I’d been living in Buenos Aires in the mid-1990s to escape becoming a lawyer. I noticed that many young Argentines I hung out with planned to get jobs in the government — where all the jobs were at the time. How about becoming an entrepreneur?” I would say.People had no idea what I was talking about. So I started telling people the story of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak starting Apple. I was met with blank stares.
It was actually in the back of a Buenos Aires taxicab that I got the inspiration to found Endeavor two decades ago. I was talking to my driver and learned that he had a Ph.D. in Engineering but could find no other job. So I asked him why he didn’t consider launching his own business. “Do what?” he replied. Turns out, the word “entrepreneur” didn’t even exist in Spanish or Portuguese at the time. I made it my mission to make entrepreneurship not only a household word but a household profession, as revered in Latin America as it was in the U.S.
When I returned from Buenos Aires, my co-founder Peter Kellner and I, like many entrepreneurs before us, sketched our vision on the back of a napkin. At the time, in 1997, almost no one believed that high-growth, high-impact entrepreneurs might exist the world’s emerging and underserved markets.
Today that “business plan” that began on the back of a napkin has become a shared vision, cultivated and expanded by board members, staff and entrepreneurs around the globe. I knew we had made it when years later, I got a call from a Brazilian editor saying they were adding the word “empreendedorismo” to the dictionary!