Endeavor Atlanta Year Two Update and The Power of High-Impact Mentorship

Last month Endeavor Atlanta celebrated its second year of operation. We are grateful for the support from our board, entrepreneurs, mentors, and financial supporters for helping make the last 24 months such a success.

How do we measure success? As an organization that is of, by, and for entrepreneurs, everything starts and ends with selecting great founders leading hyper-growth companies and providing transformational support as they scale.

How are we doing so far? Here are the highlights:

  • Atlanta based Endeavor companies averaged 310% YoY growth in 2018, created 440 jobs, and collectively raised $146M of equity capital since founding

  • 75% of the Atlanta based Endeavor companies qualified for Endeavor Outliers, a program designed for the CEOs of the top performing Endeavor companies worldwide

  • Endeavor Atlanta scored an 88% net-promoter-score in 2018 from Atlanta Endeavor Entrepreneurs (>70% NPS is considered world-class)

And with six high-growth Atlanta companies at the final stage of Endeavor’s selection process, 2019 is an inflection point year for us.

What surprised us in year two? In short, the power of high-impact mentorship.

Mentorship is a word frequently used in the startup world. While adding mentor to a LinkedIn profile is easy, finding and curating great mentors for founders is not but can have an outsized impact on the company. Endeavor’s Global research team, Endeavor Insights, recently completed a first of its kind study of entrepreneur ecosystems that shows top performing companies were over three times more likely to receive mentorship from an entrepreneur who led a company to scale (i.e. larger than 100 employees). This is high-impact mentorship.

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In addition, our experience over the last two years shows effective mentorship requires a mutual level of trust and respect and an openness to feedback on the part of the entrepreneur. Gaining a high level of trust with an extremely busy founder is not a trivial exercise and getting founders to take and filter feedback is tricky. We’ve found that Endeavor’s non-dilutive model creates a unique, “on the side of the entrepreneur” environment where founders are more open to feedback and mentors are more likely to push the entrepreneur to think bigger and scale faster.

George Azih, Founder and CEO of LeaseQuery and Endeavor Entrepreneur, said it best: “Endeavor is the only organization I’ve seen where the mentor's interests and your (entrepreneur) interests are aligned. They don’t have a different agenda. Their sole focus is to support you as you grow and give you the resources to grow faster.”

What can entrepreneurs take from this?

  • Select mentors carefully and ask lots of questions

    • Has the mentor led a high-growth company to a level larger than your company?

    • Will they push you to think bigger and scale faster?

    • If not, do they offer some very specific functional expertise that’s helpful? (e.g., sales, legal, finance)

  • Select investors carefully

    • Do potential investors have experience scaling a company or have prior investments in companies that reached scale?

    • Can the investor connect you to founders who’ve reached scale?

    • As the chart above shows, top performers are over 2X more likely to take investment from entrepreneurs who’ve reached scale.

  • Find the right support programs

    • Find the entrepreneur program or local founder community that fits the stage and industry of your company

  • Seek peer support

    • Serial entrepreneur Mark Gilreath recommended founders join each others Boards to not only provide founder experience and an “on the side of the entrepreneur” viewpoint

I recently heard someone say finding quality mentors for an entrepreneur was “low hanging fruit”. We politely disagree.

We’d love to hear your stories of high-impact mentorship in the comments below.

Six Lessons to Go from Zero to IPO

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Endeavor Atlanta held a Scale-Up Breakfast moderated by David Cummings in conversation with Mark Gilreath. During the Scale-Up Breakfast, Gilreath spoke with a group of entrepreneurs about his career, entrepreneurial journey and the lessons learned from his experiences scaling Given Imaging and EndoChoice. Below are highlights from the conversation and some of Mark’s biggest learnings as an entrepreneur.

Decide, then Speak your Future into Existence

Mark Gilreath finished his undergraduate studies in Finance at Winthrop University. Though job prospects came up, nothing piqued his interest so he decided to enlist in the Navy. After three great years in service to his country, Mark decided it was time for a change. He knew he did not want to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, so he decided to become a medical device salesman. In spite of not having immediate job prospects, Gilreath continued to speak his future into existence. He told everyone he met that he wanted to be a medical device salesman. Eventually, his confidence of speaking his future into existence paid off. Mark was at a party and told a woman about his plans to sell medical equipment. It just so happened her brother was a VP at Pentax Medical. Weeks later he had an interview and the rest was history. Gilreath would spend seven years in a variety of leadership roles at Pentax Medical.

Be Truthful and Transparent

While working for Pentax Medical, Gilreath decided to pursue his MBA at Duke University. He dreamed of starting his own company. Gilreath followed his dream after completing his MBA and founded Vortexmed.com. He led the company for twelve months during the peaks and valleys of the dotcom era before running out of capital. This painful failure taught him a lot. His greatest lesson came when he had to call his investors to inform them their investment was gone. He expected angry responses, but Mark was pleasantly surprised with each of their reactions. They each asked Mark when he was planning his next company because they wanted to invest. He learned that being truthful, transparent, and up front goes a long way in business.

September 11th and a Lesson in Resolve

After closing the doors of Vortexmed.com, Gilreath joined the team at Given Imaging (a small Israeli company). Mark was asked to serve as President of the Americas.  In 2001 the company was set to IPO. Just before the IPO, Mark and the Executive team traveled across the U.S. to gain investor interest. On September 10, 2001 Mark and his team closed out a successful day of connecting with investors and other business leaders alike in New York City. On September 11 the team traveled from NYC to Blackrock, an investment management firm in Wilmington, DE. Just as they began to pitch, the team received news of the bombing of the World Trade Center. It felt like the entire world stopped. The market was down and Given Imaging was tasked with answering a very important question, “What do we do next?” Instead of returning to Israel, the team continued their IPO Roadshow and on October 4th, 2001, Given Imaging became the first successful IPO post 9/11.

Be a Great CEO, then Hire an Even Better CFO

Mark emphasized the importance of hiring a great CFO. When asked, “How did you know you hired a great CFO?” Mark responded, “I learned something from him every week. He knew the business so well he could have been CEO.” Be great and hire even greater talent.

Fulfillment Comes from Grooming the Next Generation of Leaders

After nine years at Given Imaging Mark resigned to begin building his next company. Mark saw a large, underserved market within GI (gastro intestinal) medical devices and services. EndoChoice was founded to create a platform focused on GI. Mark also knew that he did not want to be CEO this time around, so he planned to launch the company then hire a CEO and serve as Chairman. He assembled a small team of marketers and operators, then began to raise capital. In 2008, EndoChoice raised $600K. Months after the raise EndoChoice had big plans to attend a major industry road show. Unfortunately they were burning cash quickly and in need of additional capital. The trade show was taking place on a Saturday, and by Monday EndoChoice would be completely out of capital. At the time only one Venture Capital firm remained interested in investing. Gilreath had a decision to make; burn additional cash by attending the trade show or cancel the big show and conserve capital. Mark and his team decided to attend the show with the intention of blowing it out of the water. The Friday before the conference, the venture capital firm called Mark to let him know they’d fund EndoChoice on one condition; Gilreath had to become CEO. He said yes. EndoChoice would later go on to raise additional growth capital from Sequoia and River Cities Capital, eventually IPO in 2015, and later get acquired by Boston Scientific Corporation (NYSE: BSX) for approximately $210 million.

When asked what he was most proud of, Mark didn’t mention EndoChoice’s acquisition, the prestigious roles he held, or the money. “The thing I was most proud of was the number of people under me who later became CEOs.”

Get Entrepreneurs Involved in your Venture

Mark encouraged all entrepreneurs to seek out their peers for advice and to join their company boards. Fellow Founders are a great resource to tap into as you scale your company. Mark also cautioned all the entrepreneurs in attendance to carefully choose their investors and Board Directors. He shared his experience managing aggressive activist investors and how that can distract and derail a company from its mission.

Endeavor Breakfast and Blog 2018 Greatest Hits

Endeavor Breakfast and Blog 2018 Greatest Hits

2018 has been an exciting year of growth for Endeavor Atlanta. In our second year of operations we added 5 high-impact entrepreneurs to the portfolio, screened dozens of others and began building a strong community of scale-stage founders through quarterly breakfasts and monthly interviews. We thought it would be fun to grab our favorite snippets of information from each of our previous blogs and events and share them in a single post.

LeaseQuery: From Bootstrapped to Atlanta's Fastest Growing Tech Company

LeaseQuery: From Bootstrapped to Atlanta's Fastest Growing Tech Company

The October blog interview is with Endeavor Entrepreneur's and LeaseQuery co-founders, George Azih and Chris Ramsey. LeaseQuery is a cloud-based lease accounting software that enables businesses to simplify accounting for leases and easily comply with the new GAAP lease accounting guidelines. In the last 12 months, LeaseQuery has grown from 8 employees to almost 90 and recognized as one of the fastest growing companies in Atlanta — all of this without raising any outside capital.

Blockchain, Fundraising and Entrepreneurship with Stephen Pair of BitPay

Blockchain, Fundraising and Entrepreneurship with Stephen Pair of BitPay

We continue our interview series with Endeavor Entrepreneur, Stephen Pair. Stephen is the co-founder and CEO of BitPay, the world's leading blockchain payment processor. BitPay has raised over $72M from leading venture capital firms and operates in one of the most exciting industries in the world. We dive into cryptocurrency, the importance of blockchain and why Stephen decided to join Endeavor.