Entrepreneurship | Spreading the gospel

by Dave

Traditionally in Latin America, if you were smart and from a respectable family, becoming a lawyer was the ultimate in gaining societal status and wealth. Or maybe a doctor. Then possibly an engineer. Now many countries in the region have an abundance of abogados (lawyers) – many of them with no work.

Only when entrepreneurship is encouraged, respected and rewarded will countries get on the path to wealth creation and prosperity.


EARLIER this year Mario Chady faced a crucial decision. Having built up Spoleto, his chain of casual Italian restaurants, to 150 outlets in Brazil, and opened in Mexico and Spain, the time had come for Mr Chady, based in Rio de Janeiro, to choose between expanding into America or putting the idea on hold for at least 18 months. To help make up his mind, he asked for help from an organisation called Endeavor, which had chosen him as a potential “high-impact entrepreneur” in 2003.

Endeavor is a non-profit group based in New York dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship in emerging economies.

It is routine for entrepreneurs to consult their networks of mentors in
Silicon Valley. But in much of the world, such networks are notable by
their absence—and so, too, are examples of Silicon Valley-style
successful entrepreneurship. Changing this was why Endeavor was created
in 1997. “Why can’t the next Silicon Valley pop up in Cairo or São Paulo or
Johannesburg?” asks Linda Rottenberg, who co-founded Endeavor with
Peter Kellner, a venture capitalist.

Much of the difference between countries such as America, where
entrepreneurship thrives, and those where it does not is cultural
rather than regulatory, she believes. In many emerging economies,
business tends to be dominated by a closed elite hostile to new
entrepreneurs—and failure is stigmatised
, rather than being a badge of
honour, as it is in Silicon Valley.

Endeavor’s magic works most powerfully in its selection process.
Entrepreneurs are screened first by a national panel of successful
businessmen, and then, if they are short-listed, by an international
panel. So far over 18,000 entrepreneurs have been screened but fewer
than 400 have been chosen. The aim is to identify those who can succeed
on a scale that will make them into national role models, and then
provide them with every possible support.

One of Endeavor’s earliest successes was Wenceslao Casares, who sold
Patagon, his Argentine internet brokerage, to Banco Santander for $705m
at the peak of the dotcom bubble. He believes Endeavor has started to
change cultural attitudes in the countries where it has been active for
a while, mostly in Latin America.
When I said I was going to start a
business, it was against everyone’s advice, from my family to my
,” he says. “Now, go to the same university and the same
professors will tell you that one of their goals is to produce good