BOGOTA Seventeen years ago, Andrés Angulo, a recently graduated doctor, rented an apartment, bought a whiteboard, and began training nurses and medical technicians. His first class was anatomy and he had just two students.
Today, Campoalto, the educational institute he started with two colleagues, has eight campuses across Colombia’s capital, more than 8,000 active students and can boast more than 20,000 alumni. It has become the nation’s largest vocational health training school and has evolved beyond healthcare education to provide classes on auto mechanics, cooking and clothing manufacturing, among others. And soon, it will be operating in Miami.
Campoalto’s rapid rise won it membership to an exclusive but growing club in Colombia: Endeavor. Endeavor is a global non-profit that selects, supports and mentors high-impact entrepreneurs. Launched in 1998, Endeavor now works in 15 countries across Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. And it, too, will soon begin operating in Miami — its first incursion into the United States.
The fact that Campoalto and Endeavor are sweeping into Miami at the same time was coincidence, but it has been opening doors in the South Florida business community, Angulo said.
“People [in Miami] are calling me because I’m an Endeavor company,” he said. “Endeavor has become my calling card.”
Endeavor Colombia was launched in 2006, after the organization got its start in Argentina and Chile in 1998, expanded to Brazil and Uruguay in 2000, and then pushed into Mexico in 2001. The first Colombian company to join the organization was Grupo Industrial Ideagro, a manufacturer of farm-machinery.
Now, 20 Colombian companies are Endeavor members, and they run the gamut of industries. There’s Bodytech, a gym that’s as ubiquitous in Colombia and Peru as Gold’s Gym is in the United States; Mario Hernandez, a family-run leather-goods business, which is seeking to expand internationally; Refinancia, which helps low income families refinance their bad debt; and Ecoflora, the maker of bio-pesticides and eco-friendly house cleaning products.
“Our focus is on scaling-up companies,” said Adriana Suárez, the executive director of Endeavor Colombia. “We are looking for leaders who can become role models, are willing to give back to the organization and other entrepreneurs, and who have a sustainable business.”
Endeavor companies also have to have a proven business model and sales of between $1 million and $25 million. The requirements make finding eligible companies hard to come by. Of every 100 businesses that Endeavor Colombia interviews, only four make the cut, Suárez said.
Even so, Colombia’s Endeavor companies generate about $277 million a year, represent about 0.13 percent of national GDP, and employ 5,800 workers.
Colombia has a culture of “entrepreneurship of necessity” and ranks high in regional business surveys, said Suárez. But it is actually a laggard when it comes to trying to promote high-impact, job-sustaining enterprises, she said. The government is trying to change that. President Juan Manuel Santos has made innovation one of the centerpieces of his administration and in 2012 inaugurated Innpulsa, a public program that has pumped $51 million into startups.