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Mexico’s Ver De Verdad Launches First Mobile Eyecare Network in Mexico

Ver de Verdad, founded by Endeavor Entrepreneur Hugo Moreno González, is a retailer of  affordable, high- quality and stylish eyeglasses and accessories primarily serving low-income Mexican consumers. The retailer recently announced that it is introducing […]

October 31st, 2014 — by admin

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Endeavor and Lebanon Entrepreneur Company Beesline Profiled in Executive Magazine

Executive Magazine, a Lebanon-based business news publication, recently featured Endeavor Entrepreneur company Beesline, founded by Maha Arayssi Rifai and Mohamad Arayssi, in a profile on the company’s business model and the impact of joining Endeavor’s network. Selected […]

March 14th, 2014 — by admin

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Train anyone to do anything: a conversation with Endeavor Entrepreneur Ryan Falkenberg about how to make everyone “Clevva”

Reprinted from businesstrade.org. Original article here.

By Keith van der Linde

Endeavor Entrepreneur Ryan Falkenberg knows that most school leavers have little hope of getting formally employed. That’s why he developed Clevva, the software system that gives ordinary people the decision-making prowess of experts.

What motivated you to start Clevva?

My whole career has been dedicated to solving the riddle of, “How can someone who lacks knowledge or experience but who has the right attitude and aptitude, be empowered to perform effectively without having to endure boring training sessions?” I decided to find a way to enable a person with the right attitude and aptitude, but who may lack knowledge and experience, to become highly employable. Not only would this help businesses grow, but it would make thousands of young people social assets (as opposed to social liabilities).

What exactly does Clevva do?

Clevva allows companies to capture the logic that experts use in making predictable decisions and performing predictable activities. For example, you can now get a sales person to successfully sell hundreds of complex products as if they were a product expert. This is because Clevva guides them through the client discussion, analyses the client need, recommends the right products, and then automates the quote while they talk to their client. It allows them to focus more on their interpersonal skills without worrying about making a basic error.

What do you regard as the biggest success of Clevva?

Our biggest success has been that off one platform, we have managed to enable an inexperienced sales person to effectively sell 12 000 products with limited product knowledge.

The biggest challenge?

As a new brand, operating in a new category of technology, it takes longer than I would like to get companies to understand exactly what Clevva is (and is not), and what it can potentially do for their business.

How would you describe your personal journey with the company?

My journey really began 18 years ago as a change management consultant. It was there that I realised that people were really struggling to keep up with the rate of business change, and the complexity of the environment they were asked to operate in. I then turned my attention to finding ways of helping people thrive in complex, changing environments. This led me down the path of workplace learning and smart performance support technologies. Clevva is the culmination of over 15 years of blood, sweat and tears.

What role has Endeavor played in your personal development?

My relationship with Endeavor stretches over 8 years, as an Endeavor entrepreneur, as a panelist, and as a mentor. What has been most satisfying is the privilege to interact with top corporate leaders and to build friendships with some of the most passionate, talented entrepreneurs on the planet. This incredible network both inspires and teaches. It places you in the company of greats, and thereby asks great things of you in return.

Do you consider yourself a born entrepreneur?

I really don’t know. I have always been very clear about what makes me happy and what I want to achieve in my life. That clarity and self-belief has helped me make certain decisions without necessarily being that clear on exactly how things would pan out. As long as I felt passionate enough about what I wanted to do, and was clear that it would be valued by the market, I trusted that it would work out OK. So far I have been lucky.

Do you have any expansion plans for the future?

You betcha. We have every intention of being a global business within the next 3-years.

If you could advise the entrepreneurs of tomorrow one thing, what would it be?

Once you are clear about what it is that makes you happy, what you value, and what your personal goals are, you can then start exploring the best way to achieve these goals (and whether this matches what the market wants). If any of your goals refer to security or making money, rather consider a corporate career. If your goals refer to making a difference in the world or leaving a personal legacy, then maybe your own business is the right answer for you. Surround yourself with people who share your dream, refuse to ever give up, and before you know it, your collective dreams may just become reality.

Endeavor Entrepreneur duo brings affordable regenerative medicine to Africa

The following article was reprinted from businesstrade.com. See original article here.

By Keith van der Linde

African biotech entrepreneurs put themselves on the map

Altis Biologics competes with the world’s leading biotech players at a fraction of the cost. I caught up with [Endeavor Entrepreneurs] Nuno Pires and Nic Duneas, the bright minds behind South Africa’s innovative bone tissue provider.

What exactly does Altis Biologics do?

We are a regenerative medicine company focused on developing and bringing regenerative biological products to market, with an emphasis on orthopedic and dental tissue regeneration. Indications include severe fractures, non-healing bone fractures and and spinal fusion.

Do you regard your company as a pioneer in this field?

We hold international patent protection for our novel high BMP extraction process. Our technology was first proven using human donor bone, but human donor bone is scarce. Our technology is licensed in SA to a human tissue bank, that Altis helped set up, and which has since become a leading tissue bank in the Southern hemisphere. Our human derived BMP product is also the very first injectable BMP-based product in the world. Our Altis-OBM range of porcine derived BMP products are also injectable, which makes it ideal for operating room conditions, as well as harsh conditions like military field applications.

Is the company in a positive state of growth?

Surgeons have been using the product with fantastic results. We recently received approval from One Military Hospital for the reimbursement of the product, and last week Discovery approved the reimbursement of our dental/periodontal range. We also just moved our facility from a very small and cramped area at the Tshwane University of Technology, to a larger facility at The Innovation Hub (TIH).

What do you regard as the biggest success of Altis Biologics? The biggest challenge?

Success: Successfully developing Altis OBM, and seeing it work in patients.
Challenge: Raising capital in SA for a medical tech company like us. Our competitors spent $600m and $200m to get to market, and to date we have managed to get to where we are with around $2m!

What role does Altis Biologics play in the continent’s development?

We are a world leader in our technologies, and have developed technologies/products that provide African surgeons an affordable equivalent to what our competitors charge $5,000/device. Because of this price tag, the technologies offered by our competitors are only essentially available in first world countries like the USA and Europe. We change that.

How would you describe your personal journey with the company?

The challenge of being a bio entrepreneur is SA has been tough, but somehow we have always managed to overcome the barriers that we have been faced with. There have been many hardships, but there have also been many successes, many of which looked impossible to achieve. Some people regard us as a “flagship” of SA biotech entrepreneurship and admire our achievements, and that alone makes us extremely proud of what we have achieved.

What role has Endeavor played in the company’s development? How has the Mentor Capital Program helped you?

Endeavor has linked us up with people who understand our difficulties and are able to provide solid EXPERT advice. They have also given us access to highly motivated MBA students who provide a professional but different perspective to our company. Our greatest shortfall is that we ran out of funds just as we joined Endeavor, as there is no doubt that if we had the financial resources to travel we would have been able to conclude an international deal by now. Endeavor plugs you in to the people you would not normally gain access to and opens doors that would normally be locked to us.

Do you consider yourself a born entrepreneur?

I don’t think I would use the words born entrepreneur. It would be more accurate in my case to say, a “self-made entrepreneur.” I guess in my case it’s a combination of personality, education, and solid work experience all coming together under the personal ambition to create something myself.

Do you have any expansion plans for the future?

Yes, we are in the middle of a capital raise which we hope will bring in sufficient funds for us to gain international approvals as the two largest target markets are the USA and Europe. We may therefore also need to set up operations in those two continents. So the future still holds many challenges for us, but with the right support (like Endeavor), we have no doubt we can succeed.

If you could advise the entrepreneurs of tomorrow one thing, what would it be?

In terms of business strategy: If there is an obstacle that is preventing your progress, then always remember if you can’t go through it, then you can always go around it, over it, or under it, or just change the obstacle (change your strategy).

In terms of brokering an international deal: When you have positive momentum, throw all your efforts behind closing the deal NOW! Momentum disappears over time, as do deals that aren’t concluded when things are looking good. Don’t forget that ‘awe’ only lasts so long, so capitalise on it. People also move on so all your efforts can be wiped out in a single day with the departure of a critical champion.

In terms of funding: Always raise more capital than you need (if you can), and always start raising capital at least 1 year before you run out. SA is just too small if you have high ambitions. So start looking internationally as soon as you are up and going.

Wallet overstuffed with receipts? Can’t find your insurance card at the doctor? Endeavor Entrepreneur digitizes your wallet

This article was reprinted from the Venture Capital Dispatch Blog on the Wall Street Journal. See original article here.

By Lora Kolodny

Lemon Aims to Squeeze More Juice from E-Wallets

Putting a new “twist” on digital wallet technology, Lemon Inc. has raised $8 million in a Series A round led by Maveron.

Joining in the financing were Lightspeed Venture Partners, CampVentures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and the Social+Capital Partnership, a fund launched by former Facebook Vice President Chamath Palihapitiya.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based start-up makes a “Smarter Wallet” app that its founder wants to see on every smartphone’s home screen. The company is the latest venture from serial entrepreneur Wences Casares [an Endeavor Entrepreneur and Endeavor Global board member], whose previous financial services and tech ventures include Bling Nation, MECK and Banco Limon.

Most companies offering mobile “e-wallet” technology today, including Google Inc., Visa Inc., PayPal Inc., Square Inc. and Venmo Inc., focus on payments via mobile phones, especially at point of sales. Others like Belly Inc., Stampt Inc. or Punchd (now owned by Google) digitize loyalty programs, so people don’t have to carry a paper punch card to get something like a “buy ten, get one free” deal from a favorite shop.

Lemon focuses on all the other sensitive stuff in your wallet, too.

The Lemon app lets users snap images of debit, credit, loyalty, health insurance and ID cards, as well as receipts, tickets and coupons, then upload these to a secure account in the cloud. The accounts store information associated with each card or slip of paper so that they are accessible from any web-connected device. It can even associate “in case of theft” phone numbers with different card types, a handy bit of info for a traveler in a panicked state of mind.

Mr. Casares reports that 1.5 million people already use the free, iOS version of the Lemon app, which launched in the last quarter of 2011. Alongside dialer, messenger and map apps, he believes a secure digital wallet could become essential to the world’s billions of smartphone users.

“I remember playing around with computers before there was a graphical interface,” he said. “Everyone said it was coming. You could not imagine what that world would look like. That’s where we are with mobile. The digital wallet will be as ubiquitous as the spreadsheet became in an earlier time. We want to establish early leadership.”

A diligent, savvy tech consumer with a Dropbox, Google Drive or similar data storage app could of course snap pictures and store images of their wallet’s seam-splitting contents, Mr. Casares admits. But Lemon is an easier user experience for that kind of thing, also providing organizational features like letting users view balances, manage expenditures, and receive deal offers from top retailers via their Smart Wallets.

Lemon just launched a more feature-rich version of its app, Lemon Pro, for $9.99 per month. Lemon Pro users will eventually be able to automatically notify credit and governement agencies, and various service providers to be on fraud alert, and suspend services should they lose their phones or wallets. He also said they may be able to purchase something like wallet insurance via Lemon Pro.

A partner with Maveron in San Francisco, Amy Errett, said Lemon’s focus, near-term, is “to create a secure foundation for a digital wallet” and solve a consumer pain point that is here today for consumers, not just sellers. She believes Lemon’s addressable market is “tremendous, encompassing anyone who currently uses both a wallet and a smartphone, globally on any platform.”

Competitors to Lemon, including Visa, Mastercard, Google and Isis (a joint venture between mobile carriers Verizon, AT&T and T-mobile), are thinking more about the payments piece, she said.

It appears that Apple is getting into the fray now as well. At the Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, the smartphone giant revealed Passbook, an app that should ship with all iOS 6 devices. Passbook scans QR codes to get information about tickets for travel and events, then keeps it updated in real time, notifying users, for example, if their train is delayed or a concert is rained out.

Ms. Errett sees Apple’s move as a positive for Lemon. “The Passbook news from Apple validates the ticketing and couponing ‘compartments’ of Lemon’s Smarter Wallet,” she said. “In addition, it should dramatically speed up adoption of QR codes by brands and merchants wanting to reach consumers via their phones.”

Lemon launched on iOS but has Android and Windows phone apps on the way.

With 21 full-time employees today, Lemon plans to use its $8 million in venture funds to grow its marketing and engineering team, and create and test new features and services for its e-wallet apps.

Venture Equity Latin America features Endeavor Catalyst, a fund to finance Endeavor Entrepreneurs

This article was reprinted with permission from the June 15th, 2012 edition of Venture Equity Latin America, published by Thomson Reuters/WorldTrade Executive. For more information go to VELA, or call  978 287 0391.

By Dan Weil

Endeavor, a non-profit group that supports entrepreneurs in Latin America and other emerging markets, has launched a passive co-investment fund to invest in some of the businesses with which it is involved.

The new fund, Endeavor Catalyst, made its first two investments in Latin America, where Endeavor has offices in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Colombia. In January, the fund invested $2 million in Globant, a software developer based in Argentina. In March, the fund co-invested with Intel Capital, placing an undisclosed amount in Minha Vida, a broad-based health information website in Brazil.

Endeavor Catalyst currently has over $13 million of committed capital, with a target of $50 million. This money was raised through donations, and early contributors include eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

VELA recently chatted about the fund with Baily Blair Kempner, director of growth and sustainability initiatives at New York City-based Endeavor.

VELA: Can you tell us how the fund works?

Kempner: The fund serves as our endowment. We invest growth equity capital directly in Endeavor entrepreneurs. Whenever one of our entrepreneurs raises at least $5 million in primary equity capital from a qualified institutional investor, then we will contribute 10 percent of the deal, up to $2 million, if asked. Approximately 20 percent of returns will fund Endeavor operations, and the other 80 percent goes back to Catalyst to finance more entrepreneurs.

We go through a rigorous process to choose our entrepreneurs. We’re looking for those who can create the highest impact in terms of jobs and revenue and who would be role models to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. Over 15 years, we have accepted less than 3 percent of candidates and now have a portfolio of 430 companies. Globant was initially turned down.

We believe in our selection process to the point that we’re putting our money where our mouths are. We will align our future viability and our ability to support the next generation of entre- preneurs with the success of the entrepreneurs we’ve already chosen. Instead of investing our endowment in stocks and bonds we’re invest- ing in our own entrepreneurs. There’s no more authentic way to grow than along with our own entrepreneurs.

VELA: What is the reasoning behind the $5 million minimum?

Kempner: The $5 million threshold represents a neutral way of outsourcing the due diligence process and ensuring we’re investing in a profes- sional round.

We have many entrepreneurs doing deals under $5 million. To guarantee investment in them, we need more capital than the $13 million we’ve raised to date. Over time we anticipate reducing the threshold.

VELA: Can you talk about the emphasis which you place on your entrepreneurs giving back?

Kempner: To be eligible for investments, entrepreneurs must be in good standing with their Endeavor office, which entails giving back to Endeavor and the local entrepreneurial community. We ask our entrepreneurs to give back $10,000 every year to their local Endeavor office and 2 percent of their equity in liquidity events.

But it’s more than these donations. Two-thirds of our entrepreneurs mentor or invest in other entrepreneurs. Our entrepreneurs have returned to speak with thousands of students at their uni- versities, for example, to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. We’re trying to inculcate mentoring just like in Silicon Valley. The idea is to help people understand you can be the next Bill Gates of your country.

VELA: Do you expect to grow in Latin America?

Kempner: We’re looking to double the number of countries in which we operate and entrepreneurs we serve by 2016. Latin America is where we have our deepest roots, with six of our most successful offices there. So in the next two years, at least, we’ll be looking elsewhere for new countries.

Our Latin American entrepreneurs want to see us expand elsewhere as they look for international opportunities for their own companies. They’re especially excited about the Mideast, where we operate in five countries, including Saudi Arabia, our most recent addition.

As for the next Latin American country where we’ll place an office, Peru always comes up. A lot of exciting things are happening there. We aren’t currently looking at it, but you never know.

Are you seeing strong growth in Latin America’s venture capital industry?

Kempner: Yes, we’re seeing a 100 percent increase year-on-year in the number of deals being done in Latin America. Brazil dominates, but we’re beginning to see promising local venture players emerge in Argentina and Chile. And U.S.-based venture funds are beginning to look for opportunities in Uruguay, Mexico and Colombia.

Do you think you’ll be investing in more Latin American companies soon?

Kempner: Absolutely. We anticipate closing a handful more of investments there within the year. Most of the pipeline we see for the next few months is in Brazil and Mexico, with a little in Argentina. The majority of these companies are in the technology or consumer goods and services sectors.

eMBA field report: rainy weather and fiery ambition near the southernmost point in the world

Puerto Montt, Chile

Vijay Sarma Vedula is an MBA student at Babson’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business. He is interning with Endeavor Entrepreneur company Innovex in Chile through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

While it’s cold and rainy outside here in Puerto Montt, the Salmon capital of Chile, near the southernmost point in the world, there is warmth inside the people who live here. It has helped me to settle into this new place quickly.

My first few weeks working with Innovex, a Chilean firm that offers proprietary technological solutions for the aquaculture industry, have been extremely rewarding. I have had to jump in with both feet and work on many different fronts simultaneously from day one. My work has changed a little from the original project scope, but I am happy to have the opportunity to help Innovex in every way possible during my brief time here. It is an exciting time to be at the company.

The fantastic local Endeavor team is very friendly and extremely supportive. They make my job easier by providing me with every resource I need to reach my end goal successfully.

Patricio & Gonzalo (the Endeavor Entrepreneurs) have shared every aspect of the business with me and included me in all the important meetings. For example, I was part of an Endeavor-organized advisory board meeting with leaders from successful companies from the region, focused on helping Innovex chart its future path. The discussion provided me with great insight into the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. It was also a great experience to see these successful business leaders volunteering their expertise and to understand how valuable it was a small company. It is fascinating to see the challenges a small company faces and the strategies it uses to compete in a playground of giants.

I feel that in three weeks I have become an integrated member of this organization. As I get ready to face the next week and the new set of challenges it brings, I am already thinking about how I will miss this place when it is time to leave.

eMBA field report: saving the world one industrial city at a time

Fabian Gonzalez at Imagen Dental in Monterrey, Mexico

Fabian Gonzalez is an MBA student at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is interning at Endeavor Entrepreneur company Imagen Dental in Monterrey, Mexico through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

I arrived in Monterrey three weeks ago, early on a Saturday morning. The first thing I noticed was that the city is surrounded by four beautiful, scenic mountains. Once you spend a few days here, you realize that this industrial city with 4 million inhabitants is actually terrific.

Unlike most of the industrial cities in the world, Monterrey has a wide range of activities and ecosystems. Here, you are in a big city, but, at the same time, you are just 20 minutes away from a picnic near a peaceful cabin in the mountains. If you like outdoor activities, like mountain biking and hiking, Monterrey is the place to be.

This summer, I am working at Imagen Dental as an eMBA intern. Imagen Dental is a one-stop health clinic that provides world-class dental, vision and hearing care to middle-class Mexicans. At the moment, it has more than 25 branch offices in Monterrey and employs more than 250 doctors. My job is to help the company to build a business plan for national expansion.

My experience with Imagen Dental has been amazing so far. I not only found people – at all levels – who are really working hard to improve Mexicans’ quality of life, but also have experienced the entrepreneurial environment that inspires them to change the world first-hand.

During my time at Imagen Dental, I have discovered that an eMBA internship is not only a summer business project, but also an opportunity to explore Endeavor’s network. Endeavor Entrepreneur Patricio Villarreal, one of Imagen Dental’s co-founders, has included me in all of Endeavor’s local activities. In addition to my experience with Imagen Dental, I met another Endeavor Entrepreneur a start-up social event. I also attended Endeavor’s National Selection Panel last weekend as an observer, where I heard three different pitches from entrepreneurs who want to become part of the Endeavor network.

My eMBA experience has already exceeded my expectations and it’s just getting started…

eMBA field report: taking an entrepreneurial risk to keep Mexican companies safe

Paul Marquard is an MBA student at Babson’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business. He is interning with ALTO with Endeavor Entrepreneur Jorge Nazer through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

Working in a company where the entrepreneurial mindset ubiquitous and new ideas are welcomed provides a ripe opportunity for an MBA like myself to test his entrepreneurial skills. This is exactly what I’ve found as an eMBA intern at ALTO. When I started working with the ALTO team, I was received with a warm welcome and I immediately felt that I was a part of the company.

ALTO provides strategic solutions to prevent or mitigate the theft of companies’ assets. In addition to generating revenue, ALTO also has a positive impact on crime reduction is Mexico. As I result, I feel that by helping ALTO I am also helping my country. It’s a great feeling.

The company is growing at a rapid pace and, as a result, the management team has decided to expand their operations in Mexico. This is where I come in: because of my MBA experience and knowledge of Mexico, I have been entrusted with a mission-critical project. I will help the company to create a strategic plan to expand to the whole of Mexico. It is an honor to work on a project that I know will have a direct impact at all levels of the company. I am inspired to work even harder to make this project a success because the entrepreneurs are so open and attentive to my ideas.

These first few weeks, I have worked directly with the CEO of the company, who has great experience and ideas, and I have learned about the company’s business model and operations. I am finishing the research stage of my project, during which I gathered valuable data that will help me do a thorough analysis. The project is full of variables and there are a variety of possible methods to achieve the final goal. This is what makes this project challenging and exiting.

I have found the project to be a great learning experience because although I have been guided, I am not told what to do. This allows me to use my own entrepreneurial mindset to figure out the best methods to develop ALTO’s expansion strategy through research and analysis.

USA Today, CNBC Magazine spotlight Endeavor Entrepreneur company HDS

by David Rousseau

HDS (Health Digital Systems) is making headlines, and rightly so. The Mexican company was featured in a recent edition of USA Today, as well as CNBC Magazine. At the forefront of the movement to modernize healthcare in Mexico, “HDS is helping put the health-care sector out of the dark ages.” Its web-based software helps hospitals, clinics, state departments, and health insurance companies deal with the serious problem of clinical mismanagement. Most health entities in Mexico operate with outdated technologies, to the detriment of the patient. Indeed, according to Endeavor Entrepreneur and company CEO Jaime Cater, “most hospitals in the country still operate in papers with no electronic records.”

HDS’s digital systems are solving the problem of inefficiency and mismanagement, bringing Mexico’s health care providers up to speed to the 21st century. Through HDS software, doctors can perform basic services such as issuing prescriptions and ordering medical tests in a much faster and more efficient manner. In the process, HDS reduces operational costs by up to 30%. As a leader in the movement to reform the health-care industry, it is no wonder that HDS is turning heads. The company’s software platform is the winner of the National Merit Award for Technology by the CONACYT (National Council for Science and Technology). HDS was also ranked as a “top 10 entrepreneur” by CNN Expansion. HDS is currently opening an office in Silicon Valley, where it intends to sell its products to the US.

In his 30 years as an entrepreneur, Jaime Cater has founded numerous companies. Nevertheless, since 2008, Jaime has devoted himself entirely to HDS. He is hoping that this will be the one company to leave a mark on the Mexican people. And with the invaluable service HDS is providing and the amount of attention the company is generating, we are well inclined to believe him.

eMBA field report: tea and vision technology in enchanting Istanbul

Felwa AlBazie is an MBA student at Babson’s F.W. Olin Graduate School ofBusiness. She is interning at Vistek with Endeavor Entrepreneur Dr. Aytül Erçil through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

The fifth week of my internship with Vistek-ISRA Vision is approaching, and everyday matches the first’s excitement! I’m overwhelmed by what this internship has to offer, and I’m undeniably worried that time will pass me by before I absorb all I can from this rewarding experience.

A search for new markets

My task at Vistek has been well defined from the first day. In fact, it is pretty much what I discussed in the initial interview with Dr. Aytül Erçil, the entrepreneur who founded the company. I’m focusing on analyzing different markets and determining the potential for Vistek’s products within them. Every day at Vistek carries new challenges to be solved, and it’s hard to discipline myself to work on a single, isolated topic. As I learn more about Vistek and the potential of the products, my curiosity kicks in and I want to fly through this task and jump on to another and then maybe complete that next task and have a chance to tackle a third! The entrepreneurial spirit is captivating.

A team worth knowing

Dr. Erçil and every one of the 23 company employees has generously offered their time and support when requested to ensure that my project goes smoothly and is successful. They’ve been very tolerant of my lack of technical knowledge and managed to explain the products in terms that even I can understand! They also offered magnificent tourism tips for Istanbul and Turkey! I’m overwhelmed by the team’s generosity and kindness and I’m confident that the next six weeks at Vistek will bring more enjoyable times and even stronger friendships.

Istanbul and the çay

Living in Istanbul for 10 weeks is another magnificent opportunity this internship offers. This fascinating city keeps offering more to explore every day: a very rich culture to discover, amazing scenery alongside the Bosporus, delicious food, and tea on every corner. I used to think I was a tea addict until I came to Istanbul and saw how many cups of tea people drink around here! I believe in the four weeks I’ve been here, I’ve fallen in love with the city. I can’t wait to see what the next six have in store!

eMBA field report: endorsing public transportation at Chile’s fourth “great place to work”

Santiago Cordillera

Mariana Torres-Montoya is pursuing a Masters in City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley.   She is interning with Grupo Alto through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

“I created, in collaboration with other entrepreneurs, the Association of Chilean Entrepreneurs (ASECH). Today we are 1,000 entrepreneurs. I am sure we can reach 100,000 by 2014.” These were the words of Endeavor Entrepreneur Jorge Nazer, the brain behind Grupo Alto and one of the leading entrepreneurs in Chile, as we walked toward the first annual meeting of ASECH. The drive and ambition reflected in his comment is the same one that envelops Grupo Alto, a company dedicated to the protection of organizations’ assets from fraud and robbery through an integrated model focused on education, dissuasion, and legal action. Jorge and his team have taken Alto from a small, provincial business to a holding of five companies that, combined, make the Alto model robust and replicable abroad. The company now has a presence in Colombia and Mexico in addition to its Chilean headquarters. As the company evolves and shapes its identity, it continues to innovate by creating new products and entering to new markets in order to stay relevant. The Santiago office is a young crowd, all entrepreneurs in their own way, and the sense of contentment and camaraderie amongst them is truly unique. It’s no surprise that Grupo Alto was voted one of the best places to work in Chile last year.

As an eMBA intern, I came to Alto to help Jorge realize his next ambitious goal: breaking into the public transport market as the leading company to help bus operators reduce Transantiago’s high level of fare evasion. During my time at Alto I have been absorbing as much as possible of the enthusiasm and entrepreneurial skills that Jorge and his team display while informing the project with my knowledge of the transportation sector. The project is not short on challenges. On one hand, there is the complex nature of a highly regulated business whose success hinges on the government and a series of other actors doing their part. On the other hand, the project involves changing the mindset of a population deeply scarred by an inefficient, expensive, and slow-to-improve public transportation service. This past week, we made our pitch to a couple potential clients as we continue to strengthen our value proposition.

Chile has far exceeded my expectations, offering the best of the developed world and the warmth and joy of the Latin American character. I am constantly amazed by Santiago’s high-frequency metro system, its automated urban highway tolls, and its sophisticated retail sector. The city enjoys a level of safety unknown to its Latin American peers and provides great pockets of culture and open space. In a very interesting way, Santiago feels like a small town despite its respectable size. My new set of Chilean friends inside and outside Alto are proof of Chileans´ friendliness and their interest in showing foreigners a good time in their country. The nonstop nightlife entertainment in Santiago, be it after-office parties in hidden parking lots or the famous “asados” at friends’ places, demonstrates just how much Chileans like to enjoy themselves. Of course, I am constantly aware that I am seeing just one side of the city. There is much work to be done to lessen the city’s income disparities, a problem which plagues all Latin American metropolises, and improve the quality of life of the majority of its residents.  Through their commitment to innovation, progress and social responsibility, I am confident that Grupo Alto and the rest of Chile’s entrepreneurial community will be invaluable contributors to the sustained development of this beautiful country.

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