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Endeavor Investor Network’s Latin American Venture Forum Gathers 160+ Entrepreneurs and Investors in Bogotá

Last week, Endeavor Global and Endeavor Colombia hosted the inaugural Latin American Venture Forum in partnership with Bancoldex. This event gathered over 30 of the most active regional funds in Colombia for a day of content, discussion […]

September 16th, 2014 — by admin

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Veramiko named “Entrepreneurs of 2013″ by CNN Expansión

Vidal Cantu and Guillermo Farias, the founders of Veramiko, were named “Entrepreneurs of 2013″ by leading Mexican business magazine CNN Expansión. As part of this honor, Vidal and Guillermo were featured on the cover of Expansión’s […]

September 27th, 2013 — by admin

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WPP to acquire majority stake in Endeavor firm 41?29! Media, an independent digital agency in Turkey

For full press release click here

WPP announces that it has agreed to acquire a majority stake in Endeavor company 41?29! Media Internet (“41?29!”), an independent digital communications agency based in Istanbul.

Founded in 2007 by Endeavor Entrepreneur Alemsah Ozturk, Bora Akman and Omer Ersoy, 41?29! offers digital communications services to clients across all business sectors.

The agency employs 48 people and clients include Diageo, Garanti Bank, Kraft, Microsoft, Nokia, Renault, Ulker and Unilever. (From press release.)

How Endeavor Entrepreneurs are faring after the Egyptian Revolution

Reprinted from wamda.com. See original post here, originally published as “Surviving the Egyptian Revolution: Small Businesses One Year After #Jan25.”

By Nina Curley

Days after the one-year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, it’s now the Egyptian economy, not popular tolerance for dictatorship, that may have reached a breaking point.

Unemployment is higher than it’s ever been. Tourism is floundering, unhelped by recent demonstrations. After rejecting an offer from the International Monetary Fund this June, the controversial military-ruled transition government now returned to the IMF to ask for $3.2 billion in support, in what seems like a tacit admission of the failure of their policies over the past year.

In the startup space, venture capital deal flow has been slow. Sawari Ventures invested in mobile applications company Alzwad and software company Vimov in January 2011, when accelerator Plug and Play Egypt also invested seed funding in its first crop of six startups. Yet investment news slowed until venture capital firm Ideavelopers invested in local daily deal site Offerna in late October 2011. Plug and Play Egypt has now been put on hold.

With the recent launch of Flat6Labs’ first round, seed stage investment in Egypt is picking back up. But what of the small businesses that suffered through the year? As popular frustration with corruption turned to general suspicion of the private sector this year, some small businesses were hit particularly hard.

Others that we spoke to, supported by nonprofit Endeavor, have managed to survive the economic stall by carving out new markets or continuing to dominate their niches.

Targeting High-End Markets

For bakery chain and Endeavor firm The Bakery Shop, catering to customers with disposable income kept business afloat. “Pre-revolution things were doing quite well. We opened our first store in 2008, in the north coast of Egypt by the sea, where we introduced baguettes, croissants, and pastries to a market that consumes luxury products,” says co-founder Sameh El-Sadat.

After moving back to Cairo, TBS launched a store in upscale neighborhood Zamalek, followed by shops in Heliopolis and Maadi, and two more in 2011. “Things slowed down during the revolution, because people were afraid to spend too much, and the curfew didn’t help,” says Sadat. “But business picked right back up. Given that our market already has a high disposable income, we were not affected.” The fact that baked goods are comforting can’t hurt.

The company, which has two more shops slated to open soon, has also worked hard to beat out competitors and retain its talent, recruiting top bakers, sending them abroad for training, and compensating them well. “It’s important that they feel they are part of the ownership of the business,” says El-Sadat.

At Endeavor-supported company Azza Fahmy Jewelry, targeting a similar high-end market also helped insulate business. “You’d think that jewelry is one of the first things that people would stop purchasing during the revolution. But our sales were not affected as much as we expected,” says managing director Fatma Ghaly.

The jewelry company, which founder Azza Fahmy pioneered in the early 1980’s, creating unique designs inspired by Islamic architecture, momentarily put expansion plans on pause. And yet, as it gears up for expansion into U.S. and European markets, the attention that the revolution has garnered Egypt is turning out to be helpful.

“In terms of branding, Egypt got a lot of positive branding as a country,” Ghaly, who spoke about cultivating creativity at CoE, explains. “Now when we approach markets in the U.K. or the U.S., there is curiosity and there is a bit of excitement that wasn’t there before.”

Looking to Africa

For online and mobile banking company and Endeavor company eMasary, which was registered in 2009, the story has gone differently. As a company that facilitates online payments for the unbanked community, which comprises up to 90% of Egyptians, according to Infosys, the revolution hit harder.

The company, which has worked on large-scale projects like automating toll station payment on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road, had to cancel projects with the Ministry of Transportation due to the regime change. “We had an appointment with the Minister of Transportation on the 26th of Jan. The minister was removed, so the project was cancelled,” explains founder Moatasem Osam.

Once the government was thrown into transition, a project designed to allow consumers to pay traffic tickets online was also cancelled. As a result, the company has been pushed to think more about expansion into Africa, pushing towards Ethiopia, Ghana, and Nigeria as well as Dubai.

And yet, it hasn’t all been negative. “We’re attracting investors now,” says Osam, “perhaps because of the status of the country.

Hoping for Regulatory Change

While the previous regime worked to woo foreign investment, the new government will have to fight more than corruption to rebuild a comfortable environment for small businesses, say these entrepreneurs.

The government should incentivize training and technical certification, says Osam, while facilitating banking facilities for small and medium-sized enterprises. Ghaly hopes that laws governing trade, hallmarking, and custom laws will be relaxed to facilitate imports and exports. And El-Sadat points out that a more enabling regulatory environment will help other entrepreneurs be less afraid of failure.

As each finds new avenues for international expansion or outside investment, the sense that Egypt is a land of possibility may be the biggest boost. “The revolution really portrayed the true spirit of Egypt,” says Ghaly. “There is no longer a stigma of terrorism and ignorance driving portrayal of the Middle East.”

Endeavor Global closes investment round with IT firm Globant

The following press release can also be viewed here: http://prn.to/xpQVEQ

For the first time in its history, the global NGO – through the Endeavor Catalyst Program – invests $2MM in one of their selected High-Impact Entrepreneurs

New York, New York, February 1, 2012 - Endeavor, the word-wide leader in selecting, mentoring and accelerating high-impact entrepreneurs, announced that it has closed an investment round with Globant, a leading producer of innovative software products that appeal to global audiences, as the first investment of Endeavor Catalyst.

Endeavor Catalyst is a revolutionary and high-impact initiative that uses donated capital to allow the organization to co-invest in Endeavor Entrepreneurs in a neutral, unbiased way. The main goal of this program is to use the returns of the investment both to support Endeavor’s operations and to be reinvested into Catalyst to provide funding for other Endeavor Entrepreneurs.

The pioneering supporters of Endeavor Catalyst have each pledged $1MM to the investment vehicle, citing it as an innovative new model of philanthropy. The founding members of this Entrepreneurs’ Circle include Michael Ahearn, Chairman of True North Venture Partners; Edgar Bronfman, Jr, Former Chairman of Warner Music Group; Michael Cline, Managing Partner of Accretive LLC; Reid Hoffman, Partner of Greylock Partners and Co-Founder of LinkedIn; Arif Naqvi, Founder and Group CEO of Abraaj Capital; Pierre Omidyar, Founding Partner of Omidyar Network, Founder and Chairman of eBay.

“We are thrilled to be part of Globant´s story once again. The moment Globant’s founders were selected as High-Impact Entrepreneurs in 2005 we were struck by their passion and vision. We knew that they were going to change their society and country. Today, Globant’s reach and impact spans the globe, creating more than 2,500 high-quality jobs and working with the world’s greatest technology players. I am proud to announce that Globant has received the first investment from Endeavor Catalyst, a passive investment vehicle that uses donors’ funds to support Endeavor Entrepreneurs’ capital-raising rounds,” explained Linda Rottenberg, Endeavor Co-Founder and CEO.

Endeavor is leading the global high-impact movement to catalyze long-term economic growth around the world. With operations in 15 countries throughout Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, Endeavor has screened more than 29,000 entrepreneurs and selected 656 individuals leading 413 high-impact companies.  These Entrepreneurs have created over 156,000 jobs, generated over $4.5 billion in revenues in 2010 and inspire future generations to innovate and take risks.

“For us, this round means much more than just the $2 million. It is a symbolic act that shows the reinforced trust that Endeavor puts in Globant; trust that was first shown in 2005 when they selected us as Endeavor Entrepreneurs. That was a key milestone in our history, since they enabled us to learn from some of the most talented and experienced professionals in the world”, said Martín Migoya, Globant´s CEO and Co-Founder. “By renewing its commitment to Globant through the Endeavor Catalyst Program, Endeavor reinforces a great partnership that will help us to take our company to the next level, creating more jobs for talent across the world, more opportunities for our Globers and delivering the best software products for our customers”.

Globant is a company comprised by more than 2,500 IT professionals, based in 15 delivery centers across Latin America and US and working for customers like Google, EA, JWT and LinkedIn.The Company closed late last year the acquisition of SanFrancisco-based Nextive, a company specialized in the development of mobile software solutions. This operation allowed them to improve its organization around 8 studios, which in turn is contributing to position the Argentinean Company as leader in their industry.


About Globant (www.globant.com)

Globant is the Latin American leader in the creation of innovative software products that appeal to global audiences. For us, that means we are the place where the best engineers team up with art design studios and innovation labs to deliver a superb user experience.

In only 9 years, Globant:

– Has more than 2,500 professionals working for companies like LinkedIn, JWT, Zynga, and Google, among several others.
– Was selected as Endeavor Entrepreneur (2005)
– Was named among the top 10 software development company and top 10 product engineering vendor (2011) by Global Services
– Was included in the 2010 Cool Vendor in Business Process Services Report by Gartner
– Was featured as case study of Harvard, MIT, Stanford and others

About Endeavor (www.endeavor.org)

Hailed by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman as “the best anti-poverty program of all,” Endeavor is leading the global movement to catalyze long-term economic growth by selecting, mentoring, and accelerating the best high-impact entrepreneurs around the world. To date, Endeavor has screened more than 29,000 entrepreneurs and selected 656 individuals leading 413 high-impact companies.
With support from Endeavor’s worldwide mentor network, these high-impact entrepreneurs:

– Have created over 156,000 jobs
– Generated over $4.5 billion in revenues in 2010
– Inspire future generations to innovate and take risks

Headquartered in New York City, Endeavor currently operates in 15 countries throughout Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. As the high-impact movement expands globally, Endeavor will continue to show that anyone with a big idea can succeed, from Silicon Valley to Latin America, the Middle East, and beyond.

Endeavor Entrepreneurs featured on Wamda TV [in Arabic]

Recently, the Wamda website conducted video interviews with several Endeavor Entrepreneurs from the Middle East. The videos, which are in Arabic, are summarized below.

[Arabic]

Laith Zraikat and Omar Koudsi speak about how they channeled their abilities and ambitions into starting up the online community Jeeran in Jordan. Laith explains how recently, Jeeran pivoted into a new vision, generating highly localized content by providing its community with information about what’s happening in cities throughout the Arab World (causes, events, restaurants, etc.) and publishing them for people to comment on and connect around. This helps consumers narrow their choices and spend their time more efficiently.

Omar, meanwhile, explains how this is facilitating Jeeran’s regional expansion, and describes how the daily challenges of running Jeeran are his favorite part of being an entrepreneur.

(Source: wamda.com)

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How branding can keep your internet marketing investment alive

Reprinted from under30ceo.com. See original post here.

By Justice Wordlaw IV

You have probably noticed that there are several companies competing for a single product. For instance, in athletic shoes alone, you will be able to count more than ten competitors. In the airline industry, there exists more than ten competitors in providing air travel services for travelers both inside and outside the United States.

How will you distinguish one competitor from another competitor? That is where branding comes into action. In fact, this is one of the important yet unappreciated aspects of Internet marketing.

Before you will be able to understand the goal of branding on Internet marketing, let us first discuss the branding on traditional conduct of business. It is an advertising method that is used to identify the products or services of a seller or a group of sellers and differentiate it from those of other sellers offering the same products or services. Establishing a brand for your own products or services will help you achieve the following:

– Deliver the message clearly to the public about your intention of marketing your products or services;
– Confirm your credibility as an independent and reputable seller;
– Motivates your buyer to patronize your products or services; and
– Build a concrete and loyal clientele base.

In other words, the goal of branding is to give your products or services its own identity apart from other sellers offering the same products or services. You will only succeed in the investment you are into if you have established yourself as an independent and reputable seller through branding.

What are the consequences of branding in your investment?

The brand of your products or services will rest with the hearts and minds of your clients and potential customers. This will influence the way they patronize your products or services that may even result in the expansion of your clientele base.

It is what the people will remember about you. For instance, you have branded your pet products as Pet Lovers. Once the brand is consistently patronized by the people, you will be able to achieve success and your products will certainly have an edge over unbranded products.

As previously mentioned, branding is one of the most important yet the most unappreciated aspects of Internet marketing, particularly in terms of web advertising. Since most advertising programs are focused on click-through rates (since it is the basis of earning through online-based affiliate programs), Internet marketers often neglect the important of branding in terms of Internet marketing. This is relatively unfortunate since the success of Internet marketing is also dependent on branding awareness. In other words, branding is essential in promoting the brand of the product or services of the affiliate. Without branding, there is no sense that the product or services you are endorsing will be popular to your clients.

Keep in mind that your goal here is to earn money and not to lose any penny. Thus, it would be better if you will invest on branding-based Internet marketing. It is easy to promote products and services that are already well-known to the public rather than unbranded ones.

However, you can also help building brand awareness of not well-known products or services that will help a lot in making your online advertising successful. Here are some of the strategies that you can use:

1. You may think of a brand name that will suit to the products or services of your clients. Such brand name must not be too formal yet too lousy to the eyes and ears of your clients. You may include interesting words that will produce the needed twist to the name of the product or service.

2. Since a brand is an intellectual property, you need to check with the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) if the brand name is already taken by someone else. Once the selected brand name is still available, you will be able to apply for the registered patent of that brand name.

3. Once the patent has been approved, you need to consistently advertise the name so that it will gain popularity among potential clients. You may also suggest to the merchants that the brand name needs to be advertised through various affiliate programs over the net for more visibility.

Branding must not be taken for granted. It is one of the factors that will help you achieve success in Internet marketing. Keep it as your goal and stick with it along the course of your investment.

Justice Wordlaw IV is an internet entrepreneur. He helps companies and entrepreneurs gain leads to their business and shows them how to their convert their leads into sales.

The power of social media in promoting your business

Reprinted from under30ceo.com. See original post here.

By Dave Thomas

In a day and age when many young entrepreneurs are enjoying the benefits provided by engaging in a solid social media campaign, other business owners are tripping over themselves and potentially missing out on revenue by shunning SM.

So, why would some young entrepreneurs not take the time to employ a social media program when many others appear for all the eyes to see to be succeeding with it? This question becomes even more relevant given that the majority of younger business owners come with the computer skills needed to employ as successful social media campaign.

Various studies have been produced in recent years demonstrating the importance and the results of successful social media campaigns. Still, some business owners just don’t get it.

In the event you’re a young entrepreneur who has been sitting on the fence when it comes to having a social media presence, consider a few things:

Your return on investment (ROI) – Given that many entrepreneurs are rightfully obsessed with their ROI output, social media can play a major role in boosting those figures. Not only are you reaching out to present and potential clients, but you’re doing so in real-time. Social media platforms give you the opportunity to converse one-on-one with customers, offer them real-time specials and coupons, address concerns and questions on the spot and more;

Social media does not have to cost great amounts of money – For some entrepreneurs, the fear is that dedicating time and effort to social media is a lost cause in the long run. Quite the contrary, social media does not cost a business tons of money, given that it can be done in-house with current marketing or public relations staff. As for the effort, yes, updating content, engaging in conversations with other social media participants are both important, but they can be handled with your in-house staff that you dedicate to the task. The bottom line is that the return will be greater 99 percent of the time than the output to get it;

Contact with the public – Keep in mind that many of your present and potential customers are online several hours a day, so why wouldn’t you want to engage them? The idea that being active in social media is a waste of time should be easily dispelled right here and now. Estimates show that there are more than 700 million users on Facebook and around 200 million or more using Twitter alone. Think of the contact you could have with members of those audiences who are interested in your products and/or services. Why wouldn’t you want to engage them?

Fads come and go – You will hear some entrepreneurs label social media as just a fad, pointing out that they believe it will be gone sooner rather than later. Quite the contrary, most studies point out that SM is not going anywhere anytime soon. If anything, you will see more companies ramping up their social media efforts in order to attract additional customers. Yes, some fads do come and go, but all indications are social media is here to stay for the immediate future;

Technology and communication will only continue to grow – Remember the days when customers would order items by phone, use letters to complain about a product and scour newspapers looking for deals? Yes, they still do a little of those things here and there, but far more use their computers for such tasks. So, are you prepared to give them the real-time service they want or are you willing to let your competitor fulfill their needs? It seems like a simple question, but too many entrepreneurs still struggle with the understanding of how important being tuned in online really is;

This traffic is a good thing – Most people cringe when they think of traffic, but the traffic you can be sitting in with social media is a good thing. With traffic coming to your company website due to your social media initiatives, your ROI is likely to go up. By using targeted keywords, credible links and more, your social media campaign will be recognized by customers;

What are some of the sites I should direct my attention to? – There are countless social media sites out there, but some stand out above the rest. Obviously Facebook and Twitter have the most name recognition. With Facebook, entrepreneurs are encouraged to create a company fan page and provide valuable information to the public. With Twitter, entrepreneurs can tweet out press releases, pertinent company photos, etc. that would be of interest to their target audience. Other sites to keep in mind are LinkedIn, StumbleUpon and YouTube just to name a few.

No one can accurately predict where social media will be in the years to come, but it is a rather safe bet to say it will need to be something your business is actively engaging in rather than sitting on the sidelines for.

Dave Thomas, who covers among other subjects’ HR Software, writes extensively for Business.com, an online resource destination for businesses of all sizes to research, find, and compare the products and services they need to run their businesses.

Working towards your dream…while working for someone else

Reprinted from under30ceo.com. See original post here.

By J. Matthew King

As entrepreneurs we have a dream and vision of how great our life will be when we have our business up and running. We can see the “open” sign on the door, we can feel the cash running through our fingers, we can hear the accolades of our peers as our business grows and succeeds. But what do when we still wake up every morning to go punch the time clock for someone else? Below you will find some successful actions that will help you prepare yourself for opening day of your dream.

Grow in your surroundings

When you do start your business, at least at first, it is likely that you will have to wear many “hats”. Depending on what business you are in now, try and get as much knowledge from each department as you can because you may have to be ALL the departments for awhile in your new company so spend some quality time with Accounting, HR, and IT to get as much knowledge from them as you can. Especially if you have friends in those areas they can be valuable assets in getting to know the ins and outs of those areas of the business. Also, if the opportunity presents itself, volunteer for projects that will let you have more interactions with different departments than you normally would interact with so that you can have as much time to learn from them as possible.

Become more educated

Many companies provide educational opportunities for their employees such as webinars, white papers, attending trade shows, and obtaining certain certifications to their employees. If where you work is one of those jump at every chance to participate in them! these are free ways for you to expand your knowledge into different areas than you may be familiar with. Don’t pass them up! Even if your company does not provide these opportunities look for local business clubs for networking opportunities and to run your ideas by, and grab some good business books to read as well.

Watch your managers

How do they make decisions? how do they talk to/treat their employees? how do they react under pressure? How do their employees react to their methods? When you open your own business YOU will be the manager, you have to know what are effective management techniques and what are not. make a list of things your managers do that work and that you should emulate, and things they do that are not effective. When the chance presents itself take the lead on projects and try and implement some of the successful actions of your managers. When you are on your own and their are tough times looking back on your success will be a good reminder that you CAN be successful.

Finalize and review your plans

Continue your research.While you are still drawing a steady paycheck is the time to solidify how and when you want to start your business. Make sure you have all your finances, personnel, infrastructure, etc ready to go for opening day. Now is your chance to be as sure as possible that you are ready to go and that as much as is in your hands, you can succeed.

Relax

For the last time in a while you are not the decision maker, you are not the one responsible for the life and death of the company. Enjoy that you have steady hours and can go home and not be on call 24-7, because once you start your company until you are well-established you will be the decision maker, you will be responsible for the life and death of the company and you will be on call 24/7.

Envision success

What does success mean to you? Can you see it? Can you write it down? Think and write down now what success will mean to you 3 months into the business, 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, etc. You have to have the vision for where you are going before you can get there. To me this also means the “butterfly effect” by that I am talking about that excited, giddy feeling you get when you think about your business being successful, that feeling you get because you know that now you are doing what you were meant to do, what you LOVE to do. If you don’t have that feeling then start over until you find something that gives you that feeling, that reason to get up in the morning and go to “work” that doesn’t feel like work.

With these successful actions in place you can get ready to really see your neon “open” sign flashing, feel the money running through your fingers, and hear your peers lavish the praise on you that you have earned for your hard work, because you took the time beforehand to grown in your current surroundings, take the opportunities for educating yourself, watched and emulated successful actions of your managers, finalized your plans, relaxed, and envisioned your success. Now, your dream can become your reality.

What you really need to build a startup

Reprinted from under30ceo.com. See original post here.

By Thom Holland

What does it take to build a startup?

This is typically the first question that a person asks themselves once they’ve come to the conclusion that they would like to be an entrepreneur. Of course, often times new entrepreneurs tend to drastically underestimate what it actually takes to build a successful startup.

Speaking from experience, trust me, building a business is insanely difficult. On the bright side though, it is possible to build a business from the ground up if you have what it takes.

Here are a few things I’ve come to realize that can drastically improve your chances of building a successful startup. Be sure to add your insight to this list.

A Good Idea

When I say that you need a “good idea”, what I mean is that your business idea needs to provide some value that is not currently being provided very well. In other words, don’t simply create a business that already exists.

I launched my first startup when I was at Florida State University. My main reason for starting the business was so that I could work myself through school and apply, first hand, what I learned in business school. In reality, I started the business for all the wrong reasons; as a result, the company’s progress was initially slow. Once we adjusted our strategy to provide value that wasn’t being provided in the marketplace, however, sales took off.

When talking about startups, a good idea:

– solves a problem that is not currently being solved very well
– can be scaled
– can be profitable

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Visiting the valley: why it’s a special place for startups

Reprinted from www.onstartups.com.  See original post here.

By Jason Evanish

I’ve spent the past two and a half years in the great startup community of Boston, where the ecosystem has been quietly growing stronger every day. During that time I’ve had the opportunity to visit a number of other startup ecosystems as well as interact with leaders of other cities. Despite this, I’d never really visited the Valley. With airline tickets cheap between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I decided it was time to finally make a pilgrimage to the center of the startup universe: Silicon Valley.

When I set out to visit Silicon Valley, I hoped to get a taste of all the Valley has to offer. I heard that San Francisco, Palo Alto and Mountain View were the key hubs, so I spent a couple days in each area. By doing so, I maximized the breadth of my experience as well as who I could actually meet and what I could see.

The Valley truly is a unique place unlike any other ecosystem I’ve been to (including the runner-ups, Boston and New York). I wrote elsewhere about some of the myths and facts of Silicon Valley, and there I mentioned I’d love to be able to bottle up the Valley’s special elements. Below is my attempt at capturing what these elements are based on both my experiences and discussions with native entrepreneurs and investors I met on my trip.

#PayItForward

If there’s a single thing that stands out about the Valley, it’s the openness of everyone there. Every person I met was excited to meet with me even with the coldest of intros I received. More importantly though, at the end of every meeting *everyone* asked me “How can I help?” and insisted on working with me until we could come up with a way they could help.

Dial O for Optimism

It’s easy to dismiss wild, big vision ideas that just don’t make sense to you. However, in the Valley, that’s not an obstacle. Everyone is encouraged to start a company and no one is doubted because they lack a clear revenue model or doesn’t pass someone’s analytical test. As one Boston transplant put it, “the Boston brain in me thought the idea of ‘Pandora for Shoes’ was dumb, but the more I thought about it, I realized it just might work.”

Beyond how people view others’ ideas, there’s an overwhelming sense of hope there; it’s difficult to explain, but you get hit by a wave of it when you’re there that makes you think anything is possible and that you’re surrounded by greatness.

Culture Counts

Yes, there’s a talent war in the Valley, but there’s a talent war in every tech hub. As one person I met put it, “the Valley is the Major Leagues”; there’s more of everything: more founders, more capital, more startup employees, more competition. When that’s the case, the only way to recruit and retain talent is with a great work culture and a fun environment.

I visited the Twilio office while in San Francisco and was floored. They have nailed culture in so many ways it can be its own post, but the key is that I heard that HR gets over *250* applicants for every job. The talent war is won and lost inside your office.

Everyone’s an Evangelist

Every person I met was telling me I have to move here. Every. Single. One. There’s a “join a winning tradition” kind of attitude that I think is the same thing the Yankees do to recruit free agent baseball players. This attitude comes from a confidence in good things happening here (see ‘Optimism’, above) and also the welcoming environment; San Francisco was described to me as an incredibly transient population, so everyone is looking to make new friends.

These beliefs feel like a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you think you can, you will, if you think you can’t, you won’t. Believing you can succeed and so can others breeds optimism and a risk-taking attitude.

Winning with Weather

You can’t change the weather of your ecosystem, but it is an advantage of the Valley. On a warm sunny day, you’re more likely to go outside and not work from home. You’re also able to move around before and after events more freely. Both of these cases leads to more serendipity and may contribute to the optimism (as a counter, see Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder).

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

Startup signage is simple, but actually a big deal. There’s a serious cool factor to walking or driving by a building and seeing the logo of a company you recognize. It’s also fun seeing startups on billboards. While on the 101 (the main highway running through the Valley) I saw signs for Box.net, Salesforce, Huddle, and Zynga. As a startup geek, I find this as cool as others do when they see a celebrity on the street. This omnipresence of startups goes a long way to thinking about a place being the home of great startups and is a hot topic in other ecosystems like Boston.


Much of what makes the Valley special is hard to describe; you really need to see it for yourself to truly understand. If you’re starting a company, already running a company or just interested in startups, I highly encourage you to check it out. Many great entrepreneurs in other ecosystems visit quarterly to take advantage of what the Valley has to offer and after visiting, I understand why.

Jason is the founder of @Evanish — and connect with him elsewhere through about.me.

Beleza Natural co-founder and CEO Leila Velez featured on Forbes.com

Beleza Natural Co-founder and CEO Leila Velez has a new approach to an old industry. Julie Ruvolo’s new article for Forbes.comBye Bye Brazilian Blowouts: The Next Big Brazilian Hair Trend is Beleza Natural (see original post here), offers insight into how Leila keyed in on overlooked aspects of hairdressing, and focused on underserved communities with her patented approach.  Leila’s idea was simple–less chemicals, and more natural approaches toward hair with women of color in mind.

In the Forbes interview, she describes how applying supply-chain techniques learned while working as a young woman at McDonald’s (a fact that she is rather proud of) to the hairdressing industry has driven her success.  Here she mastered the “art” and “science” approaches of the beauty salon–a place it is not often found.  Her approach is described as a “veritable conveyor belt of services” that begins with a private consultation, which designs a specific, unique plan for each individual, and ends in the actual hair design.  Her approach is so specific that her hair consultants (not hairdressers) analyze follicle density per quadrant of the scalp (they divide it into 16 quadrants), and takes into consideration the geometric shape of a client’s head in order to find the perfect cut that complements each woman.

This operation, which began in 1993, was entirely self-financed, largely due to her husband, Jair, selling his VW Beatle, has earned her the Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2006 and recognition as one of Brazil’s Most Influential Women in 2007.

This idea of bringing more efficiency and attentive care to hair-salons has grown into twelve salons in as many years, and employs over 1,400 people, mostly women.  Leila has also just recently expanded into manufacturing her own proprietary line of hair-care products, 45 in all, that include creams, shampoos and follicle treatments.

Her company donates generously and offers free hair care to women in poor communities.  In fact, 70% of her workforce are former clients, and women from these underserved communities.  And employees remain happy as Beleza Natural offers good working conditions, generous health-care and tuition-reimbursement.  Keeping an eye toward the future, Leila is constantly brainstorming and utilizing social media for ideas on new products and concepts.

As the article points out, a recent initiative, The Beleza Natural Institute, has also devised a model salon blueprint that is scheduled to be scaled internationally. Her first location is already slated for Harlem in New York City.

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