SM: How does the entrepreneur network in Latin America work? Are there many entrepreneurs in Latin America now?
MG: Yes, there is a foundation called Endeavor Foundation. They select entrepreneurs in their region and then supports them. This foundation was founded by Linda Rosenburg and Peter Kelner, two Harvard graduates. They got the big private equity investors, Latin American market investors, and emerging market investors, and they involved them in the founding of this organization because they wanted entrepreneurs to have access to these people. They do an incredible process of selection.
SM: Is it like an incubator?
MG: No, not exactly. They do a process to select you, which is really competitive. Potential entrepreneurs present their business plans to different panels in their respective countries. This is now in place in 12 countries. Each country sends their finalist to a final panel in Miami. This organization started in South America, but it is also in Turkey and South Africa now. It will continue expanding in the Middle East as well.
The judges are big investors, entrepreneurs from all over the world. A consensus vote is required – just one vote against the entrepreneur means they are not elected. By the time you are elected, you have really gone through an extensive process. Once you are elected, you are allowed to join the network. This means you are plugged in with all of the entrepreneurs in Latin America, South Africa, Turkey and the other expansion areas that the Foundation plays in. This is very useful. The board of each country is made up of very influential people. When an entrepreneur encounters a problem, they are able to take it to their network and really get help dealing with it.
SM: It sounds like a great model.
MG: It is a very interesting model. It has been thought of as the best way to help emerging markets. Rather than giving money to poor people, the support is going to the people who give jobs to the poor people.
SM: Have there been a lot of success stories?
MG: I just went to the ten year anniversary in New York because we were the first Endeavor company to do an IPO.
SM: You are the poster child of the program, that is great!
MG: Thank you, it has been a great experience building Mercado Libre.