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Recently, we caught up with Argentine Endeavor Entrepreneur Diego Noriega (selected in 2009) to learn more about his dynamic entrepreneurial journey…
In June 2011, eBay acquired your company alaMaula, the fastest growing local classifieds network in Latin America. What was the role of Endeavor throughout the process?
Let’s be clear. I know that if I wasn’t an Endeavor Entrepreneur, and I didn’t attend Endeavor’s Silicon Valley Tour or receive help from an Endeavor-supplied BCG consultant, I would have never sold alaMaula to eBay. Not a chance!
Of course, I didn’t become an Endeavor Entrepreneur overnight. This was a process that started in 2000 while doing an MBA. I resigned from my job and I became an entrepreneur. The journey wasn’t easy. I had to close my first business in 2002, around the same time I divorced. I lost all my money and family, as well as anyone’s trust that I could accomplish my dream to build a successful business and therefore drive a cultural change in Argentina — where 85% of the people work for the government or companies related to it.
Thanks to Endeavor, my teams and I have grown a lot. And of course, the businesses opportunities are great because of the networking and trust built into the Endeavor experience.
What do you do in your current role at eBay?
I am the General Manager of eBay Classifieds in LatAm and I am also responsible for taking a look at potential deals across the region. I am having a great experience because I have access to a lot of new resources. It’s lots of fun, and the knowledge I’ve gained is what I appreciate the most.
By meeting with leaders in different regions around the world, it’s awesome to get to know the cultural differences in adapting our business to each country and region. It’s also a challenge to get to know my own region better. Latin America is unique and I am learning lots every day about the process of influencing the region with our online classifieds network. We have a great strategy and a great team. Now it’s all about execution! We are close to being number 1 in Argentina and Colombia…and I know we are going to do it.
Can you tell us more about visiting.net?
Several years ago I started the first Latin American travel content network which provides tons of information regarding tourist spots. We monetize the site through ads. A couple years ago with another international consultant from McKinsey in New York, we decided to launch a short-term rental booking engine in our LatAm travel network.
There’s a real market gap when it comes to people wanting to rent houses and apartments in order to have a different experience. People have been very happy with this service launching, as have the property managers with whom we’re partnering. We have a very aggressive business plan and expect to reach 10,000 properties by the end of 2012, becoming the biggest vacation rental inventory in our region.
Personally, it is a new challenge not to be the CEO of Visiting, but I am very comfortable with my new role and I love the passion on this team to make things happen.
What advice do you have for other people who want to become high-impact entrepreneurs?
Not to give up. Big dreams are not easy.
In 2009 when I was going through the selection process I traveled over 1,000 km [620 miles] by bus to get from my hometown, Santiago del Estero, to Buenos Aires. I wasn’t that young and I’m not skinny, and even though my back hurt, my heart was full while accomplishing this critical phase to becoming an Endeavor Entrepreneur.
Also, just before I caught the plane to go to San Francisco for Endeavor’s Silicon Valley tour, I received very bad news from my main client and I almost didn’t take the plane. I can’t forget that on the way to the airport I almost told the taxi driver to come back to the city. That happened five times in a one-hour drive. It might sound silly, but if that taxi turned around, I would have never sold alaMaula to eBay.
Another piece of advice is: don’t be afraid to take risks. Even if you don’t succeed, it will be a great experience with lots of meaningful learning.
A turning point in my story was in 2009 when I became an Endeavor Entrepreneur. Since then, I’ve taken advantage of most of Endeavor’s support programs, and the VALUE of it all is just incredible. But it also takes an effort from the entrepreneur’s side to reach out proactively and get the best out of every program. Endeavor’s programs have been a life-changing experience and I encourage all of my fellow Endeavor Entrepreneurs to really take advantage of them.
Overall, what has been the role of Endeavor on you and your companies?
Thanks to my Endeavor mentors, I’ve learned that nothing can be built with a weak base, and the bigger your dreams are, the stronger base you need. The number 1 thing I’ve learned is that you need to delegate, engage a great team, and grow a great culture. Endeavor’s support has been very valuable in providing mentorship and resources to our main needs.
I consider it a virtuous circle where the more you participate, the more you give and receive. Plus, it is a lot of fun to be involved with a lot of energetic and great people with whom I share the belief that by doing, you are collaborating to make this world a better place.
For me, Endeavor has made a great difference.
How has the state of entrepreneurship in Argentina changed over the last decade?
It is very dynamic now and a lot of people are in new ventures. Also there are tons of government, NGOs, and university programs for entrepreneurs. Endeavor Entrepreneurs like Wences Casares, Andy Freire, and Santi Bilinkis have done a great job making the huge “first step” that was needed. Nowadays, a lot more people are leading the entrepreneurship movement and spreading the word across the country like the Globant guys, Luciano Nicora and other entrepreneurs that are really engaged.
You can tell that people admire Endeavor Entrepreneurs, which is great, but also a big responsibility.
I know that there is a lot to do still because we are far away from the knowledge and spirit that entrepreneurs have in the U.S., especially in Silicon Valley. For instance, there I met a 15-year-old entrepreneur who is the CEO of a legitimate B2B company! I’ve heard tons of pitches and you can tell that there is a big difference. The U.S. is core value creation oriented and in LatAm we are a lot more product oriented. We will get there eventually, and hopefully the entrepreneurial ecosystem is going to help.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Do whatever makes you happy. At the end of the day, everything is about relationships, making unforgettable moments, projects, etc. Have a positive vision about things and fight a lot for building a great team.
To Endeavor Staff and Entrepreneurs:
Many thanks to Endeavor and the teams that are doing a great job. And many thanks to all my fellow Endeavor Entrepreneurs that I’m able to spend time with from all regions.
I am sure that [Endeavor Co-founder and CEO] Linda [Rottenberg] is very proud of what she started, but I also think every entrepreneur is happy and very proud to be part of this wonderful mission of changing the world by selecting and supporting High-Impact Entrepreneurs across the globe.
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