Lessons From Selection: How to Optimize the Value of Networks
By Kirk Benson, Endeavor Chief of Staff
Lessons from Selection is an essay series in which we explore some of the most poignant advice our founders receive during Endeavor’s International Selection Panels.
There has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur. It has nothing to do with barriers to entry, access to capital, or even access to high speed internet, but of course all of those things are important. Now is the time, because there have never been more networks that seek to support entrepreneurs on their journey. Accelerators and incubators abound: There were over 7,000 incubators in 2019, and the number keeps growing. Most of these organizations target early stage entrepreneurs, providing seed capital and mentors who can help first-time founders with business fundamentals. They play an important role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, but they are designed for founders to outgrow them.
A founder who has raised Series A+ has typically outgrown the network and value proposition of early stage accelerators. Sure, there are examples of standout alumni who have now gone on to become unicorns, but if you’re in hypergrowth mode, you probably can’t relate much to your cohort members with flat growth and high cash burn rate. And the mentors in accelerators’ network often see the world through the lens of a classic 2x2 consulting matrix. So where do you turn when you’re beyond B-school basics?
Groups like YPO and WEF seek to provide a forum for C-suite executives to connect and share best practices, but are not always relevant for hypergrowth founders. WEF has amazing content, but in terms of networking, it is reserved for folks who can afford to spend a week and 60K Swiss Francs to fly to Davos and hope to get ten minutes with Bill Gates as he holds court in the Congress Center. YPO is the ideal forum for meeting the people with connections in your home market, but the membership of groups like these are often made up of legacy businesses, financiers, and politicos, who lack firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be a hypergrowth founder in the weeds. Moreover, hypergrowth businesses of today are often borderless, and founders need to be able to glean cutting-edge insights from a global network of those in similar stages of business.
At Endeavor, we pride ourselves on our unrivaled global peer-to-peer network of high-impact entrepreneurs. Because we know if you are building the next Rappi, Careem, or Anghami (all Endeavor Entrepreneurs), you need to be able to talk to people who are experiencing the same challenges as you.
When things are going great, and you want to talk about how much to allow your executive team to sell in secondary at the next raise, you can call a fellow Endeavor Entrepreneur in Atlanta who just did that. When a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic hits and things aren’t going well for your bricks-and-mortar operation, you feel like you can’t tell your significant other, or your team, or your investors. Who can you call? Your fellow Endeavor Entrepreneur in Saudi Arabia who can help you build out an ecommerce store. (These are both recent true stories from the Endeavor network, by the way).
As a founder, you’re thinking, “this all sounds great if I had the time, but I don’t even have time to see my family. How can I make the most of the Endeavor network without it eating up too much of my precious time?”
During Endeavor’s International Selection Panel last week, that very question was raised by one of the candidates, and the answer from the panelists was succinct: Set your OKRs at the beginning of the year; identify who within the network can help you achieve those goals, and focus your attention there. From a tactical advice perspective, this is an efficient approach. I’d only add that identifying and leveraging high-impact, but low time commitment experiences through the Endeavor network is critical. Peer-to-peer connections where you talk about burnout, board issues, or even family pressures are just as valuable, if not more so, than getting an intro to an investor or a new CTO. Endeavor doesn’t believe in the hero myth of entrepreneurs — we support the whole person of founders who are solving real world problems at scale.
So, how do you make the most of Endeavor? Find a fellow Endeavor Entrepreneur who is going through the same challenges as you, and message them on Endeavor OPEN (our internal communication hub) or WhatsApp. For the first time, you’ll experience the support of someone who gets it. You won’t find that anywhere else.
Kirk Benson is Endeavor’s Chief of Staff. Kirk supports Endeavor’s International Selection Panels by identifying and recruiting the top business minds in the world to evaluate and select the latest class of Endeavor Entrepreneurs. You can reach him on LinkedIn here.