A Trip to Latin America Sparks Global Entrepreneur Movement

entrepreneur movement

Linda Rottenberg didn’t set out to start a global movement of entrepreneurs. She just wanted to take a year off to travel through Latin America after completing law school.

But that trip served as the catalyst that eventually led to her starting Endeavor, an investment network for high-impact entrepreneurs around the world.

While spending time in Chile and Argentina, Rottenberg was struck by the lack of jobs available. Other than government jobs, there were only four or five large companies that ever did any hiring. So for those who didn’t fit with those opportunities, Rottenberg thought they would be a natural fit for entrepreneurship. She said in an interview with finance career site OneWire:

“I kept saying ‘Why aren’t you starting a business?’ …I’d tell the story of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in the garage and they’d say, ‘This is Latin America. No one is funding me to start my crazy idea… and I don’t even have a garage.’”

The final straw for Rottenberg came when she found out her cab driver in Buenos Aires had a PhD in engineering. When she asked why he never considered starting a business instead of driving a taxi, she realized there wasn’t even a Spanish word for “entrepreneur.”

So Rottenberg made it her mission to support entrepreneurship in emerging markets. Along with partner Peter Kellner, they look for individuals who already have the ideas and motivation, but just need the startup funds.

Since its launch in 1997, Endeavor has introduced more than 2,700 entrepreneurs to investment opportunities. And those entrepreneurs have created over 400,000 jobs together generating $6.5 billion in revenue in 2013.

Entrepreneurship is a concept that can benefit markets around the world. But certain regions haven’t experienced the same opportunities as others. It may not have been Rottenberg’s original intent to spark entrepreneurship in these emerging markets. But it does make a lot of sense for all parties involved.

Entrepreneurs in these markets now have the opportunity to fund startups they never would have thought possible before. And investors have access to untapped markets and to entrepreneurs with unique ideas and potential.

Perhaps most importantly, the word “emprendedor” is now a well-known term for entrepreneur in Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. Even more entrepreneurial words have been added to lexicons around the world. So even those who haven’t yet had their ventures funded at least have something to aspire to.

Image: OneWire


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

6 Reactions
  1. I’m torn in many of these situations. Is it really the funding that is the only obstacle or are they letting a lack of funding mask low motivation and self-discipline? I’d like to see people start something, even if it’s under-funded and then give them funding instead of people who have been waiting for the funding before starting.

    • I’m sure there’s a little of both, as there is everywhere. I know they have a pretty rigorous application process to separate the ones who actually need funding and have the ideas and motivation to make it work from the rest.

    • Thanks for your comment. At Endeavor, the organization that Linda co-founded, we don’t see lack of funding as the biggest obstacle to entrepreneurship. In fact, Endeavor funds very few of the companies it selects. The purpose of Endeavor is to provide entrepreneurs in emerging and growth markets everywhere with access to mentors and business networks who can help them scale their businesses. Most of the entrepreneurs we work with start their businesses with no expectation they will ever be able to access Venture Capital funding. You can learn more about our model and the entrepreneurs we serve at http://www.endeavor.org

  2. Of course there’s a word in Spanish for “entrepreneur…” EMPRENDEDOR.

    • Yes, that is listed at the end of the post. I’m sure it was around back then, but I think her point was that the cab driver and many of the people she spoke to were not aware of the word. It was just not something they talked about.

  3. Brilliant! I’ve just come back from the Silk Road and saw many emerging entrepreneurs and opportunities. Kazakhstan particularly is taking off.