Heroes made in Mexico

Worth over a trillion dollars, Mexico is one of the largest economies in the world. Despite the potential, its GDP growth rate isn’t where it should be. That’s where Endeavor Mexico comes in. Since being founded in 2002, Endeavor has nurtured entrepreneurial talent across multiple industries in Mexico, having provided more than 20,000 hours of mentoring to entrepreneurs, who in turn have created more than 8,600 high-value jobs. Vincent Speranza, General Director of Endeavor Mexico, tells us about his goal to create more local business heroes.

What can you tell us about Endeavor?
Endeavor is a global movement that aims to transform economies through high-impact entrepreneurship. We truly believe that high-impact entrepreneurs not only build economic wealth, but also create cultural stories that inspire the rest of the ecosystem to start their own businesses. We define high-impact entrepreneurs as those who have built a very successful business and then reinvest their success by mentoring and inspiring others, essentially investing back into the next generation of entrepreneurs.

How do you support entrepreneurs?
The first step is finding the right entrepreneurs to work with. We do this by scanning countries and industries. The selection process is challenging; we spend around 12 to 18 months observing them. Once we’ve made our selection, we create a personalised growth roadmap for the next five to ten years. We have a network of mentors, for example ex-entrepreneurs, consultants, venture capitalists and private equity specialists, who give us around three hours of their time to guide our entrepreneurs and help them take better decisions – essentially an advisory board. Endeavor spans 34 countries, so we can help entrepreneurs to scale their businesses abroad. In essence, what we’re offering is access to talent and capital. We truly believe in the growth potential of our entrepreneurs; we help them do it in a smarter and faster way, and point out potential pitfalls along their journey.

If only 50 large firms were created every year in Mexico, GDP would increase annually by 1%.

What role has Endeavor played in Mexico?
Endeavor started to raise the profile of entrepreneurship in Mexico around 17 years ago. We were one of the first to define entrepreneurship in a Mexican setting. We started by engaging universities, public policy makers and other stakeholders in the ecosystem to convey the value of high-impact entrepreneurs in society. We’ve seen two waves of entrepreneurship over the last over the 17 years. The first wave comprised entrepreneurs in more traditional sectors who enjoyed high, double-digit growth. Around seven years ago, a second wave emerged – a new generation of entrepreneurs who scaled their businesses more rapidly through technology. All in all, the ecosystem is much more balanced than when we started out thanks to the efforts of Endeavor and other players in the market.

What trends do you see amongst the new generation of entrepreneurs?
We see more teams than ever before. In the past, it was a ‘one man’ or ‘one woman show’, admittedly more men than women. Now we’re seeing teams of people with multiple complementary skills and abilities. We’re also seeing lots more female co-founders for the first time. Additionally, FinTech has emerged as an area of huge activity – an industry that has been disrupted significantly by entrepreneurs in the last five years. Health is another area of great interest for entrepreneurs, not to mention mobility and commerce. We’ve moved from offline business activity to more online and omni-channel. We’re also seeing emerging trends in insurance tech, although it’s still a bit early to say how this will develop. In Mexico, we’re seeing a number of businesses having a positive impact on society, such as improving access to education, healthcare and water; these businesses are built to scale and grow while positively impacting society along the way.

Only 6% of GDP in Mexico comes from the country’s 2.69 million micro firms.

Can you tell us about a business Endeavor supported?
It’s hard to pick just one – there are so many great examples and we’ve learned a lot along the way. One story I love to recall is that of Adolfo Babatz. He was the first CEO of PayPal in Mexico. He learned the industry from the corporate world, which I think is an interesting approach for the next generation. Adolfo identified opportunities in the Mexican market and built a company called Clip. Clip is a device that helps merchants to accept credit and debit cards. It was founded in late 2013 and has grown very quickly. He successfully gained access to strategic investors such as American Express Ventures, which invested in the company in round one. As time went on, he got other investors involved and is now on the way to scaling really rapidly. I see Adolfo as a local hero – his FinTech business is one of the most advanced in the ecosystem and is a great success story that can inspire others. It takes an extraordinary person to build an extraordinary company. He’ll be remembered as the first to disrupt what was a well-established, highly regulated industry.

How important are large corporates for Endeavor?
When we started out, entrepreneurs and academic institutions were the first to get on board. Corporates, on the other hand, were hesitant. To achieve a balanced ecosystem, we need all parties to engage. Endeavor can build bridges between entrepreneurs and corporates, for example by facilitating product pilots or helping corporates keep pace with new technological developments. Collaboration between the two is win-win: corporates ultimately benefit from innovation, and start-ups need to understand how large corporates operate. Endeavor’s role is in the middle, helping both sides to articulate their needs and visions.

What’s next for Endeavor Mexico?
I’ve seen the ecosystem come on tremendously during my 12 years at Endeavor. At the beginning, there was huge potential and hunger in the market to succeed, but little infrastructure to support it and few local heroes for people to look up to. So many young people want to be entrepreneurs, but the role models are always the same: Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg. For the good of the ecosystem, Endeavor will continue to develop and support local heroes, helping entrepreneurs to get their businesses over the line, be it Mexicans or foreigners who come here to set up shop. What’s important is that they have the potential to succeed, reinvest in the ecosystem and inspire others.

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