Flawless execution helped propel Argentine Marcos Galperin’s e-auction site, Mercado Libre, above the competition to become a $3.8 billion company. Some 50,000 small businesses now use it to market their wares.
Leila Velez and Heloísa Helena Assis, cousins who grew up in the slums of Rio, started with one product and one salon. Today their company, Beleza Natural, operates 24 salons that bring in $75 million in revenues, employs 1,500 people and has an eye on U.S expansion.
Both were powered, in part, by Endeavor, a global nonprofit that selects, mentors, supports and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs in metropolitan areas of 16 countries — and, soon, in Miami.
Endeavor and its local supporter, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, announced Tuesday that Knight is providing Endeavor with $2 million in grant funding over five years for Endeavor’s first U.S. expansion. Endeavor’s Miami office could ultimately service dozens of local entrepreneurs, but first a local board needs to be assembled, a managing director hired and offices set up.
Beginning late this year, South Florida’s innovators will be able to apply to become Endeavor Entrepreneurs, connecting them to a global network of mentors and advisors who can help grow their ventures. “We think this is a cornerstone of making Miami more of a place where ideas are built,” said Matt Haggman, Miami program director for the Knight Foundation, which has made entrepreneurship a key focus of its Miami program.
The announcement is an important milestone in Miami’s efforts to accelerate an entrepreneurial ecosystem, which has been gaining momentum, said Haggman, who led the effort for Knight, its largest investment in entrepreneurship to date. Accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces have been opening up, including Launch Pad Tech, which is receiving $1.5 million in public funding and opens for its first class next week. Last month, the first ever Innovate MIA week attracted hundreds of entrepreneurs, investors and other supporters to a packed schedule of daily events, which included the Americas Venture Capital Conference and Endeavor’s International Selection Panel.
“Miami is almost the perfect seeding ground for Endeavor,” said Peter Kellner, co-founder of Endeavor and now an Endeavor board member, an investor and South Florida resident who began discussing the project with Haggman in the spring. “There are commitments from large institutions like Knight, FIU, UM, there is capital, there are people that are interested in making things happen, there are already clusters of activity like accelerators and incubators. That’s where Endeavor thrives.”
Endeavor selects and works primarily with companies from a wide range of industries that are already earning $500,000 to $15 million in annual revenue and ready for the next stage: explosive growth.
“While the vast majority of small businesses employ two or three people, Endeavor businesses employ an average of 237,” said Endeavor co-founder and CEO Linda Rottenberg.
Launched in 1998 and headquartered in New York City, Endeavor now operates throughout Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Southeast Asia and supports more than 750 entrepreneurs who are chosen in a rigorous selection process.