Linda Rottenberg

Ms. Rottenberg is the CEO and co-founder of Endeavor, the first global organization focusing on the “scale-up” phase of entrepreneurship. Headquartered in New York with 350 employees and 20 affiliates throughout Latin America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Europe, Endeavor identifies, mentors, and co-invests in “high-impact” entrepreneurs — business innovators demonstrating the greatest potential for growth. Since 1997, Endeavor has screened 40,000 candidates and handpicked nearly 1,000 entrepreneurs who’ve created 400,000 jobs and generate $7 billion annually. In 2013 Endeavor brought its model to the U.S.

Linda-Rottenberg_P1My Definition Of Success | In the beginning of Endeavor, success meant getting people in emerging markets talking about entrepreneurship before there was even a word for it.  Now that Endeavor has grown to over 20 markets with more than a thousand entrepreneurs in the network, we have helped turn entrepreneurship into a household term in many of the countries we work in. Today, success means that I can bottle up my experience working with these entrepreneurs to help anybody learn to think and act like an entrepreneur in everyday life. I want to show that anyone can get going, go big and still go home.

A Key Talent | My ability to ‘stalk’ (investors, board members, entrepreneurs, etc.) served me well when I was getting started with Endeavor. Stalking is an underrated startup strategy!  That’s right, stalking can be just as important as having capital.  Get over the sense that you might be perceived as aggressive; find a little courage and reach out to a mentor you admire.  People respond to passion. I once waited for a potential investor outside the men’s room, and after he emerged, I explained why I wanted a few minutes of his time.  He ultimately agreed to co-chair Endeavor’s global advisory board. It’s not just about stalking supporters or allies either; follow your competition and customer base just as closely if you want to refine and grow your ideas.


Critical Skills I Develop | Over 17 years with Endeavor, I’ve uncovered a few key traits that successful entrepreneurial leaders learn to do right. Agile leaders encourage their teams to adjust and experiment constantly. In today’s age of sharing, the best leaders also have to be open and willing to share more and demonstrate accessible personalities. The final lesson to success may be the most challenging and most important of all:  Expose yourself. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. These are all challenges I’ve encountered and adjusted to throughout the years.
How I Use My Mind | I’ve found that the greatest barriers to entrepreneurship are not financial or structural. They are psychological.   People don’t give themselves permission to be contrarian or to take that initial risk. They’re worried people are going to call them crazy. They’re worried they’re going to lose their jobs. But nowadays, you have to get yourself in the mindset to take risks or risk getting left behind. I was called crazy when I launched an organization for entrepreneurs, so I eventually made it my motto: ‘Crazy is a compliment.’ If you’re planning to start something new, to zig when everyone else zags, you should fully expect to be called nuts.

Lessons I Have Learnt | To go big, you have to learn to take the risk out of risk-taking. We think of entrepreneurs as cavalier, but most are cautious. Even a well-known maverick like Richard Branson says the goal is ‘contained disasters’. The bottom line is: Don’t bet the farm, bet a few chickens instead. I’ve also come to find that, contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs are not just boys in hoodies (despite all the hype around Silicon Valley). The fastest-growing groups starting businesses are women and Baby Boomers over 55. Everyone can learn to be more entrepreneurial! Finally, once a venture begins to get traction, you then have to learn to embrace it. And that sometimes means cutting loose early employees who may well share your last name. Three-quarters of entrepreneurs launch companies with friends or family. They assume these relationships will last forever. They don’t. You need a start-up prenup.

The Best Advice I’ve Received | If you plan to try something new, you should expect to be called crazy. You can’t rock the boat without being told you’re off your rocker. Henry Ford was called “Crazy Henry;” Jack Ma, who recently took Alibaba public, was called “Crazy Jack.” That also goes for those making change inside companies, like the team at Microsoft behind Xbox, which colleagues dismissed as “Coffin Box.” As I mentioned earlier, the biggest barriers to change are not financial, they’re psychological. You have to zig when everyone else zags. In fact, I think that if you’re not being called crazy, then you’re not thinking big enough!

Advice On Building Wealth | An entrepreneur should never be a daredevil. Change making is a fine balance between taking risk and removing it. Once you accept a certain measure of risk, your primary task is to minimize it. The founder of Liquid Paper, Bette Graham, hatched her crazy idea while watching painters decorate Christmas windows at the bank where she was a secretary. But she worked five more years while selling her potion from her home.  Phil Knight prepared taxes until he felt he was successful enough to spend full-time running Nike.  Eighty percent of entrepreneurs I’ve mentored said they had saved enough money to support their families for a year before they got started. If you want to succeed, your first step is to have a safety net that will take the risk out of risk-taking.

On Inspiring Others | Effective leaders are less super, more human. I heard a term that encapsulates this idea perfectly: “flawsome.” A combination of “flawed” and “awesome,” “flawsome” is a way to say something is great but imperfect. In business, the term has come to mean an awareness of, and a willingness to admit, your shortcomings. This relates to your products, your workers, and your organization. Leadership today is not simply about making yourself look good; it’s also about how you respond when you look bad. Learning to be an accessible and authentic leader has helped me find and relate to the best people in my organization.

The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | I want to leave a world where anyone who dreams of trying something new won’t be afraid to think BIG and get ‘crazy’. I wrote my book, Crazy Is A Compliment, for people who are joining companies, leaving companies, starting companies, or changing companies from within, and many who will never set foot in companies at all. I wrote it for anybody who wants to take risks but wants to do it without risking it all. Deep down I was also writing for my twin daughters Tybee and Eden. I especially want to prepare them for the world  they’re about to enter, where career paths are no longer straight; ladders have tumbled; and rats are less willing to run someone else’s race. In short, I want to leave a world where everyone can learn to be an entrepreneur in everyday life.

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