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Friday, December 19, 2008

Guest Post: Endeavor Entrepreneurs React to Crisis in a Revealing Survey

By Rob Katz

David AuerbachGuest blogger David Auerbach works on strategic growth projects for Endeavor, a global organization that supports high-impact entrepreneurs.? He is a 2003 graduate of Yale University.

By David AuerbachHigh-Impact Entrepreneurs ? those running high-growth, innovative businesses ? are important drivers of economic growth in emerging economies. Endeavor, a non-profit with operations in 11 countries, supports these entrepreneurs by providing access to mentors, strategic advice, managerial talent and inspiration. In turn, these entrepreneurs ? who come from a wide range of industries such as architecture, meat-processing and IT ? create wealth and good jobs in their economies.

As the economic crisis continues to be felt around the world, Endeavor conducted a survey of 92 portfolio companies from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Jordan, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey and Uruguay. Endeavor asked about how the entrepreneurs had been affected so far by the crisis and what they foresaw happening in 2009. Three general trends emerged:

It?s going to be tough this year and next:

The results showed that 85% of Endeavor Entrepreneurs are already feeling the effects of the crisis: 48% said credit is harder to come by and at a greater cost, and 51% have seen reduced sales. Next year promises to be challenging as well with nearly 90% expecting their business to take a hit in some form. Endeavor Entrepreneurs are being pragmatic though and taking measures to avoid serious damage: 52% are adjusting their business model, 36% are suspending growth projects and 30% will freeze hiring, for example.

Strong businesses have the confidence to weather the storm:

Endeavor Entrepreneurs, as a portfolio, expect revenues to grow by 30% and job creation to expand by 12%. While we know that entrepreneurs are serial optimists, Endeavor is confident in these projections. We work hard to build a network that supports entrepreneurs through thick and thin. We put our entrepreneurs in touch with international consultancies, such as BCG and McKinsey, who undertake a needs-assessment and help strengthen the business plans. We connect the entrepreneurs to mentors in their industries who have experience, connections and networks. We provide entrepreneurs with access to talented management through partnerships with corporations such as Ernst & Young.

By providing these services, Endeavor is building strong businesses that attract the interest of investors. For example, amid the tightening of investments by venture capital and private equity funds, Globant, a company in Buenos Aires, just secured a significant round of financing from two US-based private equity firms.

There is opportunity in crisis:

It's not just a Zen-like mantra. Some of the biggest businesses in the world were founded in down-markets: Coca-Cola (1886), Disney (1932), and Microsoft (1975) for example. In the same vein, every entrepreneurial legend has faced tough times. And the fact that these icons have ultimately succeeded is important motivation for Endeavor Entrepreneurs. Endeavor feeds this motivation by hosting immersion tours. Last October, 70 Endeavor Entrepreneurs flew to Silicon Valley to meet with entrepreneurs, top venture capitalists and to pay visits to entrepreneurial shrines such as Google and Facebook. Based on the survey results, the entrepreneurs clearly left California fired up and ready to fight the crisis: 49% expect to hire new talent and 37% foresee better investment opportunities in the coming year.

There's no more important time than during a crisis to look at innovative solutions to old problems. In the field of development, supporting local entrepreneurs is an idea that mostly everyone in the NextBillion.net community believes in. As this survey has shown, the economic crisis will present real and significant challenges for entrepreneurs. But just because there is an economic crisis doesn?t mean that good businesses disappear or that entrepreneurs lose their resolve. In 2009, we must redouble our efforts to provide the right support to make sure that these entrepreneurs thrive.

Happy Holidays to everyone in the NextBillion.net community!
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