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Last week, Endeavor Entrepreneurs from Gyft (South Africa/USA), Mural.ly (Argentina), and Campo Alto(Colombia) had the opportunity to meet with members of the Austin chapter of House of Genius, an organization that brings together entrepreneurs and a diverse mix of business leaders from the community for an evening of disruptive thinking, supportive input, and creative new ideas.. This intense, thought provoking event took place at the end of SXSW Interactive and just four days after Endeavor Entrepreneurs met with several House of Genius members for 1-on-1 mentoring sessions during Endeavor’s Austin Innovation Tour and nearly a week after the Endeavor and Startup America hosted Entrepreneur’s Unconference at Dell headquarters in Austin.
The House of Genius session gave the entrepreneurs the opportunity to expose their products to the scrutiny of industry experts from a variety of fields. Composed of executives, artists, entrepreneurs, and academics, House of Genius engages innovators in an intense dialogue and debate to, as they say, “disrupt normal thinking patterns and ignite new ideas.”
The entrepreneurs presented their business and then listened as the 20 “geniuses” went around the table and shared feedback, ideas, potential use cases, and concerns. Each entrepreneur was then able to narrow the focus on 1-3 points and raise specific questions to the panel. Mariano Suarez-Battan, an Argentine entrepreneur in the social media, gaming and mobile app space, found the event to be helpful for his new online venture and said the House of Genius members helped him to “frame the problem he’s trying to solve, dive deep and work with interactive agencies and teams to figure out what problems arise off-line that his online tool could address” They helped him see beyond his scope as a designer and better understand his customers’ perspective. Vinny Lingham, a South African entrepreneur in the mobile space, commented, “It was like having 20 meetings with industry experts in just 2 hours. Kind of like an incredibly efficient focus group. And the feedback was collaborative, not critical.”
These sessions went beyond advice and consulting, as there was optimistic talk of forming strategic business alliances and the possibility of launching House of Genius in some of Endeavor’s countries. A House of Genius member commented that the entrepreneurs really “grabbed his attention,” as much from the creativity and innovation of their ideas as the passion and energy they brought to their businesses. Mariano continued, “We used the word ‘partnership,’” elaborating that he and the cofounders of House of Genius planned a more in-depth strategic session once the South-by-Southwest activities calmed down.
The feeling of success was palpable as this House of Genius event wrapped up. These emerging market entrepreneurs proved themselves in front of a group of experts and were able to walk away with invaluable advice and potentially lifelong connections. With such a great end to Endeavor’s Austin Tour and South-by-Southwest, it only remains to be seen how Endeavor will top this event in the future.
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