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Endeavor Investor Network Convenes Over 120 Entrepreneurs and Investors in NYC

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

May 13th, 2015 — by admin

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Greece’s Hellas Direct Named a National Champion by the European Business Awards

The European Business Awards, an annual honor that recognizes innovation and ethics in the regional business community, recently named Greece’s Hellas Direct to its rankings. Along with a selection of businesses representing more than 30 European countries, Hellas Direct joins a list of […]

September 22nd, 2014 — by admin

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10 things you can learn from the Apple Store, by Guy Kawasaki

they have interns too

Reprinted from Guy Kawasaki’s Blog, How To Change the World. Original article here.

By Guy Kawasaki

My friend, Carmine Gallo, has written a book called The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty. The Apple Store is the most profitable retailer in America, generating an average of $5,600 per square foot and attracting more than 20,000 visitors a week.

In the decade since Steve Jobs and former head of retail, Ron Johnson, decided to reimagine the retail experience, the Apple Store not only reimagined and reinvented retail, it blew up the model entirely and started from scratch. In his research for The Apple Experience, Carmine discovered ten things that the Apple Store can teach any business in any industry to be more successful:

1. Stop selling stuff. When Steve Jobs first started the Apple Store he did not ask the question, “How will we grow our market share from 5 to 10 percent?” Instead he asked, “How do we enrich people’s lives?” Think about your vision. If you were to examine the business model for most brands and retailers and develop a vision around it, the vision would be to “sell more stuff.” A vision based on selling stuff isn’t very inspiring and leads to a very different experience than the Apple Retail Store created.

2. Enrich lives. The vision behind the Apple Store is “enrich lives,” the first two words on a wallet-sized credo card employees are encouraged to carry. When you enrich lives magical things start to happen. For example, enriching lives convinced Apple to have a non-commissioned sales floor where employees feel comfortable spending as much time with a customer as the customer desires. Enriching lives led Apple to build play areas (the “family room”) where kids could see, touch and play on computers. Enriching lives led to the creation of a “Genius Bar” where trained experts are focused on “rebuilding relationships” as much as fixing problems.

3. Hire for smiles. The soul of the Apple Store is in its people. They are hired, trained, motivated and taught to create magical and memorable moments for their customers. The Apple Store values a magnetic personality as much, if not more so, than technical proficiency. The Apple Store cares less about what you know than it cares about how much you love people.

4. Celebrate diversity. Mohawks, tattoos, piercings are all acceptable among Apple Store employees. Apple hires people who reflect the diversity of their customers. Since they are more interested in how passionate you are, your hairstyle doesn’t matter. Early in the Apple Store history, they also learned that former teachers make the best salespeople because they ask a lot of questions. It’s not uncommon to find former teachers, engineers, and artists at an Apple Store. Apple doesn’t look for someone who fits a mold.

5. Unleash inner genius. Teach your customers something they never knew they could do before, and they’ll reward you with their loyalty. For example, the Apple Store offers a unique program to help people understand and enjoy their computers: One to One. The $99 one-year membership program is available with the purchase of a Mac. Apple Store instructors called “creatives” offer personalized instruction inside the Apple Store. Customers can learn just about anything: basics about the Mac operating system; how to design a website; enjoying, sharing, and editing photos or movies; creating a presentation; and much more. The One to One program was created to help build customers for life. It was designed on the premise that the more you understand a product, the more you enjoy it, and the more likely you are to build a long-term relationship with the company. Instructors are trained to provide guidance and instruction, but also to inspire customers, giving them the tools to make them more creative than they ever imagined.

6. Empower employees. I spent one hour talking to an Apple Store specialist about kids, golf, and my business. We spent about ten minutes talking about the product (a MacBook Air). I asked the employee whether he would be reprimanded for spending so much time with one customer. “Not at all,” he replied. “If you have a great experience, that’s all that matters.” Apple has a non-commissioned sales floor for a reason—employees are not pressured to “make a sale.” Instead they are empowered to do what they believe is the right thing to do.

7. Sell the benefit. Apple Store specialists are taught to sell the benefit behind products and to customize those benefits for the customer. For example, I walked to the iPad table with my two young daughters and told the specialist I was considering my first iPad. In a brilliant move, the specialist focused on my two daughters, the ‘secondary’ customer who can influence a purchase. He let the girls play on separate devices. On one device he played the movie, Tangled, and on the other device he brought up a Disney Princess coloring app. My girls were thrilled and, in one memorable moment, my 6-year-old turned me to and said, “I love this store!” It’s easy to see why. Instead of touting “speeds and feeds,” the specialist taught us how the device could improve our lives.

8. Follow the steps of service. The Apple Store teaches its employees to follow five steps in each and every interaction. These are called the Apple five steps of service. They are outlined by the acronym A-P-P-L-E. They are: Approach with a customized, warm greeting. Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs. Present a solution the customer can take home today. Listen for and address unresolved questions. End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.

9. Create multisensory experiences. The brain loves multi-sensory experiences. In other words, people enjoy being able to see, touch, and play with products. Walk into an Apple Store upon opening and you’ll see all the notebook computer screens perfectly positioned slightly beyond 90-degree angles. The position of the computer lets you see the screen (which is on and loaded with content) but forces you to touch the computer in order to adjust it. Every device in the store is working and connected to the Internet. Spend as much time as you’d like playing with the products—nobody will kick you out. Creatives who give One-to-One workshops do not touch the computer without asking for permission. They want you to do it. The sense of touch helps create an emotional connection with a product.

10. Appeal to the buying brain. Clutter forces the brain to consume energy. Create uncluttered environments instead. The Apple Store is spacious, clean, well-lit, and uncluttered. Cables are hidden from view and no posters on placed on the iconic glass entrances. Computer screens are cleaned constantly. Keep the environment clean, open, and uncluttered.

The three pillars of enchantment are likability, trustworthiness, and quality. Apple’s engineers take care of quality, and the Apple Store experience personifies likability and trustworthiness. I’ve never left an Apple store without being enchanted—in fact, I seldom leave the Apple Store on University Avenue in Palo Alto without being enchanted and buying something too!

Endeavor’s Allen Taylor talks Latin American entrepreneurship (Venture Equity Latin America)

Lookin' gooooooood Published in Thomson Reuter’s Venture Equity Latin America on July 31, 2012, Volume XI, No. 13. Interview conducted by Dan Weil.

Entrepreneurship is growing by leaps and bounds in Latin America, and the trend is only going to intensify.

So says Allen Taylor, Director of Global Markets for Endeavor, a non-profit group that assists entrepreneurs in Latin America and other emerging markets. (See VELA’s June 15 issue for a story about Endeavor’s investment fund.)

Of the approximately 700 entrepreneurs Endeavor has supported since its 1998 inception, about two-thirds are in Latin America. The organization has offices in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Colombia.

VELA recently spoke with Taylor about entrepreneurship in the region. (more…)

Four building blocks for the new “second industrial revolution”

good skills for internsReprinted from NextView Ventures. Original article here.

There is a dark cloud over the internet sector due to the weak performance of the Facebook IPO.  It’s not horribly dramatic by any means – Facebook is clearly an important company (even if it’s not worth $90B+).  But a lot of entrepreneurs and investors were hoping for a really strong showing to drive more liquidity in the market and continue the surge in hype around internet companies (both start-ups and later stage companies).

The interesting thing is that while many entrepreneurs, tech executives, and investors are short-term nervous about the fate of internet-enabled startups, most are incredibly long-term bullish.  Personally, I’m more bullish about the prospects of internet-enabled innovation than I have been my entire career.

The reason is that I’m convinced that we are on the ground floor of a new innovation wave that is going to be at least as disruptive as the first wave of the internet.  It feels like we are in the early/mid 1990’s again, or, more appropriately, like we are on the cusp on the second industrial revolution where we saw massive developments centered around the foundational innovations of steel, the internal combustion engine, and electricity. Arguably, the second industrial revolution was more impactful to humanity than the first, and I feel the same about what is ahead compared to the first internet innovation wave.

I’m not enough of a tech pundit to create a cohesive theory about the current state of things like Roger McNamee and Mike Maples, nor am I going to rehash the excellent collection of data that Mary Meekerhas graciously assembled (both required reading IMHO), but here are four foundational pieces of infrastructure that is getting me most excited about where the tech industry is today and where it is headed.


Some untraditional advice: We are all gnats

Reprinted from The Entrepreneurial Mind. Original article here

By Dr. Jeff Cornwall, the Jack C. Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship at Belmont University.

“You are gnats! You are like annoying little gnats flying around in the face of consumers.”

This is a message that I consistently tell aspiring first-time entrepreneurs.

Why the harsh words? Most first-time entrepreneurs have so much enthusiasm that they can become blinded to the reality of the challenges that every new business faces.

I tell them to think about the last few hours. How many small businesses did you go past without even really noticing them? What about all of the products in the convenience store where you got gas this morning?

How many of the service businesses that had logos and advertisements on the sides of their trucks did you actually pay attention to?

Many of those products on the shelves are the result of someone’s entrepreneurial dreams. A small-business owner spent hours agonizing over the business name and a logo, and yet most passersby barely notice it.

New business owners need to adjust their expectations. While starting a new venture is one of the most important and exciting things you’ve ever done, to the market your product is just one more in an already overcrowded sea.

So, new business owners need to get a sense of urgency. They need to develop a plan to become more than just another annoying little gnat!

To successfully launch a new business the entrepreneur needs a clear entry strategy, which is a plan for how the business is going to gain the attention of the market and start attracting customers.

If your business is going to take existing market share away from established businesses, you are going to have to do something better, faster or cheaper than the competition. Give people a compelling reason to change their buying habits.

Start small: Consider a niche strategy. This simply means the entrepreneur finds a small part of a market that’s not being served or that has been significantly under-served. It gives the entrepreneur a safer market to conquer a bit hidden away from established businesses.

But establishing a niche requires that you find ways to let the customers in that niche market know that your new business is now open and is ready to fill their specific unmet need.

Getting the market’s attention for a completely new product that has the potential to impress the mass market is the most difficult and expensive market entry. It requires extensive investment in advertising and other forms of promotion to build awareness for your new product and to educate the public about the benefits it offers.

No matter which type of entry strategy you pursue — and as excited as you may be about your new business — remember this: If you build it they may, or they may not, come.

You will need to work hard to find the most effective means to attract those initial customers.

How to pick a startup funding strategy (infographic)

Reprinted from Angel Investment Network. Original post here.

What’s your startup funding strategy? Bootstrapped? True Angel? Super Angel? Venture Capital? There are a lot things to consider before deciding what funding strategy is right for you and your startup.

Endeavor Entrepreneur Omar Koudsi on how to build the Yelp of the Arab world

Reprinted from Fast Company. Original article here.

The following interview was conducted with Omar Koudsi, who, along with Laith Zraikat, founded Jeeran and was selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur in 2010. The key to answering the interview’s title involves, as the original post states, “A dash of subterfuge, a sprinkling of Koranic insight, and plenty of pavement-pounding.”

By David Zax

Omar Koudsi is the CEO of the freshly-funded Jeeran, sometimes called the “Yelp of the Arab world.” Koudsi says his ambitions are more grand, with an eye on all emerging markets: “We want to be a company not for the Arab world, but from the Arab world.” Jeeran is live in five countries now, and with a focus on Jordan and Saudi Arabia. We caught up with Koudsi to learn about the unique challenges of bringing a culture of a reviewing to parts of the world where digital penetration is low, and concern with face-saving high.

FAST COMPANY: What’s Jeeran?

OMAR KOUDSI: Jeeran is a local platform centered around places and reviews.

You’ve been called the Yelp of the Arab world.

I think that’s kind of an oversimplification. The problems we’re solving in our part of the world are much bigger than our counterparts in developed markets. The lack of data is a big issue we tackle, as well as the lack of a review culture where people feel the need to talk about their experiences.

Lack of data?

In our part of the world, a lot of places don’t have websites. There’s a statistic from Google–that 80% of small and medium businesses don’t have a web presence in the emerging or developing world.

But if I wanted the best falafel in Amman, I’d go to Jeeran, or not?

Yes, you’d go to Jeeran for that. But the kind of problems we’re solving go beyond that. The first problem we’re solving is compiling a data layer through various sources, and that’s pretty tough to do.

How do you do it?

Various sources–publicly available data, government agencies, data you can buy. It’s scraps here and there. More importantly, we have to go on the street and write down data. We can’t get the majority of it, but we have to get a significant nucleus which we can launch and then incentivize people to add data themselves.

You’ve gone out knocking on doors?

Yes. You get various weird things. Some people think we’re from the tax authority. There’s cultural challenges everywhere. In Saudi Arabia, there’s a suspicion of people walking down the street and taking pictures. We had someone there get stopped several times, whether by shop owners or by the police. He had to figure out a creative way of being able to take pictures, so he got his kid, and started taking pictures of his kid at every place. He basically put his kid in front of places and took the picture.

What other challenges have there been?

In the emerging world, customer service is not very centric. We have a lot of initial negative reactions, where people want to sue us. One time, we put the wrong phone number for a cake shop, it was the phone number for a competitor. He wasn’t too happy about that. But we converted him to a happy business customer with a Jeeran sticker on his window. [Pictured up top.] We educated him and told him he can claim his page and edit the info himself.

So for many of these businesses, you’re their only web presence?

Yes. Sometimes people send CVs to us, wanting to apply to these places. They think we are their site. At our business contact email, we get a lot of people thinking that we are actually the business itself.

Since you’re tackling more than Yelp did in the U.S., you could be way ahead of the curve in your markets.

I think so, and it’s a lot harder. It goes both ways. It’s hard, so nobody’s doing it. But nobody’s doing it because it’s very hard. We do have an advantage because we’re solving a big problem. We consider ourselves as much an offline as an online business. A lot of our energy is literally on the streets. If you take the average street person–not the elite that use Foursquare–their first reaction is, “Why the hell would I put time into writing a review?”

In many parts of the world, there’s also a concern over saving face.

In our early days in Jordan, we brought a bunch of users–good users who we thought had really figured out how to use the site–to a café. Everything in this café was a negative experience, but when everybody went home, they put up positive reviews. Later our community manager asked them, “How come you wrote good reviews? The waiter was slow, the food wasn’t good–you all agreed it wasn’t good.” The response from the majority of them was: We couldn’t write a negative review when you had invited us to this place.

They were worried about offending you, Jeeran?

Their main priority was not about writing an objective review.

So how do you foster a review culture in traditional societies?

Meetups, education, reaching out. We try to focus on universal themes. There are religious sayings.

Where in the Koran does it say, “Thou shalt Yelp”?

There’s one saying from the prophet Muhammad: “Removing harm from other people’s way is pious work.” We do talk about this, depending on the context. You have to say things people connect to and understand. Writing a review is removing harm from other people’s way, right? Another thing we talk about is the concept of hearing the individual voice. I would say in our part of the world, there’s a kind of self-defeatism: The notion that one person cannot make a difference is prevalent. I think the Arab Spring did show that you can control your destiny, you can make a difference. So we tie that to our small angle: Your own review can make a difference. When combined, small voices do have an impact.

The scarcest resource at startups is management bandwidth

Reprinted from Both Sides of the Table. Original article here.

By Mark Suster.

When you work inside a startup with lots of clever and motivated staff you’re never short of good ideas that you can implement.

It’s tempting to take on new projects, new features, new geographies, new speaking opportunities, whatever. Each one incrementally sounds like a good idea, yet collectively they end up punishing undisciplined teams. I like to counsel that the best teams are often defined by what they choose not to do.

Let me explain.

As a VC I regularly meet with companies and listen to their plans. It’s a very common occurrence that a young startup with sub 20 staff and sub $2m in financing is racing around doing too many things. This level of complexity always worries me. A significant number of the companies I meet with get some form of feedback from me that:

“I’m a bit worried that you’re doing too many THINGS. You run the risk of being a mile wide and an inch deep. It’s hard enough to do X really well and succeed. I’m not sure how you do all these other things and yet I think they may end up being a distraction to X.”

I already know your response. Trust me. I hear it every week

“Yeah, but I’m just going to execute this [channel sales deal, international license of my product, new industry, new operating system, biz dev deal] and then it will pretty much run itself.”

It never does. That channel deal that you thought would take no times ends up burning scarce calories. The 3rd-party tries to sell your software – they just need your help with tech assistance to close the deal. They just need you to update your marketing materials. They got your last version working but since your latest release they couldn’t get it to work. That test you did on launching a RIM version of your product – it was only beta – now has 20 users who need a patch because it’s not working properly.

Every extra set of features that you added that served one narrow use case end up being features you need to support in future releases adding complexity to future development, usability testing, regression testing, etc.

Every team I fund comes across as laser focused on their core mission.

My advice?

I always tell teams I meet with, “The scarcest resource in your company is management bandwidth. Spend it wisely.”

Every company is built by a team and every team member matters. But as you know, a few key people in any business have disproportionate impact on the company’s ultimate success. And nobody is more important in this regard than senior management. These people need need to be hyper focused on those things that matter the most to the company’s success. It’s why I don’t invest in Conference Ho’s.

Examples from discussions I’ve had this month that might resonate with your internal debates about how to prioritize

• We are giving a version of our product to a team in Europe who will start selling our product internationally
• We are signing up a channel partner to sell our product since we haven’t scaled our internal telesales team yet [yes, we know that they don’t have experience selling IT, but they have customer relationships]
• We’re going to put a guy on the ground in the UK to address early leads we’re getting from ad agencies there [true, we haven’t thought about employment laws, taxation, currency management, etc.]
• I know our product seems complex but we felt we needed to test lots of features to be sure we knew what would resonate with users … or … we aren’t committed to features x, y, z yet but we know our competitors are planning to so we wanted to be first to market
• We need to hire a team in financial services now to address the needs of that industry [yeah, I know we don’t yet have big customers there. ok, I know our product isn’t yet verticalized. still, we need to start now or we’ll be behind.]

And so on. Trust me – each additional complexity you add before you’re ready decreases your probability of being truly excellent at the things you want to do extraordinarily well.

Instagram didn’t rush to Android. They also didn’t do video. They were truly excellent at what they did do.

What do you want to excel at? How will today’s “toe in the water” initiatives distract you or take your management’s time or attention off of your core business? How likely is your, “won’t take too much time” initiative to come back and bite you in the butt?

Beware. The best teams are hyper focused.

Some notable college dropouts (infographic)

Reprinted from Angel Investment Network. Original post here.

This graphic that highlights a few notable college dropouts…

Entrepreneurs: Here’s how to manage your time (infographic)

Reprinted from Angel Investment Network. Original post here.

Everybody wants their pound of flesh (negotiating with buyers)

Reprinted from Both Sides of the Table. Original post here.

By Mark Suster.

I recently wrote a post about negotiating with suppliers called “The End of the Mexican Road.”

The post talked about how to find the lowest acceptable price & terms in a deal through testing.

In the post I made clear that I believe that all negotiations should seek to find fair deals where both parties can feel good about the outcomes. But that doesn’t mean always just saying “let’s split the terms 50/50 down the middle.” Often that doesn’t make sense.

But what about when you’re negotiating with buyers and not suppliers?

This process is obviously very different as you will likely have much less leverage.

Most people claim to not want to deal with the hassles of negotiating. I think most of us feel this way, really. But it’s not a reality in business. While you may be able to offer a price & terms for your service and not ever negotiate (especially if you’re an Internet company that sells cheaply to small businesses over the web and without onsite support & service) – you’ll still likely have to negotiate on business development deals. So please see this post through that lens – at some point when you deal with larger companies: enterprise buyers, biz dev partners, VCs or one day acquiring companies – you’ll like encounter these negotiation issues.

I could sum up my negotiation mentality as a seller in one phrase that I’ve used as short-hand for my portfolio companies for years, “Everybody wants their pound of flesh.”

It’s short-hand for showing that despite our aversion to the process of negotiations – as buyers we’re conditioned to it and even rewarded for it.

Here’s what a big company negotiation looks like:


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