Entrepreneurship: Bringing the American Dream Abroad
Entrepreneurship: Bringing the American Dream Abroadback

I know it’s been in the news a lot, but the facts often bear repeating: 

  • entrepreneurs create new jobs at a faster rate than larger companies
  • entrepreneurs develop new products and services
  • entrepreneurs innovate processes and approaches improving the way we get things done
  • entrepreneurs (re)invigorate economies

In 1997, Linda Rottenberg and Peter Kellner started Endeavor, a nonprofit that provides venture capital – without the capital. Huh, you say? Hang on, I’ll explain. 

Business incubation, providing technical assistance or support, is a proven business model. What makes Endeavor unique is that Linda took this proven model of business incubation to emerging and developing countries; first in Latin America, later, to the Middle East and Asia. 

Endeavor screens entrepreneurs for innovative ideas that have high-growth potential, but that’s just for starters. Entrepreneurs must also be ethical and values-driven because once successful, they become role models for future entrepreneurs and ambassadors for the program. Endeavor’s standards are so high that less than 3% of the 19,000 screened make the cut. 

Upon acceptance to the program, entrepreneurs are connected to wealthy businesspeople who help make them investment ready. This involves a whole lot of hands-on mentoring, training, and advice. Entrepreneurs are then connected to Endeavor’s network of funders. 

In the beginning, raising money was a problem. Every foundation Linda approached said no. Foundations explained that entrepreneurs aren’t poor. The fact that entrepreneurs are the backbone of job creation and economic stability just didn’t seem to resonate. Undeterred, Linda approached wealthy investors and fortunately, a bunch came on board. 

There still may be doubters to Linda’s mindset, but the proof is in the numbers. Over the course of 12 years, 96,000 jobs have been created and $3 billion in revenues generated. Virtually all of these companies are still in business. Compare that to American companies, of which more than 50% fail after their first five years. 

What’s to be learned here? Maybe, that sometimes, some people just aren’t going to ‘get’ your business model. Sometimes, you’ll be able to change their minds. Other times, like in Linda’s case, you’ll just have to find others that do get what you’re doing. 

Or maybe, it’s the concept that as great as our country is, we take for granted the opportunities for entrepreneurial empowerment and advancement that exist here. And, if given the training and tools, ambitious and innovative entrepreneurs in less advantaged nations can match — or exceed – our capabilities to capture the so-called American dream. 

I think the most important point is, when all is said is done, perseverance, coupled with a belief in the social impact of your organization, can make measureable changes in the quality of life of others. 

So tell me,…what kind of social impact are you trying to make with your enterprise or nonprofit?