In 1997 Linda Rottenberg and Peter Kellner sat down and, like many entrepreneurs before and after, sketched their vision on the back of a napkin. Endeavor would be a new kind of non-profit organization, dedicated to High-Impact Entrepreneurship: Identifying and supporting the continued growth of a select group of entrepreneurs in emerging market countries, creating jobs and adding revenues that would lay the groundwork for a new attitude towards entrepreneurship in those societies.
Peter had just returned from a Harvard Business School trip to China, where he had witnessed first-hand the boom in entrepreneurship that would transform that country. For Linda, the light bulb moment for Endeavor came in the back of a taxi cab in Buenos Aires. She struck up a conversation with the driver and was shocked to learn he had a PhD in Engineering. She asked if he hadn’t considered becoming an entrepreneur instead of driving a taxi. “An empresario?” he said dismissively, using the Spanish word for a big businessman. It suddenly occurred to her that there was no Spanish word for “entrepreneur.”
People initially thought the concept of High-Impact Entrepreneurship in emerging markets was crazy. No one believed there were entrepreneurs in developing economies let alone mentors who would support them. A small but passionate team ultimately convinced business leaders in Latin America to dedicate not only their money, but also their time and networks to Endeavor and its entrepreneurs. South Africa came next, followed by Turkey and a succession of countries in the Middle East.
Endeavor is founded by Linda Rottenberg and Peter Kellner in the midst of an emerging market currency crisis brought on by the collapse of the Thai bhat.
Launch in Chile & Argentina.
Endeavor organizes its first venture forums, linking international investors with emerging market entrepreneurs.
Launch in Brazil & Uruguay.
Launch in Mexico. Endeavor selects its 100th Entrepreneur. Time magazine recognizes Linda Rottenberg as a “Top 100 Innovator for the 21st Century.”
Endeavor companies grow by 62% in revenues despite the Latin American currency crisis. The first Harvard Business School case study about Endeavor is written and taught.
Launch in South Africa. Edgar Bronfman, Jr. becomes chairman of Endeavor’s Global Board.
Launch in Colombia and Turkey. James Wolfensohn, former president of The World Bank, joins Endeavor’s Global Board. Endeavor Brazil initiates Entrepreneur Give-Back program to support Endeavor’s sustainability goals.
10th anniversary. MercadoLibre becomes the first Endeavor company to go public on the NASDAQ. Stanford GSB case study is written and taught. Give-Back program launched in Brazil; DentalCorp gives the first equity pledge to convert to cash.
Endeavor receives a $10MM commitment from Omidyar Network. Linda Rottenberg co-chairs World Economic Forum – Middle East, and is named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report. Wences Casares, one of the first Endeavor Entrepreneurs, joins the Global Board.
Launch in Jordan, and opening of San Francisco satellite office. Formation of a research arm, the Endeavor Center for High-Impact Entrepreneurship, along with two new premium Global services: Mentor Capital and Top 25 programs. Endeavor Brazil engages 5.3MM people in Global Entrepreneurship Week. Second HBS case study is published, focused on Endeavor in the MENA region. Andy Freire becomes the first Entrepreneur to serve as a country board chairman (Argentina).
Launch in Egypt. Endeavor’s CEO, MENA board members, and several Endeavor Entrepreneurs participate in US Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship. Endeavor Lebanon board is formed.
Launch of Endeavor Greece, first European country of Endeavor.