Over the last few years, it’s become routine to note that Silicon Valley is more a state of mind than a geographic location. That is, the means, motive, and opportunity for tech innovation that converged around the Bay Area have now diffused to the edges of the globe, where ambitious young entrepreneurs are carrying the ball forward in ingenious and interesting ways.
It’s one thing to propound the theory. It’s another to come face to face with the entrepreneurial brainpower that’s rapidly scaling up world-class tech businesses in locations as diverse as Chile, South Africa, Egypt, Brazil, and Lebanon.
Last week, I attended the Endeavor Global Entrepreneurship Summit in San Francisco, the annual conclave where the Endeavor Foundation, a New York-based NGO focused on economic development through business and innovation, recognizes entrepreneurs from around the world who have survived their rigorous certification processes.
Endeavor focuses on companies that have made it past the startup phase but need an extra push to become big-impact players in their national economies. Its goal is to turbo-charge businesses and industries that can create economic prosperity and better quality of life in countries throughout Latin America, South Asia, and the Middle East -- in the expectation that economic development can then lead to needed social and political advances.
Endeavor recognizes entrepreneurs of all kinds, not just technology. However, the rapid spread of technology to developing countries over the past decade has lowered barriers to entry and created the same kind of “digital native” generation we’ve seen emerge here. That combination of technology and demographics has helped propel businesses like these, which stand out among the crowd here in San Francisco:
Betazeta (Chile) is a network of 13 virtual communities serving the southern cone of South America, featuring blogs and information sites organized around sports, travel, lifestyle, and recreation. Since its founding in 2008, Betazeta has grown to become the second-largest independent network community in Latin America -- the hottest region in the world, with a projected 25 percent market growth by 2012.
Eastline Marketing (Lebanon) is the first digital marketing agency serving the region, and is on track to increase its revenues 5x from 2009, to US$266 million by 2016. As people may have noticed in the past few months, social media are pretty popular in the Middle East. More than 30 million are estimated to be on various services, including 15 million on Facebook.
Movile/nTime (Brazil), founded by a trio of videogamers in Brazil, has developed the first desktop and wireless games in the Brazilian market. Today the company provides entertainment content, m-payments for virtual goods, marketing services, and application distribution through the Zeewe app store to more than 100 million active users worldwide.
TA Telecom (Egypt) has been providing connectivity to Egypt’s mobile market since 2000, and has ridden a 1000 percent surge in demand since those early days to become one of the Middle East’s largest platforms for time- and location-specific content. The company is expanding its SMS-based information services to cater to consumers, industries, advertisers, and entities serving social, political, and religious communities.
Yola (South Africa) is an online platform that allows people without programming skills to easily develop Websites through a simple drag-and-drop system. Yola currently has more than 3 million users worldwide, and last December the company signed a distribution deal with Hewlett-Packard to pre-install Yola on all HP computers -- approximately 60 million per year. Yola also signed a recent deal with AOL and was selected by Google to serve as the default Web host for its new “Get Your Business Online” initiative.
Each of these companies represents more than a success for the individual entrepreneur. In many cases, these businesses have helped create indigenous Internet economies in their countries, driving demand for skills and serving as role models for a whole emerging ecosystem of talent and innovation.
Many of these countries may need more help than a few tech startups can offer. However, any dynamic that increases demand for skilled workers, literate consumers, and engaged citizens is a force for positive change.
Hi Rob. I am the CEO of T.A. Telecom mentioned in the article and I wanted to say that mentions like these really light us up and encourage us to push harder and do more with our emerging market resources that are yearning to compete in the global economy. Thanks a lot. It really helped me energize my team.
I just Googled the idea I posted (in 2009) on the Ideascale Open Government 2.0 forum (back when that hopey-changey thing still had some wheels on it):
Transform SBA into a Microfinance Agency for startups
"So far we've been spending trillions to try and resuscitate defunct DOW companies and a non-existent Wall Street.
I propose that we give Small a chance and let Big digest its trillions.
To wit, we need to transform the SBA from a place for dry cleaners to get loans into a dynamic, web driven micro-finance agency.
Citizens should be able to get grants and Government backed loans in the amount of $100,000, 1M or 10M, easily and with a minimum of paperwork and delay. Startup companies that will employ people should be fast tracked to funding.
The new SBA/MFA will have a website with a simple walk through web form that is basically a summary of the idea (page 1), a summary of needed finance (page 2) and an essay describing its metrics for success (page 3).
1-2-3 -- fast, quick and easy. Let's get capital flowing to business again...lets make micro-finance available to all!"
Radical ideas there Jaibalo, but I think streamlining the distribution of venture capital is an idea certainly worth examining. I wrote - tried to write - an article once on opportunities for startup funding in the UK got lost in a byzantine labyrinth of bureacracy.
What a great conference to host! I love that we are recognizing innovation and new business ideas. I teach a Computer Science course where we also focus on business and entrepreneur skills and I can say that kids struggle the most with the business side of things because it is so foreign to them. Few schools offer classes in this area, yet they are perhaps the most valuable set they can use. Perhaps this is something the educational arena can pick on.
I had suggested via a Government 2.0 forum a long time ago, that the SBA...the stodgy loan agency best used for expanding existing small businesses like dry cleaners...revamp itself and become a microfinance venture capital agency.
I presented a vision where acquiring venture capital should be as easy as getting a paycheck loan. Every strip mall could have a 24 Hour Venture Capital branch, where a person could come in with an idea, fill out a web form helped by friendly agents, and leave with a check for $50,000 to start a new business. If the money runs out, come back in for frienedly refinancing...we'll get you in and out in under an hour!
Comedic, yes, but in today's multi-trillion dollar economy, it should be that easy. Instead of Jobs we should be funding Ideas. Even if you were to fund a person's idea for their working lifetime of 30 years, at $50,000 a year, it's still only 1.5 million -- far below what single company might get for one idea.
However, while Startup America does look promising, I'm still waiting for the announcements that will show it's moving towards the model I am proposing.
I am wondering if the entrpreneurs outside the U.S. are similar or different from ours. With the greater disparity of incomes in South America and other places, it might be that the start-up companies are not the "guys on the garage" but maybe pretty well heeled to start with.
A way to get the much less wealty individuals started in business would be a grand way to spark innovation and crate better paying jobs. It would be a shame to ignore the plight of the lower classes if there's some way to get money to "tricke down."
“Endeavor focuses on companies that have made it past the startup phase but need an extra push to become big-impact players in their national economies”
Rob, it’s true and very much needed. Like incubator model, most of the startup companies may needed an extra push during their initial stages. This is true for almost all types of business and industries
Rob - enjoyed reading this. I am glad to see the diversity of countries represented and that it doesn't skew to only what we may "expect" Just shows us that innovation occurs throughout the world and I'm glad it's appreciated and applauded/
Choosing 5 must have been very tough - any "runner ups" that you thought were promising too?
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The month leading up to the annual San Diego Comic-Con event is traditionally thick on the ground with new announcements and product debuts across the entire pop culture spectrum. In these days of digital convergence, many of those announcements take on a distinctly tech-oriented character, especially in the white-hot market for comic-based apps and graphic e-books.
Last Monday, the world learned that Microsoft was investing $300 million in a joint venture with book retailer Barnes & Noble, centered on ebook distribution. According to
the announcement, one of the first initiatives will be the rollout of a Nook application for Windows 8, bringing the world’s (distant) second-largest ebook storefront to an operating system currently running on zero tablet and ebook reader devices.
Can the US learn something about transparent and efficient government from Mexico? Mexican entrepreneurs Oscar Salazar and Jorge Soto certainly hope so. Their company CitiVox
is at the forefront of the fast-developing movement to use statistical datasets collected by government and public information-gathering sources to make public administration more responsive, cost-effective, and honest.
Many enterprises view high-speed broadband connections as ubiquitous. Yet in about 20 percent of the country, businesses and their employees do not have access to even DSL connections. This shortcoming diminishes enterprises' ability to support their employees.
Congress is considering a bill to extend a moratorium on Internet regulation changes for two years. But with issues like service quality, cloud performance, and privacy looming, we risk contaminating the Internet with fraud.
A recent scandal involving a school's use of remotely activated Webcams to locate lost or stolen laptops may portend, not only legal action against the school, but also a loss of trust in video that is critical to developing video collaboration over the Internet.
The problem with telepresence is that it's not universally accepted, because video calling isn't. While we can all do video calling, we also apparently worry too much about how we look. If we want HD telepresence in our future, we have to dress down, mess up our hair, and dive into our online life.
You've heard the expression, "Out of the frying pan, into the fire?" Amazon lives in the fire. The e-tailer wins by keeping things hot for its competitors, employees, and itself, according to a new book.
Positec, a manufacturer of power tools for homes and commercial applications, achieves greater customer service flexibility and cuts hold times in half by using a cloud-based service to manage its call center.
Big-data and analytics tools enable marketers to understand customers as individuals, identifying unmet needs and addressing each customer as a "segment of one," says John Kennedy, VP corporate marketing, IBM.
If you’re around and online tomorrow, and you have some free time, AND you’re interested in the topic of content marketing, you might want to check out IBM’s Livestream of the Brand Innovators’ Content Marketing Summit.
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