Can Endeavor Help Struggling Entrepreneurs Abroad and in the U.S.?
The global network of business leaders was supposed to help emerging-market entrepreneurs scale up, but now the organization is needed closer to home.
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Just because a business is based in the entrepreneurial mecca of the U.S. doesn't mean it's above needing help.
If you're tapped into the world of entrepreneurship, it's possible you've heard of Endeavor, the New York City-based nonprofit that helps connect promising entrepreneurs with vital business-building resources. Since its launch in 1997, the organization has focused primarily on high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets. Yet, recently Endeavor set its sights on entrepreneurs stateside for the first time.
"The world has changed and the reality is we're hurting too," says Endeavor's co-founder and CEO, Linda Rottenberg. "There are pockets of the United States where people are really suffering as well, and where high-growth, high-impact entrepreneurs can make a difference."
After the recession, hard-hit entrepreneurs from cities like Detroit and Atlanta started calling for Endeavor to open offices there. Further, the U.S. has long lacked the same level of social security and medical benefits as peers in parts of Europe or Canada, some say.
"It's more difficult being an entrepreneur in the U.S. than in other parts of the world," says Thomas White, president of the Westby, Wisconsin-based C-Suite Network, an online network for C-level execs.
As a response, Endeavor finally took action in September by opening an office in Miami and assembling a board of local business leaders that includes execs from Virgin Hotels and Cisneros Group, one of the biggest privately held media companies in the world.
Among the 15 biggest metropolitan areas within the country, Miami ranks the highest for entrepreneurial activity, according to a report released in April by the Kauffman Foundation. Yet experts say the city has struggled to expand these ventures to the next level.
"We're not seeing the kind of growth and scale-ups, and if we can solve that problem we'll also keep our most talented in Miami by using entrepreneurship as a tool for community building," says Matt Haggman, the program director in Miami for the Knight Foundation, which committed a $2 million investment to help bring Endeavor to the city.
An outpost in Miami is seen as a way to link local "treps to the growing number of business tycoons who are based in Latin America, where Endeavor first got its start and has access to board members in sectors such as tech, telecoms, retail and finance. The first cohort of entrepreneurs from Miami will likely be announced in December, following Endeavor's next international selection panel in Dubai.
Miami is only the first city in Endeavor's expansion plan within the U.S., though getting established there won't be easy. "The perception of high-impact entrepreneurs coming out of Miami amongst Americans and the global community is a scratch-your-head, "wait a minute,'" says Joanna Harries, Endeavor's vice president for North America. "The challenge there is overcoming that perception, and it's going to take time."
While it's too soon to say whether Endeavor will succeed in its new mandate in the U.S., its efforts certainly couldn't hurt. Just look at its track record: The nonprofit has offices in 19 countries around the world including Chile and Argentina, with the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia among the latest to join.
Endeavor claims to have screened some 37,000 entrepreneurs in the past 16 years and only accepted 844 entrepreneurs. Those who've made the final cut -- after what's typically a yearlong series of interviews that scrutinize a venture's business model, hiring practices and sales potential -- have gone on to collectively create more than 225,000 jobs and generate more than $6 billion last year alone.