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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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Endeavor Board Chair Edgar Bronfman, Jr. Visits Colombia: Meets with President, Entrepreneurs and Local Business Leaders

Endeavor board chairman Edgar Bronfman, Jr.’s successful visit to Colombia was capped by a meeting with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos. Bronfman spent a week visiting Bogotá and Medellín, meeting with local business leaders, Endeavor […]

July 19th, 2013 — by admin

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Report from World Economic Forum meeting in Jordan – by Endeavor’s Joanna Harries

By Joanna Harries (International Expansion, Endeavor)

I just returned from the World Economic Forum’s Special Meeting on Economic Growth & Job Creation for the Arab World, held at the Dead Sea, Jordan. I attended thoughtful keynote addresses, and panel debates, but think the jury’s still out on whether the overall tone was one of pessimism or optimism. The topics of Education, Employment, and Entrepreneurship certainly highlighted massive challenges for the region, but will they prove insurmountable?

As the forum title suggests, one looming issue overshadowed all conversations: how will the region create enough jobs to absorb the burgeoning young population entering the labor force each year? Exact statistics vary, but approximately 100 million new jobs are needed by 2020. Or, as one gentleman said to stress the urgency, “two million Egyptians enter Cairo each day looking for work that isn’t there.” When translated into growth, collectively the region must grow annual GDP by 7-8%. Tough, when 15% of FDI is being pulled from the region, and some of the largest economies are in transition (Libya now joins Tunisia & Egypt). Couple this with impatient youth (the Yalla Energy!), who want immediate change, not long term plans. Then acknowledge the skill gap between the unemployed, and their potential employers. Employers in the region aren’t big on training, and prefer to bring in expatriate workers to close the gap. Enter entrepreneurship, which can empower youth to create their own jobs.

Sounds deceptively simple, but despite the strong case for unleashing entrepreneurship, the tactics needed to get there require cooperation from multiple stakeholders. Regional governments must lower the cost of failure (e.g. going to jail if a check bounces), and open borders to allow truly regional businesses to scale. Collectively, 350 million consumers represent a huge market opportunity, but in reality, most entrepreneurs stay local and small. An Arab Small Business Act, and the creation of a Ministry for Entrepreneurs, were both suggested as possible solutions to accelerate regional entrepreneurship.

As we know at Endeavor, resources are especially needed to back those entrepreneurs with the ambition and business capability to scale rapidly. Only a few will grow fast enough to deliver substantial new jobs (but then, you only need a handful). Regional funding is certainly available, but criticized for not being leveraged or channeled correctly. Venture capital is still in infancy, and risk aversion is pervasive. As Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa (founder of The 99 Comics) pointed out, “the first due diligence question is often: how much did your father invest?” What about start ups without self-financing options?

MENA is a region of Haves and Have Not’s, a tension that largely contributed to the Arab Spring. As WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab expressed in his opening remarks, “we may be different, but we are interdependent.” If regional cooperation takes root, and new governments can learn the lessons from the uprisings, then I echo what I heard from a 27-year old Tunisian woman in attendance: “We can’t afford to be pessimistic.”

A few other notable quotes…

“The Libyan youth continued to surprise me. When I was pushed to settle, and make concessions, they would not.” – Mahmoud Jibril, Chairman, National Transition Council of Libya

“How do you get the Arab youth from the street into discussions with multiple stakeholders?” – Madeleine K. Albright, Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group

“The region needs fewer leaders, and more doers.” – Habib Haddad, CEO, WAMDA

The Special Meeting’s full report can be found here.

Good business is built on good values

By Wempy Dyocta Koto (reprinted from Under30CEO).

When I started my career fifteen years ago at American Express, the New York headquartered company defined pre-requisites to my entry, across the Pacific, at their Sydney operations. These included education levels and grades, language skills, personal qualities, references, perceived competence and an expressed preference for five years of professional experience – which my ‘just had lunch with my mates at the University canteen’ curriculum vitae impossibly could not reflect. Armed with ambition and shifting confidence after three rounds of interrogative interviews, I luckily landed the role that kick-started my five year career at the company.

During my tenure, I met Chief Executive Officers, Harvey Golub and Kenneth Chenault. I also had the fortune to directly report into Mira Mikosic, the company’s inspiring former Vice President of International Brand Advertising and worked within John Steward’s group, American Express’ current Executive Vice President of World Markets for it’s Cards business, whom I’ve shared conversations with at the Australian office, outside the company’s headquarters on Vesey Street in New York as well as recently at a pub in Chelsea, London, on a cold English evening.

In and importantly, out of the office, these American Express leaders are groomed to live ‘the blue box values’.

Beyond their individual smarts, the common thread that binds these American Express leaders is that they individually champion, share and embody the company’s shared cultural norms and principles, as defined within American Express’ Blue Box Values:

Customer Commitment – We develop relationships that make a positive difference in our customers’ lives.

Quality – We provide outstanding products and unsurpassed service that, together, deliver premium value to our customers.

Integrity – We uphold the highest standards of integrity in all of our actions.

Teamwork – We work together, across boundaries, to meet the needs of our customers and to help the company win.

Respect for People – We value our people, encourage their development and reward their performance.

Good Citizenship – We are good citizens in the communities in which we live and work.

A Will to Win – We exhibit a strong will to win in the marketplace and in every aspect of our business.

Personal Accountability – We are personally accountable for delivering on our commitments

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The key to an effective business plan

By Alex Pirouz (reprinted from Under30CEO).

Becoming a business owner for the first time in 1977, Bruce Doyle has now owned and operated 27 businesses, 18 of which were developed from conception. Bruce has streamlined businesses that all perform predictably and profitably without his day-to-day input. He has been ranked “Global Coach of The Year,” “Victorian Coach Of The Year” and Action Coach’s most prestigious award, “Entrepreneur Coach of The Year.”

Along the way there have been many key distinctions and things learned, but one which Bruce regards as the most important is Business Planning.

“The most important thing about doing a business plan is becoming clear on what it will look like when it is finished. Most people don’t have an exit strategy. A lot of business owners don’t have clarity in where they are heading because they don’t know the end step. Included in the business plan should also be a succession plan, over 70% of businesses don’t have this. The main purpose is to have the business plan active and turn it into an action plan by breaking it down to 90-day cycles. Then chunk it down to weeks and then days,” Bruce explains.

How long should a business plan be and what should the business plan be based on?

This all depends on the style of business you are in; if you make it too complex they just don’t get followed. Ask any successful entrepreneur and they will tell you that any good business plan should be based around the numbers because at the end of the day the only measure of the success in business is the financials and numbers within it.

In saying that, what are the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make when writing their business plan?

The biggest mistake is not taking the time to write their business plan in the detail necessary to build the foundation to grow from. It is absolutely catastrophic to go into business without a plan. Loss of money and failure will be evident unless the entrepreneur is very lucky.

The second biggest mistake is not conducting market research before launching their idea. Market research is critical and the more you can do it without getting analysis by paralysis the greater your level of success will be in business.

It is much easier to look for the void in the marketplace and provide a solution then it is to try and come up with a solution that is not relevant or existent.

What can entrepreneurs do to increase their chance of success once they have started their business?

• Have the right team around them
• Hire people who are more skilful than they are
• Focus on their strengths and delegate other duties
• Focus on the business and don’t look at any other opportunities
• Get familiar with the financial aspect of the business

Research every aspect of the business to make sure there is a need for what you’re actually coming up with, and most importantly don’t think every idea is going to be a good one without crunching the numbers.

Doing this will ensure you are able to create a business that has the capacity to be scalable and sale-able, because the ideal outcome for any entrepreneur should be to sell and exit their business.

Alex Pirouz is the founder of RIDC Advisory Pty Ltd. A Business and Sales Advisory firm partnering with Australia’s largest and fastest growing companies to further increase their revenue. Visit www.ridcadvisory.com.au for more details.

Leadership and success: An interview with John Assaraf

By Alex Pirouz (reprinted from Under30CEO).

As a teenager, John was involved with a negative ‘street’ lifestyle that could’ve easily led to jail or the morgue. In his quest to overcome these challenges, live a purposeful life and become a millionaire he studied brain science and quantum physics – as they relate to achieving success in business and life.

Through consistent focus and application of what he learnt he was featured as one of the experts in the hit film and book The Secret. He is a New York best-selling author and has landed appearances on Larry King Live, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Anderson Cooper 360°, and many other major media outlets.

In the last 20 years he has built several multimillion dollar businesses, and is the founder of REMAX Indiana, a company that has 1,500 sales associates, who collectively generate $4.5 billion a year in sales.

We interviewed John to find out the importance of leadership within an organization.

Having started and built many multimillion-dollar and a billion-dollar business, how important was it to have the right leadership within your organization?

Having the right leadership is absolutely critical, it is no different to setting off on a military mission. You can have the biggest mission, vision or goal but unless you have the right people to buy into the mission and others who have the specific skills to execute the strategies and tactics you can never really achieve the goal.

People will work 8 hours a day for a job that they love, 12 hours a day for a boss they love and 24 hours for a mission that they buy into.

They say anyone can become a leader. Is it really possible? Aren’t their people who have traits that make them unfit to be a leader?

I personally think that in order to be a leader you must first have the propensity and desire to be a leader. Leadership to me is being able to bring out the best in other people. It’s not telling people what to do its showing people and giving them the opportunity to get it done, this is a skill that as a leader you have or you don’t.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Empathy and compassion; if you can empathise with another person’s emotions and situation and be compassionate in the way you lead, then that to me is most important.

What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?

Not paying the right people what they are worth.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

Hiring and keeping great talent. The market place is very competitive and companies have realised that the biggest assets within a company is human capital, not their product or service. So to find the right people, train them, give them the right roles and responsibilities and compensate them fairly is the biggest challenge most leaders face today.

What are the dangers of having the wrong leaders within an organization?

If you have the wrong people executing the right strategy you will never succeed.

Can someone be a good leader, but not a good manager? Which is better for a company?

I happen to be one of those people, I am a very good leader but not a very good manager. I don’t like to manage processes and systems, I like to inspire and lead people with my vision, behaviours and work ethic. One of the things to recognise is to know what your core strengths, competencies and unique abilities are so you know what type of leader you are.

What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

I read at least a book a week, go to at least four events per year and hire a private consultant to help me grow and develop into a more skilled and powerful individual.

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

If you are going into a leadership role for the first time, the first thing you must understand is that people do want to be lead. People don’t want to be lead in a way that causes them to feel badly about themselves, they want to be lead in a way that will enable them to grow, love their role and take full responsibility for their actions and results.

People don’t mind being told when they don’t do something right, but don’t challenge who they are as a person, challenge the job that they did and show them that they are capable of doing better.

The art and science of due diligence

By Andrew Sherman (reprinted from Under30CEO).

Due diligence is not just a process, it is also a reality test — a test of whether the factors driving the deal and making it look attractive to the parties are real or illusory. Due diligence is not a quest to find the deal-breakers but a test of the value proposition underlying the transaction to make sure that the inside of the house is as attractive as the outside. Once the foundation has been dissected, it can either be rebuilt around a deal that makes sense or allow the buyer to walk away and prevent the consummation of a deal that doesn’t make sense.

Overall, the due diligence process, when done properly, can be tedious, frustrating, time-consuming, and expensive. Yet it is a necessary prerequisite to a well-planned acquisition, and it can be quite informative and revealing in its analysis of the target company and its measures of the costs and risks associated with the transaction. Buyers should resist the temptation to conduct a hasty “once over,” either to save costs or to appease the seller. Yet at the same time, they should avoid “due diligence overkill,” keeping in mind that due diligence is not a perfect process and should not be a tedious fishing expedition. Like any audit, a diligence process is designed to answer the important questions, and ensure with reasonable assurance that the seller’s claims about the business are fair and legitimate.

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Why venture capitalists invest in pigs, not chickens

Reprinted from OnStartups.com. See the original post here.

By Jeff Bussgang

The following is a guest post from Jeff Bussgang. Jeff is a serial entrepreneur and currently a general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, a Boston-area early-stage venture capital firm. Jeff is also the author of “Mastering The VC Game”.

There is an old parable about the concept of commitment when it comes to breakfast. The story goes that when looking at a plate of the traditional fare of ham and eggs, it’s obvious that the chicken is an interested party, but the pig is truly committed.

When I tell this story to entrepreneurs, my point is usually to contrast the approach VCs have to start-ups as compared to entrepreneurs. The VC is an interested party, but at the end of the day, if their start-ups live or die, they typically still have their job, their office and their portfolio of other investments. The entrepreneur, on the other hand, is the pig – truly committed to the outcome, with no fallback.ham eggs

But lately I’ve been thinking about the parable of the pig and the chicken in the context of the characteristics that make a great entrepreneur – and the kind of entrepreneur that we VCs in general, and my firm Flybridge Capital in particular, like to back. In short, we like to back pigs – entrepreneurs who are truly and completely committed to the outcome of their venture, have a lot of stake, and no fallback.

How do we discern the difference between the two entrepreneurial archetypes? It’s usually relatively easy, but sometimes subtle. Here are a few of the top characteristics we see in entrepreneurs who appear to be exhibiting behavior that suggests they’re more like “chickens” when it comes to their start-up:

1) Prefer to wait to start their venture only after they receive funding (“We are ready to go, as soon as you give us your money.” …um, does that mean you won’t start the company if I don’t give you my money?).

2) Don’t quit their day jobs before receiving funding. (“This has been a side project for a year, and I can’t wait to focus on it full-time” … um, if you can’t wait – why are you waiting?)

3) Don’t physically move themselves or their teammates to be in the same geography when starting their venture (think Eduardo Severin in the Social Network spending his summer in NYC).

4) Prefer to play a hands-off chairman role or look to quickly hire a COO/president in the early days rather than operate as the hands-on CEO/president. (I’ll leave out the numerous examples to protect the innocent, but as a rule of thumb, companies with fewer than 40 employees don’t typically need a COO).

5) Are unwilling to fully leverage their own personal and professional networks to drive recruiting, fundraising and business development.

On the other hand, the top five characteristics we see in “pig” entrepreneurs include:

1) Commit to the new company everything they have – even if that means moving their families, quitting their jobs, or even dropping our of their schools (as much as I don’t want to condone or encourage this!).

2) Put themselves “out there” publicly and visibly with the industry, their relationships, family and friends. If the company is a failure, it will not be a quiet one.

3) Have not yet achieved a mega-success already and/or yet achieved wealth beyond the point of needing to work again. (I remember my mentor and boss at Open Market, CEO Gary Eichhorn, congratulating me when I became a first-time homeowner in the mid-1990s and observed: “I hope you got a large mortgage so that you are locked in and highly motivated to create wealth!”).

4) Participate in a minimal set of outside interests and hobbies that aren’t directly related to their business. Starting a company is a consuming, obsessive, 7×24 endeavor. Raising a family and remaining healthy is enough of a battle. When we see entrepreneurs with long lists of hobbies and outside interests, it’s a red flag. One of my partners went so far as to look up the number of times an entrepreneur played golf one summer (which apparently is public information somehow, although I’m not a golfer so still don’t know how he figured this out) as a barometer for how hard they were applying themselves to their new venture.

5) There exists a rare breed of entrepreneurs that have already had mega-success are so special and driven that they remain obviously hungry and scrappy. For these entrepreneurs, the key is to watch and see if they’re still as hands on as they ever were (e.g., obsessed with the product, knee-deep in the financial model, out in front of the organization in selling). Again, these entrepreneurs are very special.

So what are you – the chicken or the pig? Investors clearly prefer one model over the other, not just in the founder, but in the entire team. As a result, as you are assembling your start-up team, be careful not to hire chickens. In the eyes of prospective investors, you may find it’s even less kosher than hiring pigs.

Invite your stakeholders to share your startup journey

Reprinted from GrowVC. See the original post here.

By Markus Lampinen.

Remember that expression, the easiest way to run a marathon is to tell everyone you’re going to run a marathon? Well the same applies to a lot of business practice, some of it less intuitive than others. How are you going to attract the right people and partners, if they don’t know what you’re all about?

Startups and businesses in general can get increasingly complex and entrepreneurs have such big aspirations, that they might just overlook the very basics of getting the word out and building that early traction. There are countless examples where you can benefit a lot by getting just a little out there to the public. You don’t need to be extravagant, but you’ll have to be audible.

Recruiting is a great example. In building your web presence and brand, you will soon have hundreds if not thousands following your progress on a daily basis. These people are passionate about what you’re doing, they are early adopters and they are there from the very beginning. Why not share who you would need to your team, who you are on the look out for? Odds are this group of pioneers will have just the right person, with the right drive to join you.

So you can’t pay them, who cares? Use the work investment model that we have created and give him a stake in the company, step by step. For them, getting involved early on can be vastly appealing if they’re already sold on your vision.

Expanding your operations to a new market? Great! Why not start getting the word out about your new expansion plans? The Internet is global and your stakeholders could be anywhere! Have you looked at your Google analytics and wondered where that one Argentinian or Israeli came from? Why not put your appeal to work for you and attract them as your local representation in new areas. Soon you might have a flock of Argentineans or Israelis on your Google analytics. Why not, you have all the tools at your disposal.

It’s easy to get lured into thinking that everything requires a grand plan and strategic implementation yada yada. The truth is that it’s often the small things that will have the biggest impact. At least all of them combined for a long time. Imagine all the little tweets and blog posts building up for several years, it starts to also create a history for where you’ve come from, but also generates a timeline of your progress.

So while the grand plan is indeed important, don’t let it distract you for the everyday actions that can take you one step closer to building your dream team or entering new markets. Share your thoughts, your aspirations and call on your followers in the global market. What have you got to lose?

Big things are great, but lots of small things will ultimately lead to great things.

Jack Canfield’s top 7 success tips

Reprinted from The Secrets of Success Blog. See the original post here.

By Jack Canfield

1.) Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life. One of the greatest myths that is pervasive in our culture today is that you are entitled to a great life-that somehow, somewhere, someone is responsible for filling our lives with continual happiness, exciting career options, nurturing family time and blissful personal relationships simply because we exist. But the real truth is that there is only one person responsible for the quality of the life you live. That person is YOU.

2.) Be Clear Why You’re Here. I believe each of us is born with a life purpose. Identifying, acknowledging and honoring this purpose is perhaps the most important action successful people take. They take the time to understand what they’re here to do-and then they pursue that with passion and enthusiasm.

3.) Decide What You Want. One of the main reasons why most people don’t get what they want is they haven’t decided what they want. They haven’t defined their desires in clear and compelling detail…What does success look like to you?

4.) Believe It’s Possible. Scientists used to believe that humans responded to information flowing into the brain from the outside world. But today, they’re learning instead that we respond to what the brain, based on previous experience, expects to happen next…In fact, the mind is such a powerful instrument, it can deliver to you literally everything you want. But you have to believe that what you want is possible.

5.) Believe in Yourself. If you are going to be successful in creating the life of your dreams, you have to believe that you are capable of making it happen…Whether you call it self-esteem, self-confidence or self-assurance, it is a deep-seated belief that you have what it takes-the abilities, inner resources, talents and skills to create your desired results.

6.) Become an Inverse Paranoid. Imagine how much easier it would be to succeed in life if you were constantly expecting the world to support you and bring you opportunity. Successful people do just that.

7.) Unleash the Power of Goal Setting. Experts on the science of success know the brain is a goal-seeking organism. Whatever goal you give to your subconscious mind, it will work day and night to achieve…To engage you subconscious mind, a goal has to be measurable. When there are no criteria for measurement, it is simply something you want, a wish, a preference, a good idea.

© Jack Canfield

Adapted from THE SUCCESS PRINCIPLES: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield with Janet Switzer (HarperResource; January 1, 2005; ISBN: 0-06-059488-8)

Jack Canfield, America’s Success Coach, is the founder and co-creator of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul and the nation’s leading authority on Peak Performance. Visit his website at www.JackCanfield.com

Can a venture capitalist add value beyond money?

Reprinted from Roger’s Blog. See the original post here.

By Roger Ehrenberg

Roger Ehrenberg is the founder and Managing Partner of IA Ventures. Read Roger’s complete bio here.

This is a question I ask myself every day. “Am I REALLY helping my portfolio companies?” And if I am spending lots of time with my companies, does this necessarily translate into better returns for my Limited Partners? This is pretty biblical stuff if you are an investor, and strongly informs both the way you interact with portfolio companies as well as the shape of your portfolio. If I view venture investing as an exercise in asset allocation, e.g., if I assume I can’t add real value beyond my dollar investment, and therefore focus 100% of my efforts on investment selection and portfolio diversification, this would create one type of portfolio. Conversely, if I view myself as being able to have a material positive effect on my portfolio companies, then I’m less concerned with diversification and more focused on creating opportunities to build concentrated positions in companies with high expected returns. Either can be a rewarding path, but I think it is really important to know who you are, the covenant you establish with entrepreneurs and the implicit risks and rewards of your decision. Such decisions even impact the optimal staffing level for a venture firm. Let me tell you, balancing firm structure, philosophy and reputation isn’t easy.

In order to pull off the pure asset allocation play, a few things need to be working:

* Your firm has huge brand cache that generates awesome proprietary deal flow, where

* Deal flow is a function of (1) having superstar investors who are power-nodes and (2) outstanding historical performance, which indicates that

* Both the firm and the partners have built reputations over many years of being in the venture business and proven that they’ve go the goods.

In short, as a general rule I’d say that this points towards long-established, top-heavy firms that scale well because each investment isn’t especially time consuming. Further, it would indicate a larger portfolio as it is harder to ascertain which investments are likely to be big winners due to the gap in engagement between the firm and the start-up, rendering it important to have a broad array of potential big winners in the book. From where these big winners emerge, who knows. But does it really matter? If the curated deal flow is top-notch, it is likely that attractive returns will follow. But precious few firms to my knowledge could successfully pull off such a strategy, as the competition for the best deals gives currency to factors such as hustling, spending lots of time with founders and being deeply engaged with their growth plans. And as the environment for seed stage technology investing heats up, even greater weight is likely to be placed these factors by entrepreneurs.

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The pay-it-forward culture: a tradition of mentorship in Silicon Valley

Reprinted from SteveBlank.com. See the original post here.

By Steve Blank

(Steve Jobs and Robert Noyce in picture on left)

Foreign visitors to Silicon Valley continually mention how willing we are to help, network and connect strangers. We take it so for granted we never even to bother to talk about it. It’s the “Pay-It-Forward” culture.

We’re all in this together – The Chips are Down

In 1962 Walker’s Wagon Wheel Bar/Restaurant in Mountain View became the lunch hangout for employees at Fairchild Semiconductor. When the first spinouts began to leave Fairchild, they discovered that fabricating semiconductors reliably was a black art. At times you’d have the recipe and turn out chips, and the next week something would go wrong, and your fab couldn’t make anything that would work. Engineers in the very small world of silicon and semiconductors would meet at the Wagon Wheel and swap technical problems and solutions with co-workers and competitors.

We’re all in this together – A Computer in every Home

In 1975 a local set of hobbyists with the then crazy idea of a computer in every home formed the Homebrew Computer Club and met in Menlo Park at the Peninsula School then later at the Stanford AI Lab. The goal of the club was: “Give to help others.” Each meeting would begin with people sharing information, getting advice and discussing the latest innovation (one of which was the first computer from Apple.) The club became the center of the emerging personal computer industry.

We’re all in this together – Helping Our Own

Until the 1980’s Chinese and Indian engineers ran into a glass ceiling in large technology companies held back by the belief that “they make great engineers but can’t be the CEO.” Looking for a chance to run their own show, many of them left and founded startups. They also set up ethnic-centric networks like TIE (The Indus Entrepreneur) and the Chinese Software Professionals Association where they shared information about how the valley worked as well as job and investment opportunities. Over the next two decades, other groups — Russian, Israeli, etc. — followed with their own networks. (Anna Lee Saxenian has written extensively about this.)

We’re all in this together – Mentoring The Next Generation

While the idea of groups (chips, computers, ethnics) helping each other grew, something else happened. The first generation of executives who grew up getting help from others began to offer their advice to younger entrepreneurs. These experienced valley CEOs would take time out of their hectic schedule to have coffee or dinner with young entrepreneurs and asking for nothing in return.

They were the beginning of the Pay-It-Forward culture, the unspoken Valley culture that believes “I was helped when I started out and now it’s my turn to help others.”

By the early 1970’s, even the CEOs of the largest valley companies would take phone calls and meetings with interesting and passionate entrepreneurs. In 1975, a young unknown, wannabe entrepreneur called the Founder/CEO of Intel, Bob Noyce and asked for advice. Noyce liked the kid, and for the next few years, Noyce met with him and coached him as he founded his first company and went through the highs and lows of a startup that caught fire.

The entrepreneur was Steve Jobs. “Bob Noyce took me under his wing. I was young, in my twenties. He was in his early fifties. He tried to give me the lay of the land, give me a perspective that I could only partially understand,” Jobs said, “You can’t really understand what is going on now unless you understand what came before.”

What Are You Waiting For?

Last week in Helsinki Finland at a dinner with a roomful of large company CEO’s, one of them asked, ”What can we do to help build an ecosystem that will foster entrepreneurship?” My guess is they were expecting me talk about investing in startups or corporate partnerships. Instead, I told the Noyce/Jobs story and noted that, as a group, they had a body of knowledge that entrepreneurs and business angels would pay anything to learn. The best investment they could make to help a startup culture in Finland would be to share what they know with the next generation. Even more, this culture could be created by a handful of CEO’s and board members who led by example. I suggested they ought to be the ones to do it.

We’ll see if they do.

—-

Over the last half a century in Silicon Valley, the short life cycle of startups reinforced the idea that – the long term relationships that lasted was with a network of people – much larger than those in your current company. Today, in spite of the fact that the valley is crawling with IP lawyers, the tradition of helping and sharing continues. The restaurants and locations may have changed, moving from Rickey’s Garden Cafe, Chez Yvonne, Lion and Compass and Hsi-Nan to Bucks, Coupa Café and Café Borrone, but the notion of competitors getting together and helping each other and experienced business execs offering contacts and advice has continued for the last 50 years.

It’s the “Pay-It-Forward” culture.

Lessons Learned

• Entrepreneurs in successful clusters build support networks outside of existing companies
• These networks can be around any area of interest (technology, ethnic groups, etc.)
• These were mutually beneficial – you learned and contributed to help others
• Over time experienced executives “pay-back” the help they got by mentoring others
• The Pay-It-Forward culture makes the ecosystem smarter

Steve Blank is a retired serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur who developed the Customer Development process and teaches it at Stanford, Berkeley and Columbia, among others. He blogs about entrepreneurship frequenly at SteveBlank.com.

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