Making Connections at SXSW: Startup America and Endeavor
Over 60 entrepreneurs attended a pre-South by Southwest (SXSW) event Wednesday called the Entrepreneur's Unconferencence. The gathering of global entrepreneurs, hosted by Dell, was an unformatted event; The participants created the agenda, made panels on issues that affect their business, and shared best practices with their peers. Though the sessions were active and engaging, the highlight of this event was learning about the work of two organizations that support the work of entrepreneurs, Startup America and Endeavor Global.
Let's start with Endeavor. It's a program that finds promising pockets of entrepreneurs around the world, and selects mentors to accelerate the growth of their start-ups. David Assael and David Basulto, who co-founded a global architectural news site called Arch Daily, have first hand knowledge of working with Endeavor.
When the two Davids started in 2008, they quickly gained a following of architects in their native Chile. Assael, an architect himself, said: "Many architect's look for inspiration, materials, and resources for their projects. We let architects upload their pictures, blueprints, materials lists and information about great projects they've done. One architect told us his coverage on our site led to 14 magazine articles and changed his business."
Arch Daily's unique model lead to rapid growth; it soon expanded into the US market, and a further to Brazil.
"We didn't have a business background, we're architects," said Assael. "Endeavor helped mentor us, and gave us the help to dream big. They connected us to people, meetings and feedback from people who have run large companies. People from countries like ours don't always have references for creating startups, so we need to learn to dream." Today, the two are now running a 60-person firm with offices in Sao Paulo, Santiago, and New York City, reaching over 5,000,000 architects per month.
And then there's Startup America. CEO Scott Case gave me an update on their year of growth. "Since last year's SXSW conference, we've focused on more clearly defining who we help – companies in their first five years run by the founders," he said. "We try to connect them with the community of other entrepreneurs around them, and connect them to serial entrepreneurs at the local level."
Case reports that Startup America has obtained commitments for over $1 billion in in-kind services, connected with 6,000 start-ups covering every state and territory, and has started a webinar-based experts series.
It is encouraging to see these kinds of connections for startups, both in the U.S. and abroad. This is just the beginning of a huge influx of start-up companies and resources descending on Austin, Texas for SXSW, and we'll be bringing you coverage each day from the conference.