Shattering Myths: CEO Forum with Linda Rottenberg

Linda Rottenberg, CEO of Endeavor

NEW YORK, May 15, 2009 - Linda Rottenberg, CEO and co-founder of the nonprofit organization Endeavor, says successful entrepreneurship is not necessarily borne out of "the most revolutionary idea" but rather a business model that "shatters myths," is sustainable, and underscores a passion to help others.

Endeavor seeks to build profitable small businesses on a global scale and only targets entrepreneurs with high-impact potential.

Speaking to Fortune magazine Contributing Editor and Asia Society Associate Fellow Sheridan Prasso, Rottenberg told the story of two Brazilian women trying to improve self-esteem among women. Their goal: expand distribution for a product to tame unmanageable hair. Today, these ambitious entrepreneurs have attained multi-million dollar earnings. Rottenberg said their success spotlights Brazil’s entrepreneurial spirit and private enterprise where "failure is not an option."

Rottenberg and Prasso spoke about how entrepreneurs from emerging market countries are building high-impact companies, and transforming the private sector landscape in India, Egypt, and worldwide.

Endeavor has increasingly become the catalyst for supporting entrepreneurs with little or no access to sufficient government funding in their home countries. Despite the financial crisis, Rottenberg believes entrepreneurs can capture a larger market share, hire better talent, and tackle problems more swiftly than large firms.

She said "dream big and seize the opportunity" should be the mantra for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to transform the private-sector landscape in emerging nations.

Rottenberg said her organization matches their entrepreneurs with the right business organization. She talked about one success story, a Japanese engineer with an innovative design for wind turbines. Endeavor not only secured a team of Harvard Business School professionals but also helped him negotiate deals with General Electric. Today, he is accredited with roughly 60 percent of the wind turbine design market.

On a more personal note, Rottenberg said Endeavor's potential candidates face a grueling cross-examination by the company's selection board. Of the hundreds of competitors, only a few are approved. Success is often based on their business plan. "For me, you’ve got to marry a great entrepreneur with a mind to scale a business, with a social social need," Rottenberg said. "That’s when it works.” Accepted candidates have received mentorship and training from top consulting firms such as Deloitte and McKinsey & Company.

Reported by Eva Yang and Chandani Punia