8/30/08

Unemployment - who´s to blame?

This morning I got to read that the unemployment rate in Colombia in July 2008 was 12.1 %, growing by 0.9 % compared with last year´s rate for the same month. Working at Endeavor and having "# of employees hired" as on of the key indicators of the companies we support, the growing figure can´t stop concerning me ...


Being a follower of Robert Kiyosaki anf finding quite logical and amazing his Cash Flow Quadrant (see it below) I can´t help reflecting randomly who to blame for a growing unemployment rate, tas least in Colombia. According to Kiyosaki´s quadrant the actors in the right side (business owners aka. entrepreneurs - and investors) are the ones that generate employment, and the actors in the left side (employees and partly self-employed people) are the ones that get hired/get advantage of the opportunities created by the other two. Well I guess it´s clear for us that he´s right.



The Cashflow quadrant

If we take the explanation of his quadrant literally, business owners and investors are the ones to blame for a growing unemployment - daahh! But, is it fair to only analyze the issue from this perspective? Definitively no.

Being currently an employee, hearing unemployment facts makes me really look for ways I can contribute, and indeed there are many and they´re all about how you can migrate through the quadrant.

1. From Employee to investor: For me the easiest (and probably the kess risky one) shift that one can make is becoming an investor. Ok, don´t get me wrong, at the beginning sure we are not talking of huge investments, probable we do not have the money for that, but investments into companies/smaller businesses are rather a matter of vision an discipline, rather than a matter of money. There is market for everything. By investing in businesses and causes, you are contributing to the growth and stabilization of those, and therefore into their ability to hire more. The mentality of many Colombian employees that fortunately have a surplus out of their personal finances, is to have it in a bank (the "paradigm" of saving) or what it even worse, spending it like hell in unnecessary things.

2. From Employee to entrepreneur:
This option is not as simple as the previous one, specially because I am a believer that there are certain characteristics that are proper of entrepreneurs that even if you are the best of the employees you will never acquire. So, you might have the motivation, but not what it takes. And one should be very self-aware and be conscious of that. STILL, I know people that currently have a job, but would be amazing entrepreneurs.

And if non of the past shifts is for you, well, the least you can do is being a n awesome, extraordinary employee. If you are not part of the solution, at least don´t be part of the problem! Let´s face it, entrepreneurs can´t survive without outstanding employees, it´s just not possible. Even if they create the jobs, is the workforce who really execute the business model. But mediocre performance as employees only leads to mediocre organizations, which are the ones mandated to get our of the market, and among many other consequences, generate tour well known friend called unemployment.



Last but not least, walking aside from what current employees could do, the role of the unemployed ones is the one that needs to change. What about the shift "unemployed to to self employed or to entrepreneur?". Many entrepreneurs have been born under this situation, by need, and the impact of what they´ve done for themselves and for their societies is amazing. Actually when I think back in some of the most inspiring cases of entrepreneurs I know, they have been entrepreneurs by need. If just a 20 % of the unemployed ones would dare to endeavor an idea, a project, a company, I bet this unemployment rate I referred to at the beginning would look completely different.




8/21/08

Staples Youth Social Entrepreneur Competition

Join Changemakers, Youth Venture and Staples in identifying and supporting innovative ways young people are making positive change in their communites. Enter to receive feedback, find supporters, win prizes, and even secure up to US$1,000 in funding to advance your project. The competition is open to all young individuals between the ages of 12-24.

Read more one: http://www.changemakers.net/competition/staplesyv
Deadline to apply: Oct 15, 2008

Good Luck!



8/16/08

Olympics - a real expression of entrepreneurship


For some reason this particular version of the Olympics I´ve much more engaged following up the event and the competitions that in the past times ... it might be the "China factor" or it might just be that given the time difference between China and Colombia it´s very convenient for me to watch late at night some of the competitions ...!

Anyways, with all the Olympics fever and the flawless execution of this year´s opening ceremony, I can help start making connections between entrepreneurship and event management. Let´s first take a look at the definition*:

"Event management
is the application of the management practice of project management to the creation and development of festivals and events. Event Management involves studying the intricacies of the brand, identifying the target audience, devising the event concept, planning the logistics and coordinating the aspects before actually executing the modalities of the proposed event. The industry now includes events of all sizes from the Olympics down to a breakfast meeting for ten business people. Every industry, charity, society and group will hold events of some type/size in order to market themselves, raise money or celebrate. Event Management is a multi-million dollar industry, growing rapidly, with mega shows and events hosted regularly. Surprisingly, there is no formalized research conducted to assess the growth of this industry. The industry includes fields such as the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Events), exhibitions, conferences and seminars as well as live music and sporting events."

[boomtownbeijing.wordpress.com/]

"creation and development" ... isn´t it all the about being entrepreneurial?

Sure we can´t got to the extreme, it´s clear that the event management industry nowadays has so many stereotypes and established practices, standards and processes that might hardly leave room for
innovation and risk, but still the concept that event management represents will always be a platform to develop and nurture entrepreneurial skills. If not, just a take a look at schools ... how many of today´s real-life entrepreneurs we know were the ones that back at college or university leaded the school events, festivals and all kind of related activities? If you have one of those kids, pay attention, you might have a potential future entrepreneur!

For now keep enjoying the Olympics and every time you sit down in from of your TV (or well, every time that you join live an spectacle there in China, if you are lucky to be there), unplug yourself for some minutes of the sport side of things, and analyze how much entrepreneurial talent must have been involved to make that happen. This reflection can bring you to amazing conclusions.

Congratulations China!


* Yes, it is from Wikipedia. I love Wikipedia, can´t deny! It´s just that you can´t use Wikipedia for everything ...!


8/6/08

You´re brilliant. We are hiring.

video
Challenge yourself against better players and you'll become star of the team. Google's Vice President of Search Products & User Experience, Marissa Mayer, reflects upon her personal experience working with some of the finest talent in hi-tech - and points out that working with the best empowers each player to excel.

Even if the above shared video does not exclusively apply for the entrepreneurial world (and comes from a big, established company – but one of my favorite ones), it definitively addresses an issue that makes a huge difference when entrepreneurs are passing from having a “business” into building a “company”: PEOPLE. And in fact smart people.

To be a “one man show” is something very common for entrepreneurs when they are starting their companies. It happens for many diverse reasons that go from the fact that at the beginning only the entrepreneur understands (and feels passionate about!) what the business is all about, till simply not having the financial capacity to even afford a couple of full paid staff. However only companies become sustainable and transcend, when the entrepreneur is capable to build a strong team of good people that live the values and culture of the company, and that has what it takes to bring it to the next level.

The (personal/professional) EGO (a person's opinion of his or her own worth) is in this context the strongest enemy of entrepreneurs. They sometimes feel afraid of bringing on board people that for some reasons they might consider “smarter”. Big mistake. Some are afraid of loosing control, some even feel guilty for not being able to manage everything by themselves, others are simply afraid of being shadowed … we can talk hours in a deeper way about the reasons why for entrepreneurs is so hard to “let go”, but - coming back to the video – I´d invite you to reflect on the reasons why it´s important (and enjoyable!) to do it.

1. “Challenge yourself against better players and you'll become star of the team”: By interacting with good people that bring into your company unknown practices by you, YOU CAN LEARN from them! Now, it also shows the other “side of the coin”. When hiring, make sure you get people that are not only smart, but willing to build real learning environments and share their experiences (knowledge, thoughts, visions) with each other. I do believe there are billions of capable people in this world, but not all of them are ready to work with an entrepreneur – exactly because of this reason.


2. “Entrepreneur is Entrepreneur” – “CEO is CEO”: The demand of talent of companies changes over the time. At the beginning a start – up needs visionary people, with execution capacity, with no fear to take risks, sensitive to opportunities and high ability to convince and negotiate. That´s for me an Entrepreneur. But once the company grows the need for functional/technical/management qualifications and educated leadership skills increases. At that point, Entrepreneurs should be ready to invite people in that can bring those set of talents on the table. The Entrepreneurs should not strive to be CEOs just for the sake of being one. Many entrepreneurs indeed do not enjoy that job role and the responsibilities that it implies – but afraid of bringing new people in, they fall into the horrible game of doing what they are not good for, and stop doing what naturally they enjoy and are excellent at.


3. “The world needs you, not only your company”: For me a real entrepreneur (no matter if social or business oriented) is the one whose playground is the world, the society, not the companies. Companies are just platforms that entrepreneurs enable once, and take care of for a certain period of time, but then they need to get sustainable through talent that the entrepreneur should be able to bring in. Well, that´s my vision, I identify a lot with serial entrepreneurship … but I know it´s not the only way of seeing it. Leave your “babies” with smart “nannies”, and be free to keep changing the world. That makes you bigger.

8/2/08

A bit of self-promotion - Endeavor profiled in The Economist

As some of you know, I work at Endeavor Colombia. Below you can find an article, also published in the printed version of The Economist about Endeavor, which also shares highlights of some of our Entrepreneurs. Enjoy!
For the online version, click here


Spreading the gospel

Jul 31st 2008 | MEXICO CITY AND NEW YORK
From The Economist print edition

An effort to promote entrepreneurship in the developing world is bearing fruit

Spoleto juggles with its strategy

EARLIER this year Mario Chady faced a crucial decision. Having built up Spoleto, his chain of casual Italian restaurants, to 150 outlets in Brazil, and opened in Mexico and Spain, the time had come for Mr Chady, based in Rio de Janeiro, to choose between expanding into America or putting the idea on hold for at least 18 months. To help make up his mind, he asked for help from an organisation called Endeavor, which had chosen him as a potential “high-impact entrepreneur” in 2003.

Endeavor is a non-profit group based in New York dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship in emerging economies. It had already supplied three teams of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to help Mr Chady craft a strategy for America. But as he spoke to members of the Endeavor network, ranging from leading Brazilian business tycoons to fellow up-and-coming entrepreneurs, he became convinced that it was the right strategy but the wrong time. Mr Chady decided to concentrate on expanding even faster in Brazil, and leave America for later. “The US economy is not at a very good stage, whereas Brazil is very hot now. Endeavor helped me see this,” he says.

It is routine for entrepreneurs to consult their networks of mentors in Silicon Valley. But in much of the world, such networks are notable by their absence—and so, too, are examples of Silicon Valley-style successful entrepreneurship. Changing this was why Endeavor was created in 1997.

“Why can’t the next Silicon Valley pop up in Cairo or São Paulo or Johannesburg?” asks Linda Rottenberg, who co-founded Endeavor with Peter Kellner, a venture capitalist. Fresh from Yale, she was working in Buenos Aires for Ashoka, an organisation that supports social entrepreneurs—people with innovative, usually non-profit ideas for solving social problems—and concluded that ordinary entrepreneurs needed a similar support system. Much of the difference between countries such as America, where entrepreneurship thrives, and those where it does not is cultural rather than regulatory, she believes. In many emerging economies, business tends to be dominated by a closed elite hostile to new entrepreneurs—and failure is stigmatised, rather than being a badge of honour, as it is in Silicon Valley.


The making of a start-up

Getting Endeavor started required some classic start-up doggedness of its own. At first, the philanthropic foundations Ms Rottenberg courted regarded the project as too elitist. “They complained that we were only trying to build a middle class, not to help the poor, despite all the academic evidence that a strong middle class is essential to prosperity,” she recalls. Eventually Stephan Schmidheiny, a Swiss industrialist who has given away a large chunk of his fortune in Latin America, was persuaded to provide some seed capital, and Endeavor was up and running, initially in Argentina and Chile. Today it operates in 11 countries, including South Africa, Turkey and, most recently, Jordan.

Endeavor’s magic works most powerfully in its selection process. Entrepreneurs are screened first by a national panel of successful businessmen, and then, if they are short-listed, by an international panel. So far over 18,000 entrepreneurs have been screened but fewer than 400 have been chosen. The aim is to identify those who can succeed on a scale that will make them into national role models, and then provide them with every possible support. But the process is designed to benefit all entrants, by helping them define their visions more clearly.

Endeavor’s national boards are rosters of leading tycoons—the founders of InBev in Brazil, Jennifer Oppenheimer in South Africa and Lorenzo Zambrano, boss of Cemex, in Mexico, for example. The international board, chaired by Edgar Bronfman Jr, boss of Warner Music, is even more august. At a selection meeting in Turkey in June, the panel included Daniel Och, a hedge-fund boss, Naguib Sawiris of Egypt’s Orascom Telecom, Brian Swette, the chairman of Burger King, and Ali Koç of Koç Holdings. “It is a lot of fun. You go to all these nice places in the world, find all these young enthusiastic people, who you get to help. Sometimes you invest, maybe make some money,” says Ali Mehmet Babaoglu, a Turkish textile tycoon.

Once the selection process is over, these business figures then become mentors to the entrepreneurs. “Endeavor’s genius has been to get the establishment in these countries together, not to kill these entrepreneurial companies but to support them,” says Bill Sahlman, a professor at Harvard Business School who was recruited as an adviser early on.

Endeavor’s entrepreneurs—who collectively now control companies with combined revenues of $2.4 billion and 91,000 employees, earning on average ten times the minimum wage in their country—rarely say they would not have succeeded without Endeavor. But they all believe they got bigger much sooner thanks to its endorsement and support. Leonardo Shapiro of VeriFone, a maker of online credit-card payment systems, describes as “priceless” the advice he got from Pedro Aspe, a former finance minister of Mexico, before he flew to meet a potential American buyer of his firm, and the legal help Endeavor arranged from White & Case, which although not pro bono “was at a very interesting discount, and pay it when you can.”

One of Endeavor’s earliest successes was Wenceslao Casares, who sold Patagon, his Argentine internet brokerage, to Banco Santander for $705m at the peak of the dotcom bubble. He believes Endeavor has started to change cultural attitudes in the countries where it has been active for a while, mostly in Latin America. “When I said I was going to start a business, it was against everyone’s advice, from my family to my university,” he says. “Now, go to the same university and the same professors will tell you that one of their goals is to produce good entrepreneurs.”

Brazil is perhaps most vibrant of all. Endeavor’s successes include Leila Velez, who grew up in a favela and whose beauty salon firm, Beleza Natural, now has revenues of $30m, and Bento Koike, whose wind-turbine-blade manufacturing firm, Tecsis, recently struck a $1 billion deal to supply mighty General Electric.


Going global

Endeavor has “created islands of hope,” says Mr Casares. Now it must find ways to “change continents, not just little islands.” This has been recognised by Endeavor’s global board, which recently adopted an ambitious plan to expand to 25 countries by 2015. Endeavor is confident that it now knows how to adapt its model to new countries, having learnt from early stumbles in Chile, South Africa and Turkey. Fadi Ghandour, the Jordanian boss of Aramex, a logistics firm, believes there is much potential in the Arab world, which is full of young would-be entrepreneurs who have “discovered the new thing, that it pays to have an idea, not rely on land or investing.”

Funding has long been a problem for Endeavor. As a non-profit, it has to rely on donors—many recruited through a glitzy annual gala in New York—which has been tough at times, as in the months after the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001. Would it make more sense to be a for-profit operation? Endeavor has struggled constantly with whether to pursue profits, but each time has concluded no, says Ms Rottenberg, who also says she declined the chance to set up a $100m fund focused on emerging-market entrepreneurs. “If Endeavor had been an investor, rather than an independent, objective, non-profit enabler, it would not have been trusted by the business elite, or the entrepreneurs,” she insists. “Trust is everything.”

Happily, Endeavor has high hopes of moving onto a stronger financial footing. In some countries where it operates, starting with Brazil, successful entrepreneurs are signing up to a “give back” programme, donating 2% of their equity to Endeavor. With luck this could soon make the national operations self-sustaining. Moreover, on July 31st Omidyar Network, the philanthropic organisation set up by Pierre Omidyar, who made his money in Silicon Valley by founding eBay, announced a $10m investment to build up the capacity of Endeavor’s global operations. “Endeavor is already having a significant impact,” says Matt Bannick, managing partner at Omidyar Network. “Given capital, it could grow rapidly.” Watch this space.