Endeavor, Support for Entrepreneurs in Latin America

Last week the Endeavor organization kicked off its bi-annual Entrepreneur Summit at the Fountainebleau hotel on Miami Beach with a presentation from Carlos “Beto” Sicupira, the CEO of global beverage giant InBev. Endeavor’s mission is to foster economic development in emerging market countries by promoting entrepreneurship. Their strategy is to support “high impact” entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs with companies that generate a significant number of jobs and interest among their countrymen in more entrepreneurship. Endeavor is attempting to change the culture of countries in Latin America to value and support entrepreneurism. This is a challenging, yet innovative approach to economic development. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times called Endeavor “the best anti-poverty program of all.”

Endeavor operates like an enormous VC without capital, they offer advice and a great network to support entrepreneurs. Their services include:

  • Strategic advice from a global network of business mentors through their “VentureCorps” program and summer interns from top business schools through their “eMBA” program.
  • VentureCorps includes successful entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, corporate executives, attorneys, accountants, investment bankers, and consultants.
  • eMBA summer interns help by writing business plans, analyzing growth strategies, and conducting market feasibility studies.
  • Introduction to sources of funding and road shows.
  • Monthly management workshops
  • Monthly peer networking groups of other local entrepreneurs to discuss challenges specific to their country/market.

To be selected by Endeavor an entrepreneur needs to meet the following criteria:

  • Entrepreneurial initiative – does the entrepreneur have a proven track record? The number I heard at the conference was $500,000 USD in annual revenue. At this point you may be asking yourself, I’m an early stage company, how can Endeavor help me? Contact the local Endeavor organization for information on assistance for earlier stage companies. See the Endeavor country websites listed at the end of the article for contact information.
  • Business innovation – will the business improve the local industry?
  • Value and Ethics – does the entrepreneur have integrity and follow the law?
  • Role model potential – does the entrepreneur have leadership quality and a good “story” to inspire others?
  • Development impact – will the business create economic value through job creation, wages, and revenue?
  • Fit with Endeavor – can Endeavor help this Entrepreneur succeed? Does the entrepreneur accept input from Endeavor and give back to Endeavor? This was a problem with previous entrepreneurs in Brazil, the ones who did not pay attention to advice they received were not successful.

(This information can be found on Endeavor’s U.S. website, www.endeavor.org.)

The organization is intentionally decentralized in order to be helpful to entrepreneurs locally. Each country has it’s own Endeavor board and structure. The strategy has been successfully implemented, as Linda Rottenberg, the founder of Endeavor mentioned at the conference, a Brazilian acquaintance said to her, ‘Endeavor, why does a Brazilian organization have an office in New York?’

The weekend prior to the conference Endeavor selected a new set of companies to support. The conference itself started with a presentation from Carlos “Beto” Sicupira, CEO of InBev and chairman of the Endeavor Board for Brazil. Beto’s dream is to transform Brazil through entrepreneurship. His strategy is to create a strong, self-sustaining organization to promote entrepreneurs. He has done this by forming a board of directors of successful businessmen and a mentoring network of 300 business professionals. One point Beto made is that “the dream only has value if it aligns everyone to row in the same direction.” This can be applied to any entrepreneur. In order to build a successful organization it’s important to get every member of the team working towards the same goal. A mission beyond generating income for the founders helps do this.

One example is ThreeMelons, an online gaming company in Argentina whose mission is to launch Latin American pop culture to the rest of the world through online gaming. While they are a for profit company, the bigger goal helps to marshal resources and motivate the team.

Another point Beto made was “dream big and obstacles are small.” An ingredient necessary to becoming a successful entrepreneur is the ability to overcome obstacles. It requires more than intelligence, perseverance (see Harvard Business School working paper “Performance Persistence in Entrepreneurship,” by Paul Gompers, Josh Lerner, David Scharfstein, and Anna Kovner), and the right mental approach are needed. When the dream is big obstacles appear to be relatively smaller and easier to overcome. It helps to mentally frame problems appropriately.

Look for more articles on specific Endeavor entrepreneurs and the strategies they used to become successful to come.

Here is a list of Endeavor websites for Latin America.







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