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Endeavor Jordan Hosts Second Annual “Catalyzing Conversations” Event with Top Members of the Global Network

Endeavor Jordan hosted the second annual ‘Catalyzing Conversations’ event in collaboration with the 59th Endeavor International Selection Panel in Amman. ‘Catalyzing Conversations’ is a multi-tiered event featuring a series of interactive and motivational discussions with business leaders, entrepreneurs […]

June 30th, 2015 — by admin

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

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

September 23rd, 2014 — by admin

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eMBA field report: mobile media in Monterrey; the right place at the right time

Nuno Neves studied business at ISCTE Business School in Lisbon, Portugal and New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. He is interning with Naranya in Monterrey, Mexico, through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

I am currently working at Naranya. It has the true entrepreneurship spirit that I was looking for! Everyone in the company lives intensely the moment and is always pushing forward in order to achieve excellence. The key for the incredible results at Naranya is the team spirit. Everyone is involved.

Naranya is in Mobile Media & Commerce company and it is developing new products/markets in order to build a mobile ecosystem for Latin American markets. Currently, it operates in seven countries and it plans to expand its market and extend its offerings to become the leader in Latin American Mobile Media & Commerce.

I am currently developing a strategy for new business and products to be marketed in Latin America. It is clearly a challenge and an opportunity. I feel that I’m at the right place at the right time. My days are fascinating. I spend them brainstorming with the CEO, Financial, Product, and Innovation managers in order to create a winning strategy.

These few last weeks have been amazing. I have attended Endeavor’s local events and met local business people. Monterrey has an atmosphere of entrepreneurship that fascinates me. Above all, this has been an opportunity to fully experience the local culture.

Endeavor Entrepreneur shares tips on using 2.0 tools to foster government-citizen collaboration

Reprinted from Opinno. Original article here.

By Jorge Soto, an Endeavor Entrepreneur since 2011

Interaction between governments and citizens through digital media and tools like mobiles and social networks create opportunities for transparency, accountability, participation and collaboration. With these, people are understanding democracy beyond voting every once in a while and are becoming citizens involved in their communities in a local and global way.

Just as Facebook and Twitter create ecosystems, each government has the opportunity to become a platform that encourages citizens to connect and engage to its community, collaborate and find innovative solutions.

The impact these kinds of initiatives have is not yet understood by governments, nor by citizens. In a broad view, a government that embraces and encourages transparency and accountability will involve citizens in the governance process, building the foundation for innovation. New technologies provides a space where these interactions can happen and a real time dialogue is established. The data obtained will be current and will reflect real needs. In this way, governments can make more effective and efficient decisions.

Data by itself and without context does not tell a complete story and provides little actionable insight. The more data a city or a decision maker has does not necessarily lead to more knowledge nor an accurate vision of real needs. In order to separate noise from signal, information must be meaningful. We should not focus on just aggregating data, but in curating it so it can be useful.

That is why data becomes information when put into context, which, when acted upon, brings the identification of patterns that will tell us what, where and when problems occur. Once this happens, it will lead to predictions to better allocate resources in a more efficient way, execute effectively and result in the satisfaction of real needs. Report and information management, two-way communication, real-time visual and relative analysis, transparency and open data makes governments more effective and efficient.

The true power of these types of initiatives may be its effect on the public imagination. With the combination of the wisdom of the crowds, data visualization and real-time information, every citizen becomes a sensor and governments are capable of evolving while making accurate and informed decisions thus providing citizens with what they really need.

For technology to be used by citizens, simplicity is key. Most don’t feel the need or have incentives to participate with their government and engage with their community; but if the correct tools are available, and citizens feel there is someone on the other side of the line, it will encourage them to participate.

The internet has a democratizing effect. New tools and media have made the expression of individuals and their interaction with their governments easier, as well as allowing governments to use that information to address real needs. It is no longer a technology problem, but an anthropological one.

Jorge Soto is the founder of Citivox, an Internet platform dedicated to linking citizens with their governments to solve common problems. A graduate of Columbia’s University’s Columbia Business School, Jorge is passionate about eliminating the divide between people and their governments. He is also a winner of 2012’s TR35 Mexico competition. Twitter: @smjorge22.

Three crucial steps to innovation: tips from Skillshare’s CEO

Reprinted from Forbes.com. Original article here.

By Alex Taub

Scaling Up, Without Screwing Up: A Conversation With Skillshare’s CEO

There are three distinct stages when disrupting any industry. The first phase is finding your company’s product market fit, penetrating a market that is open for potential money-making ventures with a product that has demand. The second phase is scaling your business. There are various sub-stages in scaling your business which I like to refer to as early-stage and later-stage. The third and final phase is continued innovation. Once you have properly disrupted an industry, you need to make sure to keep your foot on the gas and keep innovating.

Two months ago I sat down with Mike Karnjanaprakorn, co-founder and CEO of Skillshare, to chat about his business. Our conversation moved to the topic of disrupting the education industry (something Skillshare is looking to do) and Karnj — as he is called by his friends — told me about a blog post he wrote, entitled “The Three Big Decisions Your Startup Will Make”.

The first decision is deciding what to build. Karnj describes how you should think about what to build at your startup:

Most startups (99%) fail in this stage because they build the wrong product for the wrong market. Are you building something of value that people will use and care about? Are you building the right product for the right market? A lot is written about what to build and how to reach ‘product/market fit’ as fast as possible.

Karnj stresses the importance of goal-oriented companies. Once you have figured out what to build it is crucial to think about the larger picture and whether there is a market for your ‘product.’ Ask yourself, “Can I get one dollar?” If you can get one dollar, start thinking bigger: “Can I get ten dollars? One hundred dollars? One thousand dollars?” And so on. Thinking in terms of key metrics can also put the scope into perspective. If you are a disruptive company like New York-based Birchbox, a subscription service that delivers beauty product samples to users on a monthly basis, you need think in terms of how many boxes you can sell. If you are Eventbrite, a San Francisco-based company that gives you all the tools to put together events, you need to think about how many tickets you can sell.
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The next decision in the post: hiring. Karnj describes the biggest pitfall that startups may come up against once they have found their product/market fit.

After you build something of value, the next major decision to make is on who to hire and what they’ll be doing. The number one cause of death for a startup in this stage is not scaling properly (prematurely) and hiring the wrong people to work on the wrong things. It’s an extremely tricky thing to balance as you’ll be hiring people before your company becomes sustainable (if you have VC funding).

This decision exemplifies the second phase of disrupting an industry: scaling a company. Scaling is not easy; for a majority of startups, it is the most difficult phase. Karnj believes that the first fifteen hires that a company makes are the most critical for its success. The first employees determine the tone, message and drive of the company. Companies often have to reorganize early in their development stages for these reasons.

There are two distinct but broadly-defined stages of the scaling phase: early-stage and late-stage. Early-stage scaling is when a startup has found their product/market fit and have received enough traction to convince the team and outside capital to make a big bet on them (usually ranging from $7 to $15 million). Taskrabbit and Zaarly, community marketplaces for an assortment of general products and services, are reimagining what a modern marketplace should look like. Uber, a San Francisco-based technology startup that allows people to call private cars from their cell phones, has expanded to other cities including New York and Toronto. Votizen, a consumer technology company that harnesses social networks to create a connected electorate of voters, recently closed a round of celebrity funding. This will allow them to scale up as election season comes around. All of these companies are doing great things are I would watch out for them as they make the jump from early-stage to late-stage scaling.

Late-stage scaling usually happens once a company has mainstream attention. You are either taking the world by storm (full features in The New York Times, cover of the print Forbes, etc.) or in the midst of dethroning various stodgy leaders in your space. You haven’t become a household name, but you are well on your way. You’ve also probably raised over $50 million in venture capital. Some companies in this stage include Foursquare, a geographical location-based social network that helps users explore the world around them, Kickstarter, a microfunding platform for artists and entrepreneurs to find support for their projects, and Airbnb, a global network of accommodations offered by locals that is disrupting the global hospitality industry. These companies and others, in the late-stage of scaling, could make the jump to the third phase at any moment — if they haven’t already.

The final decision is where to innovate. Karnj discusses what happens after you have properly disrupted an industry and are one of its leaders.

This is the biggest and hardest decision you’ll ever have to make as a startup. If you look throughout history, most companies become irrelevant because they aren’t innovating properly. Apple and Facebook have done a great job but companies like Yahoo, AOL, Myspace (I would even argue Google) have not innovated successfully to stay relevant in society.

It is crucial to remain a dominant player once you have successfully penetrated a market, and there is a good shortlist of companies in this position. Facebook has one of the most aggressive approaches when dealing with continued innovation. The newsfeed and profile revamp, coupled with Timeline, are a few examples that highlight Facebook’s desire to constantly update itself.

Apple is a classic example of a company that disrupted and defined its industry and has continued to innovate in countless others, including personal computers, music, videos, and more. They are continuing to put their feet on the pedal, potentially eyeing TV as its next target.

There are many others straddling the boundary between the end of late-stage scaling and widespread, continued innovation. Those companies include the likes of Zynga and Twitter. Zynga has clearly disrupted the traditional gaming companies such as Atari and EA with games like CityVille, Farmville, Words With Friends. Recently Zynga purchased OMGPOP for $180 million, which forebodes a potential environment for Zynga where they are buying hot and upcoming apps, as opposed to having successes internally. This does not sit well for innovation.

Twitter is at the tail end of the scaling phase and could be thrown into the third stage as they have disrupted the entire news vertical. At this point, breaking news happens on Twitter. While great things have been done, they have to keep pushing ahead and not be afraid to completely revamp how people use and interact with their product. As long as Twitter can continue to build something that users will love, they shouldn’t be afraid to flip it on its head.

5 steps to get your startup the funding it deserves

Reprinted from Under30CEO. Original article here.

By Erik Zamkoff. Zamkoff is the co-founder and CEO of personal media platform provider MiMedia. Prior to founding MiMedia, Erik was a Senior Analyst following the communications services and technology sector for Empire Capital a $600MM long/short technology hedge fund.

Whether early-stage, late-stage or development state, financing is the lifeblood of every startup, yet raising capital can often be quite challenging for entrepreneurs. The funding process is a long, windy road and without direction, you could easily lose your way. Here are a few tips I’ve learned from my personal experience on how to best attract investment dollars and commercialize your startup idea.

Perfect Your Finance Pitch

The key to a successful pitch is the ability to communicate your market opportunity, product, go-to-market strategy and differentiators in less than 20 minutes and in fewer than 15 slides. Know your pitch backwards and forwards so that when you’re thrown a curveball, you’re prepared to answer any question that comes your way. Understand that a potential investor’s time is precious, and never beat around the bush on your answers. Short and sweet is the trick.

Make sure you know your audience too. You must speak the language of the folks on the other side of the table so that they can understand your idea at its fullest potential. Yes, your pitch should convey your passion, knowledge and leadership skills, but above all, you must make clear how your product fulfills a market need. It often helps to bring a prototype so that investors can see how your product works and really get excited about the idea.

If the money is there, take it

One of the biggest mistakes an entrepreneur can make is overestimating his or her market value and thinking that money will always be available. This is never the case. No matter how innovative or different your idea is, there is always a chance someone else will come along and perfect it or even displace it entirely.

As a former institutional investor, I have seen many public companies fail to complete an exit for their investors via acquisition and end up selling at a fraction of the price a short term later. In the private market, this price is much more severe. I have seen teams take less money because they believe the road ahead is always smooth with endless capital available, only to hit a pothole and run out of road.

On the flip side, companies that understand their window of opportunity can make vast returns at just the right time. A great example of this is Instagram. The company experienced a $1 billion exit based on extraordinary user growth and no revenues.

Know When to Tighten Your Belt

One of the hardest lessons to learn when it comes to funding is knowing when to be reserved and when to be aggressive with your spending. There are appropriate times to tighten your belt and appropriate times to loosen it. Ultimately, you should be conservative with your estimates and growth projections and leave room for the ability to pivot your strategy when the unexpected happens.

Learn the Humble Lesson of Sacrifice

In the words of Sir Winston Churchill, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” This doesn’t ring more true than for an entrepreneur. You should always be willing to offer up personal sacrifices for the good of your company. Sometimes that means putting up your personal capital to make sure your company makes it to the next level of financing. In the past I’ve given up my salary for six to nine months at a time, but the end, it was always well worth it.

I’ve also spent my fair share of time flying coach from city to city and sharing cheap hotel rooms with my business partner, chasing down the next investor meeting. You need to believe in your idea so much that you will do whatever it takes to get the capital you need to execute your vision.

Have a Plan B. And a Plan C. And D, E, F….

The venture capital landscape is very complicated. While the ideal situation includes a VC partnership in which money is thrown at you for every new idea, more often than not, this is not the case. Particularly in a stagnant economy where funding is in short supply, VC’s can also drive a hard bargain. You can’t expect to pitch only ten VC’s and then get backed 100%. Sometimes it will take four rounds of angel investing before a VC becomes interested.

Be open to other ideas for funding. There is more than one way to succeed and no business gets off the ground with no capital at all. Therefore, find the path of least resistance and take it.  If the VC route isn’t receptive, look into angel funding, or private funding from your friends and family. At MiMedia, our initial capital came from investments from friends and family. That capital along with angel funding enabled us to build a company that now has more than 200,000 accounts.

You can also look to crowdfunding options like Kickstarter and WeFunder. The recently passed Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act has opened up a world of opportunities for startups seeking funding. That said, it’s important to keep in mind that crowdfunding means you will have multiple stakeholders in your business, which requires a great deal of transparency and open conversation about your strategic growth goals.

Ultimately, funding is just a numbers game. You only need one person—if it’s the right person—to buy into your idea. It’s your responsibility to find the right person.

Endeavor Entrepreneur Jorge Soto among winners of Mexico’s first TR35 awards

By Esther Paniagua

 Reprinted from Opinno. Original article here. 

Editor’s Note: This profile was originally published in Technology Review en español in a series featuring the winners of Mexico’s first TR35 Awards. The awards are given to the top ten innovators and entrepreneurs under the age of 35 as chosen by a panel of judges. For more information on TR35 Mexico, click here.

How can citizens use technology to change society? This is the question that [Endeavor Entrepreneur] Jorge Soto, an electronics engineer from the Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico has been asking since 2009 when he created his first open data project for citizen participation: Cuidemoselvoto.org.

Thanks to this election-monitoring tool, citizens and nongovernmental organizations could be informed about electoral fraud through Twitter, text messages and emails during a given year’s elections. “We received nearly 11,000 reports and 200 of them proceeded to court,” said Soto, in who also studied business administration at Columbia Business School.

Cuidemoselvoto.org was followed by Internetnecesario.org, which was created by Soto and other colleagues following an additional 3% Internet-usage tax proposed by the Mexican government in late 2009. “There was a lot of criticism and so we launched the site to channel this by monitoring the actions it caused,” he said. Among other things, the system turned Twitter activity into an email for members of Congress. As a result, part of the Internetnecesario.org creative team was invited to present its position during discussion of the tax in the Senate.

Not content with this, Soto launched the company Citivox in 2010. Although he has continued to promote new initiatives, today this is his flagship project. The goal, according to Soto, is “to help citizens, civil society organizations and governments and institutions to work together to improve their communities.”

According to the engineer, the idea behind Citivox is that “Governments today, to have more power, don’t need more control, more weapons or control over the press, but rather greater legitimacy.” For citizens, Soto explains, Citivox is a technological tool with which they can “identify and share information about community problems,” while for leaders it is a service and technology platform to “understand, manage and analyze these reports and meet real needs.”

The system’s model rests on four pillars. The first is the report or complaints from citizens through mobile technology. The second is the government’s management, which starts and allocates resources. The result of this, through maps, graphs and statistics that are generated, enables measurement. Finally, there is communication and publication of data for tracking complaints.

All this is made possible by software based on a mobile platform that brings together individual stories and analyzes real-time information in order to identify patterns, trends and correlations. So Citivox “actually reflects what is and is not a structural problem,” said Soto. “Every citizen becomes a sensor and governments and institutions are able to evolve while making informed decisions in real-time, managing their resources better,” he added. This is empowering, as “both citizens and governments” can carry out their work in a “more effective and efficient manner.”

Soto notes that “being a simple and easy to use technology, it’s highly scalable and replicable.” Not surprisingly, the team already has Citivox projects in six countries. “It’s a great opportunity to rejuvenate governments and institutions by using networks rather than hierarchies,” he said.

According to Carlos Viniegra, director of the Digital Government Unit at the Ministry of Public Administration in Mexico City and a member of TR35 Mexico awards jury, the impact that Citivox’s activities have generated are already very visible in the Mexican environment and even internationally. In addition, their business “relates to new type of organization that beneficially integrates social, environmental and business” and “certainly is a good example of an innovative advance in technology to build a type of relationship with society and also one that builds new organizations for the country, “concluded Viniegra.

Success stands still for no one

Reprinted from GrowVC. Original article here.

By Markus Lampinen

Success is not a given for any type of company, yet when one reaches success in a larger extent, it may be hard to remember to strive for greatness and not accept success as a right that’s earned. Accept success as your norm, and you’ll definitely wake up one morning far behind your competition.

Entrepreneurs and people building businesses (or any business division or unit for that matter), face an endless and hurdle-filled struggle to get up on top of challenges and conquer their part of the market. It’s this concept of a constant beta, that makes the environment uncertain and dynamic, to say the least. Looking for the light at the end of the tunnel may be a natural reaction and survival instinct, but for entrepreneurs, it’s really all about learning to see in the dark and enjoy the calamity that is being an entrepreneur.

After trudging through this dark tunnel looking at all glimpses of hope, it’s only natural to bathe in the light once you reach it. No sane person would look for the next cumbersome, near-death experience, right? Well, that’s exactly what the entrepreneur should be after. Like being allergic to the sun, the entrepreneur should be running for the next big thing, whether its an improved addition to the past success or diversification of assets to make sure success is continued. There is no stop.

You see accepting success as a given in so many companies that are fledgling after years of basking in the glory. For an entrepreneur, taking anything for granted should be an oxymoron that just doesn’t make sense. Blinking for even a second to enjoy the earned success, may indeed cause the collapse of an empire. Sure, that’s a bit dramatic, but so are the consequences of thinking ‘you’ve made it’. The truth is, that in any competitive industry (read, industry worth being in), you’re never finished. And it means, you are really never finished.

Several entrepreneurs that do make it to large scale success, then jump ship when the company reaches a certain level of establishment. This is also a natural instinct for those that learn to thrive in constant beta, which makes the established environment unbearable to them. It’s not to say that it’s not a natural progression in the life of the company, but it doesn’t need to be a progression that the initial founder or entrepreneur needs to take part in. It’s part of knowing ones strengths, which may not include running an already successful company or division, but rather building one from scratch or re-building one in distress.

Success is part of any entrepreneurs sought after path, yet success may not be attainable as a static, given right. Success may be part of the process itself, of finding and creating value through uncertainty and hurdles. In fact it’s really not about getting to the end of the tunnel, but rather the process itself of creating value, that defines entrepreneurship in it’s fundamental form.

Ready to sell? Here’s how to make the most of your transaction

Reprinted from Under30CEO. Original article here.

By Chris J. Snook. Snook has worked over 12 years as an author, entrepreneur, and venture catalyst and has spent the last 5 years in the investment community incubating media startups as the Managing Partner of TLEC Ventures. He co-authored three international best-selling books entitled WealthMatters 2007and 2011 (2nd Edition) and Burnout: How to Transform Frustration to Fortune in 2005.

In today’s business world, acquisitions occur on a regular basis. At times, it’s a miserable situation for the company acquired. However, in many cases, the smaller company might seek a buyout to broaden their company or turn a profit on a desirable innovation. Whatever the scenario, it’s important that the process revolves around clear communication, realistic expectations, and positive resolution. With these considerations, the stress of the unknown can be relieved.

Clear Communication

Unfortunately, many problems involving buyouts stem from unclear communication between the sellers and buyers. From the sellers’ perspective, it is important to clarify why – or if – they need to be acquired. What is the motivation? The potential buyer, at some point, will uncover the true need or desire, so it’s in the sellers’ best interest to state their goals from the outset. Hidden or buried agendas create tension and do not contribute to a successful transaction. The acquired company must also be clear in defining what it needs from an acquirer in terms of strategy, culture, and finance before a deal can be brokered.

Likewise, a potential buyer needs to clarify their vision for the acquired company. Client cross-marketing potential, service synchronicity, and shared business goals should be discussed as part of the acquisition. How much of the present staff will be retained by the acquirer? What will be the compensation (if any) for the staff that’s not retained? Of course, this will occur on a case-by-case basis.  In many acquisitions, the staff is considered a commodity that can be replaced by the parent company. However, exceptions do exist. If the acquired company is part of a service industry, then the business relies on established relationships and intangible assets. These qualities need to be considered if success and loyalty are priorities for the acquirer.

Realistic Expectations

Acquisitions inherently create a lot of change. Absorbing them in the early stages can take time. Strategic initiatives and priorities for the transition should be mapped out. Uncertainty is the enemy. The chain of command needs to be informed about strategies to keep key players and clients. Again, this is dependent on the goals communicated by both the acquirer and the acquired. The handling of a company’s employees is crucial. Expectations concerning stock options, incentivized earnouts, and bonus compensation should be consistent and fair. The newly acquired company will be far more productive and experience less disruption and uncertainty if everyone knows where they stand.

The reality of acquisitions is that investors and acquirers are investing money in order to make money. They’re in a position to make long-lasting choices for their benefit.  If they can envision their financial goal being achieved with the existing team, then that’s a mutually beneficial situation for the acquired company’s employees. However, it is not necessarily a given. For an acquirer, it is beneficial to state how these tough decisions will be made. With honesty and clear expectations, a successful relationship between the organizations can begin.

Positive Relationships

The most important thing for both sides to consider before approaching an acquisition is to understand each other and work to build a relationship. Based on personal interactions and research, each company should become infinitely more familiar with the other one. An acquirer should learn as much as possible about the lead entrepreneur and his management team. By taking into consideration what the company values personally and professionally, a smoother transition can take place.

Hostile takeovers don’t work on a practical level in the emerging enterprise space. Without the lead entrepreneur, the acquiring company takes on several jobs that overextend and complicate their own management team. Assessing the market potential and opportunity for the company’s offering or technology is only half the equation. More importantly, the relationship potential is paramount. An acquiring organization should seek to maximize the raw power and talent of its investment without squeezing the life out of it. It is a delicate balance to attain and sustain.

The process of acquisition does not have to be painful. With clear communication and expectations from the outset, the acquirer and acquired can avoid surprises and inconsistencies in future endeavors. A solid and positive relationship can be built during the transition that is vital for continued success. With the changes that occur during an acquisition, each organization can reflect upon, and solidify, the visions they hold.

Endeavor Entrepreneur José Vélez, winner of Colombia’s TR35 awards

By Esther Paniagua

 Reprinted from Opinno. Original article here. 

Editor’s Note: This profile was originally published in Technology Review en español in a series featuring the winners of Colombia’s first TR35 Awards. The awards are given to the top ten innovators and entrepreneurs under the age of 35 as chosen by a panel of judges. For more information on TR35 Colombia, click here.

In countries like Colombia, and in general in Latin America, the percentage of those with banking service is much lower than in highly-developed countries. This is where a payment system that allows people access to e-commerce without having a credit card can make a difference.

Until recently, PayPal and MercadoPago reigned supreme in this market, but in 2002 the Colombian economist [and Endeavor Entrepreneur] Jose Fernando Vélez, winner of the TR35 Colombia award, came in to change this. He and his partner [and Endeavor Entrepreneur], Martin Schrimpff, realized there was demand for a service that would bring together the best of both while adding other integrated services. Thus, they began working on what today is a solid company that is competing head-to-head with the giants in the Latin American market.

PagosOnline differs from PayPal, as Vélez explained, in that it offers alternative payment methods (such as payments with checking accounts or savings accounts and cash payments) and that its service follows a “more personalized” customer support that is integrated into the platform. According to Vélez, this is a necessary addition in Latin America where people are not so used as elsewhere to downloading a manual and doing it all by themselves.

Another peculiarity of PagosOnline is that they offer their payment processing service via the Internet in two modes: gateway and aggregator. The first is aimed at large companies that already have collection agreements with financial institutions and are charged a flat fee per transaction and deal directly with banks. With the aggregator model, however, the customers are individuals and small businesses that do not have direct agreements and could have difficulty obtaining the necessary permits to sell online. In this case, PagosOnline has agreements with financial institutions that provide volume to small businesses. The economic benefit they get comes from the difference between the rate they charge their customers and what the bank charges them. “Having many customers [over 6,000] brings much better commissions than I could have for each of them.  That allows us to be very competitive,” said Velez.

In addition, PagosOnline is “the only company in Latin America that offers the service aggregator, similar to PayPal or MercadoPago, the gateway model, similar to Braspag in Brazil and a fraud module, similar to Cybersource” said Velez. “Given that electronic commerce is still in its early stages of development in Colombia, we had to expand our portfolio of services.” By offering three modes, PagosOnline is in an advantageous position against the competition because it can cater to various customer segments. “In Colombia, almost all airlines and department stores are our customers in the gateway model, which MercadoPago cannot,” claimed Vélez.

“We also differ from PayPal and MercadoPago in that we do not require user registration to make payments, which for certain customers is more convenient because no registration is required both in e-commerce website and in the payment system, ” said Velez.

According to Vélez, his payment platform is also the only one certified in Colombia with the PCI DSS global standard that handles credit cards securely over the Internet. Finally, Vélez highlighted another differentiating factor, “We are the only ones offering a fraud guarantee to businesses that assumes losses up to a certain amount.”

All these services have made PagosOnline “a well-known company in Colombia,” according Constanza Nieto, CEO of Globaltech Bridge and TR35 Colombia judge. In 2010, PagosOnline recieved “one of the most important investments in the Colombian Internet sector, generating significant economic returns for our shareholders and preparing the company for its internationalization”, said Vélez, who was also recently listed as one of the 100 most successful managers of 2011 by the Colombian magazine Gerente.

eMBA field report: in Egypt, change is in the air

Nate Wong is an MBA student at Yale University’s School of Management. He is interning with Hindawi in Egypt through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

As I disembarked the aircraft in Cairo, I was not fully prepared for the mix of excitement and frenzy that would take place over the next few weeks. I arrived at the peak of Egypt’s runoff elections – an historic time for Egyptians and a culmination of the infamous 18-day revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak last February. For the first time in history, Egyptians would usher in a democratically-elected president. For much of the younger generation, it would be the second president they had ever witnessed. The next couple weeks were an emotional roller coaster. Tensions rose over the election results and rumors sparked of Mubarak’s impending death. They proved to be false. “Shafik or Morsi?” seemed to be the dominant question in the streets as everyone eagerly tried to learn which candidate others had voted for.

Tahrir Square, the famous location of Egypt’s historic revolution, was again full of protests, which I was able to experience firsthand. Tahrir is separated into two or three “stages” where different protesters state their claims and rally the crowd. One night, there was a large demonstration of Morsi supporters. The massive crowd became denser as I walked toward it. It was still relatively small in comparison to the revolution crowds last January and February. Vendors were interspersed among the protesters. The smell of freshly grilled corn wafted through the air. Supplying a host of items from flags and lights to corn, candy, and even clubs, these vendors were very entrepreneurial in their business endeavors: they had mobilized quickly to accommodate the swarms of assembled people.

This entrepreneurial attitude pervades Egypt as a whole, perhaps as a result of its changing political landscape. The Arab Spring has brought with it numerous challenges both political and financial. For examples, the revolution created a sharp decline in tourism, which was a major source of revenue for the country. These challenges have pushed Egyptian companies to innovate and think beyond country borders to capitalize on opportunities.

This summer, I have been given the opportunity to work for Hindawi Publishing Company, a company which has taken the entrepreneurial mantra to heart and created a new model for “open access” in the publishing world. The company has grown exponentially over the past few years, tripling its revenues and expanding its operations to over 500 employees, with further plans for expansion underway. Largely based on lessons learned from the publishing world, in 2008, Hindawi created a new division called uFollow, a website that allows users to follow their favorite bloggers and columnists, no matter where they publish, all in one place. uFollow’s author-centric model flips the conventional blog search on its head by expanding search criteria from content and sources to authors and citations. uFollow currently tracks more than 150,000 bloggers and columnists from over 4,800 leading blogs, magazines, and newspapers. It is the brainchild of Endeavor Entrepreneur Ahmed Hindawi, along with Paul Peters. They anticipated the increasing trend towards electronic publications and blogs and the need to develop a highly-parsed and clean database for the blogosphere. After four years, uFollow has developed into a robust blog search engine and a resource for users to follow their favorite topics, authors, and sources.

In my role this summer, I am helping Ahmed and Paul to launch uFollow’s Top 100 Author and Sources site, which is one of the first sites to calculate top authors. Its algorithm is based on the number of citations that a given author receives from other articles in the uFollow system, excluding any internal references from the same source or self-citations.

Aside from my time in the office, I have taken full advantage of being in Cairo during this monumental time. Nestled on a small island in Cairo, I am staying in Zamalek, which is about a 10-minute drive to Tahrir Square, with great views of the Nile. Despite the traffic, I have been able to explore Cairo and other sites in Egypt, including the famous Giza pyramids; Khan el-Khalili, one of the oldest markets or souks in Egypt; the Egyptian Museum, which houses King Tut’s mummy and a myriad of other artifacts from Egypt’s great past; and even experienced Faluka sailboat ride on the Nile. The food in Egypt, despite the high prices of wine – only found in certain restaurants and expatriate communities – has been another highlight. From traditional Egyptian dishes such as Molokheyya, Koshari, Taameya (falafel), and Foul, to the fresh guava, peach, mango, and watermelon juices, my foodie palette has been very well rewarded. But one of the most unique experiences within Cairo by far is the ability to order just about anything from food to medicine – it’s just a quick phone call or, in many cases, click away! I am looking forward to my remaining weeks here in Egypt, especially with Ramadan quickly approaching. I am excited to continue to work with the team at Hindawi and uFollow and am hoping to explore sites beyond Cairo, including Alexandria, Luxor, Sharm!

Tips to help you team up with high profile mentors

Reprinted from Under30CEO. Original article here.

By Laurel House

“Pick their brain until it bleeds.” Hollywood’s Michael Ovitz, my mentor since I was 19 years old, advised me to do just that when I find someone whose career I want to emulate. Of course, you’ve got to have a little more tact than simply that, but you get the picture.

The best way to get a leg up and put your success on the fast track is to find and secure a high profile mentor in your field. A mentor will show you the ropes, teach you the insider tricks, and tell you where they screwed up and wasted time as well as what worked most effectively and efficiently.

Looking the Part

More than letting you in and giving you an industry blueprint, a mentor can help mold you, giving you tips on everything from a proper handshake, to how to act in certain business social situations, or what to say in an email response to a potential new client. That might sound petty and trite, but it often truly is the littlest things that make the biggest difference. If your mentor is going to help you get a foot in the door, you sure better be presentable when you make your entrance.

It Is What You Make It

Every mentor/mentee relationship is what you make it. You will get more out of it if you put more into it. By putting more in, that often means giving up your free time and asking if you can shadow him in meetings, if you can sit in the corner and listen at his speaking engagements, if you can read the books that most influenced him, if you can take a look at contracts that he is working on or deals that he has closed. Offer to help on any projects that he is working on- for free. It’s doing your diligence. Ask questions- always be prepared with questions. If he ever says “do you have any questions about this?” Ask one. He is giving you an opening to learn more. Showing interest will get you far. But don’t be too aggressive or too needy. Remember that even if he has taken you under his wing and even seems chummy with you, you are still just his mentee and you need to respect his time and the unnecessary energy that he is investing into you. Remember: his time is very valuable. Be appreciative of any bones you get. Even if they are few and far between.

You’ve Been Vetted

Sure, you can learn a lot from your mentor, but what does a mentor say about you? Another executive or CEO will see that you have already been vetted. Your mentor invested in you, believes in you enough to have put time and energy into you, maybe even introduced you to key players and connections. If they believe in you, someone else will too.

How to Score a High Profile Mentor

There are many ways to get a mentor, but regardless of the route, you have to have the Gumption and Grace to ask for it. I did. When I was 19 years old I contacted the then most powerful man in the entertainment industry to be my mentor- Michael Ovitz. And it worked. You would be amazed how few people have the guts to get up and ask. Show a little interest and you already have an advantage. So you have the Gumption and Grace, but now you need the 3rd– “G”- Guidance…

Internship Job Boards: Internships are a great way to start working with someone who could end up being your mentor. It may be free work, but you will be getting paid in the form advice, insight, experience, and relationships. Look on campus job boards, on craigslist, or on internship websites. Once you have a lead, compose an email that is smart, grammatically correct, brief, and eye catching.

Pinpoint, then Email: If there is a certain industry leader who you specifically want to be your mentor, see if you can find their personal (or their personal assistant’s) email address. How? Look on their company website. No email to that specific person? Call their office and ask for his/her email address. You can also mail a letter- Yes, in the mail. It may have been several years ago, but that’s how I contacted Ovitz to be my mentor. A well-written, thought out letter. Include your phone number, email address, printed and signed name so that it doesn’t appear to be a form, mass letter to any number of potential mentors.

Broaden Your Reach- Contact a Company: Not sure exactly who you want to intern for, but you know the type of industry, or even a target company that you would like to find a mentor from? Oftentimes companies will post internships on their website. No listing on the company website? Call the company and ask if they are taking interns or if any of the executives are looking to mentor. You may have to submit your enquiry without even knowing exactly to whom it’s going, but that’s ok. It is going to someone, and that someone will look at your email and read it (or else they wouldn’t have taken the time to post the listing).

Bottom line: Ask! The worst thing they can say is no. Once you get the internship or secure a mentor, treat that relationship like a job. They are not your friend, even though they may talk to you in a friendly tone and on off business hours. Respect their time. Be diligent. Show them how hard working and dedicated you are. LISTEN to everything they say. Ask questions. Take notes. Then, as Ovitz told me: “Pick their brain until it bleeds.”

House is an entrepreneur who has transformed her 7 million views  on YouTube into a lifestyle brand called QuickieChick, with her 4th book- “QuickieChick’s Cheat Sheet to Life, Love, Food, Fitness, Fashion and Finance on a Less than Fabulous Budget” (St. Martin’s, May 2012), now available everywhere books are sold.

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