeavor’s Silicon Valley Tour or receive help from an Endeavor-supplied BCG consultant, I would have never sold alaMaula to eBay. Not a chance!

Of course, I didn’t become an Endeavor Entrepreneur overnight. This was a process that started in 2000 while doing an MBA. I resigned from my job and I became an entrepreneur. The journey wasn’t easy. I had to close my first business in 2002, around the same time I divorced. I lost all my money and family, as well as anyone’s trust that I could accomplish my dream to build a successful business and therefore drive a cultural change in Argentina — where 85% of the people work for the government or companies related to it.

Thanks to Endeavor, my teams and I have grown a lot. And of course, the businesses opportunities are great because of the networking and trust built into the Endeavor experience.

What do you do in your current role at eBay? 

I am the General Manager of eBay Classifieds in LatAm and I am also responsible for taking a look at potential deals across the region. I am having a great experience because I have access to a lot of new resources. It’s lots of fun, and the knowledge I’ve gained is what I appreciate the most.

By meeting with leaders in different regions around the world, it’s awesome to get to know the cultural differences in adapting our business to each country and region.  It’s also a challenge to get to know my own region better. Latin America is unique and I am learning lots every day about the process of influencing the region with our online classifieds network. We have a great strategy and a great team. Now it’s all about execution!  We are close to being number 1 in Argentina and Colombia…and I know we are going to do it.

Can you tell us more about visiting.net?

Several years ago I started the first Latin American travel content network which provides tons of information regarding tourist spots. We monetize the site through ads. A couple years ago with another international consultant from McKinsey in New York, we decided to launch a short-term rental booking engine in our LatAm travel network.

There’s a real market gap when it comes to people wanting to rent houses and apartments in order to have a different experience. People have been very happy with this service launching, as have the property managers with whom we’re partnering. We have a very aggressive business plan and expect to reach 10,000 properties by the end of 2012, becoming the biggest vacation rental inventory in our region.

Personally, it is a new challenge not to be the CEO of Visiting, but I am very comfortable with my new role and I love the passion on this team to make things happen.

What advice do you have for other people who want to become high-impact entrepreneurs?

Not to give up.  Big dreams are not easy.

In 2009 when I was going through the selection process I traveled over 1,000 km [620 miles] by bus to get from my hometown, Santiago del Estero, to Buenos Aires.  I wasn’t that young and I’m not skinny, and even though my back hurt, my heart was full while accomplishing this critical phase to becoming an Endeavor Entrepreneur.

Also, just before I caught the plane to go to San Francisco for Endeavor’s Silicon Valley tour, I received very bad news from my main client and I almost didn’t take the plane.  I can’t forget that on the way to the airport I almost told the taxi driver to come back to the city.  That happened five times in a one-hour drive.  It might sound silly, but if that taxi turned around, I would have never sold alaMaula to eBay.

Another piece of advice is: don’t be afraid to take risks. Even if you don’t succeed, it will be a great experience with lots of meaningful learning.

A turning point in my story was in 2009 when I became an Endeavor Entrepreneur. Since then, I’ve taken advantage of most of Endeavor’s support programs, and the VALUE of it all is just incredible. But it also takes an effort from the entrepreneur’s side to reach out proactively and get the best out of every program.  Endeavor’s programs have been a life-changing experience and I encourage all of my fellow Endeavor Entrepreneurs to really take advantage of them.

Overall, what has been the role of Endeavor on you and your companies?

Thanks to my Endeavor mentors, I’ve learned that nothing can be built with a weak base, and the bigger your dreams are, the stronger base you need. The number 1 thing I’ve learned is that you need to delegate, engage a great team, and grow a great culture. Endeavor’s support has been very valuable in providing mentorship and resources to our main needs.

I consider it a virtuous circle where the more you participate, the more you give and receive. Plus, it is a lot of fun to be involved with a lot of energetic and great people with whom I share the belief that by doing, you are collaborating to make this world a better place.

For me, Endeavor has made a great difference.

How has the state of entrepreneurship in Argentina changed over the last decade?

It is very dynamic now and a lot of people are in new ventures. Also there are tons of government, NGOs, and university programs for entrepreneurs. Endeavor Entrepreneurs like Wences Casares, Andy Freire, and Santi Bilinkis have done a great job making the huge “first step” that was needed.  Nowadays, a lot more people are leading the entrepreneurship movement and spreading the word across the country like the Globant guys, Luciano Nicora and other entrepreneurs that are really engaged.

You can tell that people admire Endeavor Entrepreneurs, which is great, but also a big responsibility.

I know that there is a lot to do still because we are far away from the knowledge and spirit that entrepreneurs have in the U.S., especially in Silicon Valley. For instance, there I met a 15-year-old entrepreneur who is the CEO of a legitimate B2B company! I’ve heard tons of pitches and you can tell that there is a big difference.  The U.S. is core value creation oriented and in LatAm we are a lot more product oriented. We will get there eventually, and hopefully the entrepreneurial ecosystem is going to help.

Anything else you’d like to say?

To entrepreneurs:

Do whatever makes you happy. At the end of the day, everything is about relationships, making unforgettable moments, projects, etc.  Have a positive vision about things and fight a lot for building a great team.

To Endeavor Staff and Entrepreneurs:

Many thanks to Endeavor and the teams that are doing a great job.  And many thanks to all my fellow Endeavor Entrepreneurs that I’m able to spend time with from all regions.

I am sure that [Endeavor Co-founder and CEO] Linda [Rottenberg] is very proud of what she started, but I also think every entrepreneur is happy and very proud to be part of this wonderful mission of changing the world by selecting and supporting High-Impact Entrepreneurs across the globe.

Hockey tips for entrepreneurs: do you know where the puck is going?

Reprinted from wamda.com. Original article here.

By Christopher Schroeder. Christopher is an Endeavor network member and a former CEO of the social platform start-up HealthCentral which he sold this past January. He is also on the board of Wamda. You can follow Christopher on twitter @cmschroed

While not a huge hockey fan, I am a great admirer of the sport’s legend Wayne Gretsky. I simply am in awe when women and men come around in any field and dominate their craft; as an ever-curious entrepreneur I am fascinated by how they view the world.

I read recently that when Gretsky was asked what he thought about when he was on the ice, he paused a long moment and said: “I’m always thinking about where the puck is going, not where it is.”

This blew me away. It is really so simple, so obvious at a level. But when one is working twenty hours on the day-to-day mission at hand, how much stands in our way – or we let stand in our way – to think where the pucks we chase will be?

When my team and I first started HealthCentral, the social and content platform for people to learn and share their health and wellness experiences, one of the all-time great Silicon Valley entrepreneurs – a Gretsky of his field for sure – emailed me to say:

“Congratulations! Welcome to our world where there are two and only two emotions: utter euphoria and abject fear!” I knew what he meant by the end of the first week.

The euphoria is easy to describe – on certain days you believe with every ounce of your being that you are building that which was never been there before. Even the abject fear part is pretty easy. In one of our start-ups we must have had in the first two years alone three near-bankruptcy moments. I can tell you that in my venture investing I have seen more investments than my wife would allow me to admit go crashing to zero. Failure or risk of failure – an acceptance that it is the norm in these ever changing technological worlds and, while it stinks, one must simply dust themselves off, learn, and get back at it – is at the essence of entrepreneurship.

But my friend wasn’t just talking about fear of failure in binary terms, but also the daily discomfort with uncertainty that can blind us from looking up and watching where the puck is moving. Some of us, but much less than one would guess in my experience, really thrive in daily uncertainty. The best of us want to innovate, we want to solve interesting problems, we want to have our opinion matter, and we assuredly want independence. But we often want to be told what to do and/or seek comfort in creating a tried and true “way things are done.”

With this comes two of the most corrupting forces in a fast growing innovation organization: first, a view that we are so smart that the way we do things are the only way; second, and a close sibling, a rising view that “we’ve always done it that way.” There is almost defensiveness in these forces – that somehow challenging existing, even recently developed, paradigms is almost disloyalty.

This, of course, is compounded when a company gets to scale. Pick your favorite example of the once unstoppable innovation juggernauts like Kodak, Nokia, Sony all taken on if not defeated by people who focused not on where and how they skated, but where the puck was going.

In fact, the bigger one gets, the more one risks looking down at their own skates. I can think of only two companies who looked hard at the way they did things and changed 180 degrees. IBM once had over 70% of their revenue tied to mainframe computing, clearly to puck-watchers destined to be overwhelmed by personal computing — and in less than two years they effectively exited it. Intel, who had made its name and a multi-billion dollar business in the commodity chip business similarly simply decided to get into more complicated processors.

One of my favorite stories from the latter was how Intel founder Andy Grove did something I’ve recreated 100 times since even in my early stage enterprises. He and his co-founder turned to each other and said, “Let’s go into the other room and come back and pretend we were our own board of directors. What would we do?” It was a short meeting. They knew the answer – leave the commodity chip business. But it took this simple framework to help them see the puck they only sensed was moving away for them for years.

In the world of start-ups if I’ve seen anything utterly consistent among the greatest world-class teams it is three things:

Complete, company-wide belief in, understanding of, and passion for the mission at all levels. Companies in Silicon Valley and New York City have drawn criticism for placing making money too hight in the last of priorities of late. I can’t, however, think of one that succeeded based on passion and vision alone (and I can name a few famous ones struggling mightily because of it). In fact, without a doubt, those who did achieve financial success did so as an outgrowth of passion and execution for their mission.

It sounds like a cliché, but people are everything. It takes very few naysayers and doubters to be real cancers in an organization. But the culture, starting with leadership, can inoculate here from the beginning if consistently applied in the years that follow. Tony Hsieh of Zappos fame is a Gretsky in entrepreneurship across more than one sport and I love the policy he and his team adopted: paying people to leave their company. If for a few thousand bucks you’d leave, you were never in to begin with, and you were more than likely to be one of those cultural cancers.

Tony is rare – and few seem willing to go this far. But world class organizations have people: knowing and utterly committed to the mission; knowing how they fit in the mission and can impact it; knowing how one can grow in their career and skills; encouraging acceptance of failing and flexibility of pivoting to new realities; inspiring curiosity in all things; displaying in action genuine team work – not lip service. In one of my favorite portfolio companies today no one –regardless of function – goes home until they check on their fellow colleagues.

Finally, they really look and reward what Peter Thiel and one of his colleagues Auren Hoffman calls “unobvious connections.” Great companies understand what needs to be executed today, but they keep looking up – push each other to keep looking up — for the big picture of change. They ask themselves and execute on what could be. They are the customers and consumers that they seek – today, and where the puck of unlimited and ubiquitous technological innovation can take them.

Contact us

Press center


Newsletter Sign Up