More than 50 entrepreneurs from around the country and the world descended on Atlanta in late September, getting a taste of the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem while pitching themselves as the next member of the Endeavor network.
Endeavor is a global organization dedicated to helping high-impact entrepreneurs scale their businesses through mentorship, and sometimes, funding.
With deep roots in Latin America, the group has offices in 32 nations, where local boards vet aspirational entrepreneurs for entry into a long-term program where they’re matched with a network of 4,000-plus mentors.
After being screened by a local office, the final hurdle for an entrepreneur is passing a rigorous interview process from global experts — investors, executives and at times, previous mentees — from around the Endeavor sphere of influence. These International Selection Panels are hosted by one of Endeavor’s global offices and cost nearly $1,000 to participate.
Atlanta played host to the 90th such event, giving an Endeavor office that opened just in March 2017 a chance to showcase both its city and Southeast region to a diverse group of companies.
“It’s sort of like hosting the Endeavor Olympics. You don’t want to screw it up because you’ll never get to host it again,” said Aaron Hurst, managing director of Endeavor Atlanta, which has sourced entrepreneurs like BitPay’s Stephen Pair, LeaseQuery’s George Azih and QASymphony’s Dave Keil for the global network, among many others.
What Atlanta lacks in history versus “competitor” cities like Quito, Madrid or Istanbul (the October ISP venue), it made up for in local flair and all-American charm, said Alaysia Brown, who runs communications for Endeavor Atlanta.
Interviewees were welcomed at Mercedes-Benz Stadium by the Georgia Tech marching band, soaked up the World of Coca-Cola and took in Ponce City Market’s rooftop park, which exudes a Coney Island vibe.
“They enjoyed our World of Coke, even though it’s not a castle in Madrid,” Ms. Brown said. “We definitely played off of that all-American theme, so I think that they loved it. It definitely made us become tourists in our own home, and it made us think, ‘We do live in a pretty cool city.’”
Speakers included Atlanta Hawks CEO Steven Koonin, who addressed candidates at consumer startup hub Switchyards Atlanta downtown while they awaited selection results.
“We’re sort of in the environment creation business while hosting these,” Mr. Hurst told Global Atlanta. “In situations like this, Atlanta flexes its event-hosting muscle.”
The event ended with 37 entrepreneurs selected from 21 companies and 14 nations, including Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Vietnam, Kenya and beyond, each now with a bit of exposure to Atlanta.
Endeavor’s goal is not to sell the city as an investment destination, Mr. Hurst said, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility to think that some entrepreneurs may think about Atlanta as an access point to the massive U.S. market.
“At least based on the feedback, I think those who didn’t know Atlanta well or have never been here were super impressed,” Mr. Hurst said. “The skyline itself is impressive, the infrastructure itself that we offer is impressive, and getting to network with people that are from here, they’ve walked away going, ‘Wow, if I do come to the U.S. maybe I’ll look at Atlanta first.’”
Local entrepreneurs also got their breakthrough moment in the Endeavor network. GreenPrint, which offers “sustainability as a service” by helping corporations manage their carbon offset and other environmental programs, saw founder Pete Davis selected.
Perhaps more proudly for Endeavor Atlanta, its first recruit from Birmingham, Ala., was inducted into the network: Tony Summerville of Fleetio, which helps small and medium-sized companies manage their vehicle fleets via a suite of software.
Mr. Hurst said Endeavor Atlanta has been “pulled into” Birmingham largely by venture investor Jared Weinstein, a native of the Alabama city who is now a partner at New York-based Thrive Capital. He founded the Overton Project as a social venture intended to drive change in Birmingham via city-wide initiatives focused on education, health and entrepreneurship. Overton and Endeavor jelled, given the latter’s focus on entrepreneurs with potential to grow local economies and create jobs. They are working jointly on a scale-up program in the city that will feed into Endeavor, which has already heard pitches from some 50 Birmingham companies.
Mr. Hurst noted that it makes sense for Atlanta to aid in building a network of Southern entrepreneurs who can help each other. Atlanta-based Endeavor company LeaseQuery is now set to open a satellite sales center in Birmingham, he said by way of example.
“If you think about it, there’s a benefit for all entrepreneurs in a whole region to have a more connected network,” said Mr. Hurst, who added that Endeavor Atlanta will hire a full-time person in Birmingham by the end of the year.
This regional collaboration comes as Endeavor expands throughout the U.S., an anomaly for an organization that usually has just one office per country. Now it boasts offices in Louisville, Ky., northwest Arkansas, Colorado and Puerto Rico, along with Atlanta.
Atlanta’s Cox Enterprises has been instrumental in bringing the network here and continued its support by sponsoring the recent selection panel. Additional support came from accounting firm Aprio, Metro Atlanta Chamber, Pacific Western Bank and TechCXO.
Endeavor CEO and co-founder Linda Rottenberg, who is based in New York, was also on hand for the Atlanta selection panel.
Endeavor’s network includes 1,967 entrepreneurs leading 1,227 companies around the world. Learn more about the Atlanta events below: