How Endeavor plans to make social impact by backing high-growth entrepreneurs [Q&A]


Endeavor is more than simply a networking club for the business elite, but an organisation that aims to make a sustained social impact by supporting high-growth entrepreneurs.

So, argues Endeavor South Africa managing director Alison Collier.

Collier — a former McKinsey consultant with a wealth of experience under her belt, having worked for SAB Miller, Unilever and Bos Brands in various cities around the world — succeeded Catherine Townshend as the head of Endeavor’s South African entity in April.

The organisation is present in over 35 markets in the world and currently supports 1992 entrepreneurs leading 1243 companies.

Endeavor SA head Alison Collier once sought out Endeavor’s help while leading a team at SA business Bos Ice Tea

For Collier, Endeavor is all about helping fast growing small and medium-sized firms to scale up and in so doing create thousands of jobs.

She should know, having once sought out Endeavor’s help herself, while leading Bos Ice Tea’s European expansion in Amsterdam between 2013 and 2017.

“Through Endeavor, we significantly reduced our time to enter new markets, while also avoiding the giant pitfalls that await unchartered expansion territory. Like the driving philosophy behind Endeavor around the globe, I believe it’s time to pay it forward,” says Collier.

In an emailed interview with Ventureburn, Collier argues that Endeavor is more than just a networking group for business elites, but an organisation that above all aims to create jobs and spur economic growth by supporting high-growth entrepreneurs.

What do you aim to bring to the job as the new MD of Endeavor?

Endeavor is more than a job to me. At Endeavour we see a world, and I personally see a South Africa, where a single innovation has the potential to transform lives, a nation, an entire economy for generations to come. I have always been driven to see things built, to witness progress and to be an active part of empirical change.

This fits perfectly with my expertise, which is expanding businesses locally and internationally.

At Endeavor, I get to be part of this amazing life cycle of opportunity and possibility, and then get to see this re-invested towards what we define as “high-impact” entrepreneurs.

You once sought out Endeavor’s help yourself. Tell us about that.

I have personally been part of this high-impact ecosystem of Endeavor. When I was working with Bos Ice Tea, I led the initial international expansion of the group into Europe.

It was Endeavor’s connection to true business leaders and other entrepreneurs who had, like we wanted to, expanded from local to global, that galvanised our progress.

There’s nothing like a first-hand encounter with people driven to create change. Advice from some of the world’s market leaders inspires you to sharpen your plans and pushes you to think bigger than big.

Through Endeavor, we significantly reduced our time to enter new markets, whilst also avoiding the giant pitfalls that await unchartered expansion territory. Like the driving philosophy behind Endeavor around the globe, I believe it’s time to pay it forward.

What in your professional background will help you in your new role?

I have always been inspired by building new businesses and have established new operations and developed teams in local and foreign markets for multinationals and scale-ups.

My experience and success in this field, as well as some other past roles in strategy consulting and venture capital, all play a strong role towards the work we do at Endeavor.

It’s about understanding how business grows that has probably best equipped me to steer this season at Endeavor.

From growing global operations for companies like SABMiller and Bos, to living on four continents and working in global roles spanning multiple markets, I have developed a robust appreciation for the value of a strong and diverse team.

Why does Endeavor select the kind of entrepreneurs it does, as Endeavor entrepreneurs?

At Endeavor, we have a clearly defined set of criteria. These criteria can be met by any kind of business. Rather than elite, we are uncompromising on high-impact entrepreneurs.

This means we are after entrepreneurs that run medium-sized (annual minimum revenue of R10-million) firms with the biggest ideas and the greatest potential to achieve meaningful scale.

They are naturally inspired and wildly audacious in their aspirations to mentor and reinvest in the next generation.

These are the kinds of entrepreneurs that drive innovation, productivity and share their benefits onwards to customers and our overall economy.

High-impact entrepreneurs are the cornerstone of rapid, influential growth.

Our entrepreneurs need to pass an Endeavor International Selection Panel to become an Endeavor Entrepreneur (Trent Rossini and Mike Renzon from inQuba were the last SA entrepreneurs to be selected, in December last year, see this story — Ed).


What’s been Endeavor’s track record in SA so far?

Endeavor South Africa has produced strong, weighty results since 2004, creating over 25 000 jobs across South Africa and generating R4.1-billion revenue through the 80 businesses we’ve supported locally.

We currently partner with 26 selected entrepreneurs (see the firms these entrepreneurs lead, in the above image) with average revenue annual growth of 30%-50% across the portfolio. From software to fintech to education, retail and healthcare, our entrepreneurs are shaping a new innovation-led landscape for the local consumer.

Entrepreneurs in the scale-up stage are identified by their accelerated growth rates, pioneering offerings and mid-life stage. They are typically tech-enabled but there are Endeavor entrepreneurs across all industry sectors.

Why should entrepreneurs already deemed successful, get access to Endeavor support?

Our entrepreneurs are already successful, but what we are really trying to do is leverage this success to benefit society as a whole, rather than just a small group of people.

At Endeavor we provide high-impact businesses access to the very best funding and advisors so that they can expand as fast and efficiently as possible – and in the process grow employment opportunities. This kind of exponential growth benefits everyone.

What is the organisation doing to support and promote more high-growth black and women entrepreneurs?

At Endeavor we don’t choose to focus on a single kind of entrepreneur. Rather, we look at certain criteria to define a high-impact entrepreneur, where a giving back mind set is crucial and we prioritise supporting entrepreneurs that bring about systemic changes to sector that drive economic growth and job creation.

We screen over 300 companies per annum, across all sorts of industries with a support strategy that has been
shown to grow jobs at 5x the national average.

We’re proud to be led by an 80% female team and matters of equality will always be central to us and over 30% of the 24 Endeavor SA Entrepreneurs have female or black founders and many more in our pipeline.

When it comes to transforming lives, growing a sustainable economy and establishing a future generation of altruistically minded business leaders, there should be no limiting parameters.

A highlight for us in 2019, Endeavor partnered with the SA SME Fund on the CEO Circle, an initiative aimed at accelerating the growth of high potential black-owned and founded businesses that have reached R50-million in annual revenue and, with the right access to shareholders in the SA SME Fund network and Endeavor community, have the potential to scale to businesses with a value of R500-million plus.

Endeavor led the selection and initiated the mentoring process and together with the SA SME Fund continues to support the seven fantastic businesses that were selected as the CEO Circle 2019 cohort.

We acknowledge that there is more to do in this space and are always actively looking for ways we can leverage the Endeavor model to meet the specific needs of South Africa.

How does one qualify to become an Endeavor entrepreneur and what kind of support or funding can one access if one is selected?

Entrepreneurs that drive productivity are those that successfully navigate their companies beyond the startup phase, tackling big markets by making bold decisions using innovative strategies and tactics.

These entrepreneurs grow high-quality workforces and attract capital. More often than not, it’s about founder’s paying it forward mind set.

Our criteria for selection:

  • R10-million or more in annual revenue
  • Innovative, scalable F
  • Founder-led
  • Committed to giving back

Read moreEndeavor selects eight African entrepreneurs to join organisation
Read more: Endeavor welcomes startup Pargo and engineering group to its network
Read more: Endeavor SA welcomes former Outsurance CEO as new board member
Read more: Skynamo’s Sam Clarke selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur
Read more: Here are the four South Africans joining Endeavor’s Entrepreneur programme
Read more: Joburg health platform Guidepost one of 20 new companies Endeavor to boost
Read more: This is how Entersekt secured Endeavor Catalyst funding

Disclosure: Ventureburn editor Stephen Timm matriculated in 1996 from Cape Town’s Westerford high school in the same class together with Endeavor managing director Alison Collier.

Featured image: Endeavor CEO Alison Collier (Supplied)



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