By Jon Tonti
Mentorship is a critical component of any business accelerator or incubator although the maturity of the mentoring process seems to vary widely. Endeavor Global, the well known organization borne to stimulate and motivate the world’s “high impact” entrepreneurs, has carved out a special niche in the Latin America market – where mentoring continues to greatly influence the ‘die or fly’ prospects of next-generation business creators.
“Endeavor provides three essential elements in its conceptual mentorship approach: senior advice, a valuable network, and world class partners. The senior advice is intimate counsel, not only strategic but also tactical,” says Jorge Grad, a former outsourcing leader for IBM in Latin America and Partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Endeavor Global was founded in 1997 by Linda Rottenberg and Peter Kellner with an aim to help advance social and economic development in emerging markets countries through the direct support of high-impact entrepreneurs and the wider diffusion of entrepreneurial culture. To date the model is deployed in 14 countries around the world (the latest being Greece) supporting 604 entrepreneurs at 385 companies that enjoy the mentorship provided by Endeavor’s 1000+ person strong VentureCorps network spread around the globe.
Grad, who has spent 10 years as an Endeavor mentor and sits on a laundry list of corporate boards, says there is a unique approach that places Endeavor in a different category than many of its boot-strapping peers. “What we have is a unique group of senior executives really committed to inspiring entrepreneurs to realize large goals. The valuable network draws upon Endeavor being a global organization, we can expand interactions with leaders of local and global industry, connect entrepreneurs with investor communities and also with global peer entrepreneurs, which in our experience is a key value regarding differentiation” he said.
Noting Endeavor’s mature mentorship model, we were anxious to find out from Grad if corporations have anything to learn from the Endeavor.
Learning and Inspiring
“I am firmly convinced that corporate mentorship has a lot to learn regarding Endeavor’s approach in monitoring young internal entrepreneurs … basically the discipline in getting the teams really inspired, strongly supported and also properly measured. The global mentorship structure is particularly key for nearshore operations,” remarked Grad.
“Endeavor uses Salesforce to keep track of the mentors, their skill sets, etc. and the mentees and their needs. It is like a big CRM for entrepreneurs that is administered by local representatives and country representatives”
David Wachtel, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Endeavor, elaborated on the Advisory Board dynamic that yields results for Endeavor.
“The term ‘mentoring’ gets thrown around a lot, but the devil is in the details. There are a lot of incubators that have some kind of mentoring component; the Endeavor system is already well defined. We are in the process of implementing the Advisory Board model as opposed to the one-on-one mentor as a best practice organization wide. It works better for our advisory board mentors as well as their mentee(s),” said Wachtel.
We asked Wachtel if there is some way in which the organization harvests the knowledge created by simultaneous advisory board – mentee conversations occurring continuously over the network. He said that because of privacy concerns there is no explicit knowledge capture / republishing that could compromise an entrepreneur, but there is an Endeavor managed “entrepreneur CRM.”
“Endeavor uses Salesforce to keep track of the mentors, their skill sets, etc. and the mentees and their needs. It is like a big CRM for entrepreneurs that is administered by local representatives and country representatives. The staff takes notes, follows up, and connects the dots; they make sure the second string communications and promises are made good on,” he added.
Keeping it Local
Wachtel mentioned that entrepreneurs are supported by a local reps that connect them with local advisory boards (approximately 80% of mentoring takes place at the local level) and also country reps that connect, for example, a tech firm in Argentina with an advisory board in Silicon Valley. When there is specialty expertise that resides in a different market, Endeavor reps track down the necessary experts by communicating with their counterparts in other countries using Salesforce Chatter and a sort of shared electronic bulletin board.
“There was a meatpacking business in Uruguay that needed specialized advisory that was not available in the local market so they were put together with a restaurant chain in South Africa that had relevant experience because they ran their own food processing supply chain,” stated Wachtel.
Endeavor is an organization that does a lot with a little so they are always looking to leverage the networks of each country’s board members and VentureCorps volunteers. A global services office that serves tech companies by way of finding expertise and funding is located in San Francisco. Wachtel commented that full-time staff is dedicated to leveraging board members’ relationships.
“We have about 350 people in California that are engaged in the network, building it out is a full-time pursuit.” Bain Capital is helping Endeavor structure the process of taking the best from a branch and implementing it across other branches.
Of course the wide variety of data that Endeavor generates across its branches serves for internal research projects and subsequent publications. A current research initiative is identifying the cocktail of factors that produces the high growth entrepreneurs.
“If you really participate you can leap ahead radically, you can find people who have done exactly what you want to do. The network has all ages and backgrounds; you have companies that are Power Point startups and you have companies that have been around for 50 years,” said Mariano Gonzalez, managing director at Gentry Capital Advisors and Endeavor Mentor.
And this is a lot of what Endeavor does for entrepreneurs in emerging markets that do not have access to a highly developed funding and support ecosystem that is enjoyed in the United States.
“Here in the US there are so many resources for entrepreneurs, but in Latin America a lot of companies in the 5-10 million dollar valuation range that experience similar growing pains do not have those resources. Endeavor is very proactive in educating entrepreneurs about how to grow, finance, network, etc.,” stated Gonzalez.
Mentors are recruited by the local board that is also responsible for fund raising. “The local board members supply their rolodexes,” Wachtel said.
According to Wachtel the mentors get value out of lending a hand by using their expertise. Additionally, the mentors are often exposed to people and emerging market countries they would not have been exposed to otherwise and that involvement opens their eyes to new possibilities, future markets, and sometimes potential partnerships.
The head of JP Morgan Latin America acted as an Endeavor panelist and remarked afterwards that it was rejuvenating to share insight with young entrepreneurs. He ended up staying in contact with one of the companies and later put that company in touch with JP Morgan’s sourcing department as the company had developed an impressive web security product.