This week Endeavor Global hosted its 40th International Selection Panel in Amman, Jordan. Entrepreneurs from Mexico, Chile, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan gathered for rounds of rigorous interviews to see if they qualified to join the organization’s global network of high-impact entrepreneurs.
After months of interviews with Endeavor, entrepreneurs who made it to the selection panel gathered in artistic nooks of the Jordan Children’s Museum for a three-day whirlwind of further grilling by some of the world’s leading business minds.
Several Jordanian heavyweights on the scene weighed in on the unique challenges of operating in the Middle East market, as business leaders from Egypt, Turkey, Chile, Argentina and the U.S. rounded out the panels’ perspectives. As Endeavor Global co-founder Linda Rottenberg attested, this mix of emerging market perspectives is exactly what made this year’s ISP so interesting.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs in the region to take advantage of a trend I call E2E- emerging to emerging (markets). The obstacles and opportunities in emerging markets are much more similar than different, and Endeavor plays a role in cross fertilizing their ideas.”
The Leapfrogging Opportunity
Rottenberg sees two primary opportunities in this market. “First, in the tech sector, there's a land grab, because things are moving quickly, and there are not many players in the Arabic content space. So there are plenty of opportunities for adapting concepts from the U.S. to this market.”
Yet, she added, it’s not all about copy-paste. “The models that U.S. companies present are also now becoming outdated, so there’s also a leapfrogging opportunity.” For instance, companies here who develop for a market skewed towards mobile phone use may have the knowledge to innovate beyond what companies in the U.S. are doing.
Another example is Turkish company, SocialWire, which is working to create highly targeted Facebook ads for e-commerce sites like using consumer data. “Retailers don’t want to do mass marketing anymore,” explained Rottenberg. “They want to use preferences to market online. Turkey is the 3rd or 4th biggest user of Facebook; they’re thinking, ‘Why can’t we pioneer that breakthrough?’”
“All of the rules are being thrown out,” she said. “There's a lot of innovation going on. These entrepreneurs are part of a new generation of creation and not just replication.”
Who Has What it Takes?
Yesterday, on the third day, the panelists gathered to see exactly whose innovations would make the cut. They met in three groups to discuss each company in depth and debate whether they would become one of Endeavor’s “high-impact” entrepreneurs; the organization only targets those companies that can scale effectively to create hundreds of jobs and contribute to a country’s overall economic development.
The panelists debated whether entrepreneurs had enough supply chain knowledge to control their cash flow, picked apart their management structures, assessed their personalities, and teased each other about their own perspectives.
“Her husband shouldn’t be managing the finances; she needs a CFO yesterday!” they cried of one woman’s business. “The father must step back from controlling the company,” they nodded about another’s management structure, seeking to support its pivot from being a family-run business. “He should stay hungry and continue to really seek new clients,” they hoped about another candidate.
“I love its social angle,” they agreed about another. “It could facilitate buying in the lowest tier of society.”
Ultimately, they agreed that many of the chosen entrepreneurs had tremendous growth potential, dubbing one the next “Sephora of Chile,” and another the “Staples of Egypt.”
The only thing missing? “We really need more women,” lamented Turkish investor Osman Ünsal. “Only two out of our 32 applicants were women. Let’s applaud them, and work to change that.”
The selected companies are listed below:
SASCO, a stationery products chain
Silulo, IT products and training
[photo: panelists Chris Shcroeder and Fawaz Zu'bi interview Jordanian company CrysTelCall]