Twenty-five years ago, founding board members Jason Green, Gary Mueller, and Co-founders Linda Rottenberg and Peter Kellner sat around a kitchen table and laid the framework for Endeavor on the back of a napkin. Together, they settled on a founding mission and envisioned breakthrough results to operate in emerging markets around the world. Jason Green was supposed to sit for a year at the board. He ended up staying for twenty-five.
With more than 2,000 entrepreneurs transforming economies around the world, reality has become bigger than the original dream. Many Endeavor Entrepreneurs, from Wences Casares to Kyle Porter, can trace life-changing moments back to unique conversations they had with Jason—pieces of advice they carry for life and wisdom that guided them when they were at a crossroads.
In this heartfelt retirement letter to the board, Jason Green writes a tribute to the Endeavor community and the mission that brought the four together that 1997 night: to transform economies around the world, one entrepreneur at a time.
25 years is a long time. Pre-Pandemic, Pre-Financial crisis, Pre iPhone, Pre Amazon, Twitter & Facebook, Pre Internet bubble and bust, Pre 9/11. Pre-Kids who are now in college. Pre-Marriage. Pre-receding hairline. Pre-Emergence. A lot has changed in the world and in my life in the last 25 years. Through all of this, Endeavor, you have been a constant. As I reflect on this journey now, I ask myself two questions. How have you, Endeavor, managed to build something so resilient and important in the world despite so much change? How have you captured my imagination for more than a quarter of a century?
In 1997, I moved out to Silicon Valley to try my hand at a still quaint but emerging industry called venture capital. The size of the entire industry back then could be contained by the size of a large VC fund today. I was young, energized, scared, wonderfully naïve, and ambitious. Just before I left New York for Silicon Valley, I got a call from Linda Rottenberg and Peter Kellner asking me to join them for a strategy/visioning session in Peter’s NY apartment. Linda, Peter, Gary Mueller and I batted around ideas and what emerged over boxes of Chinese food that night in Peter’s kitchen was a profound and crazy dream. A dream to build a world leading non-profit helping support entrepreneurs around the globe. We had no right to dream that big, but we didn’t know any better.
Having lived and worked in Budapest, Hungary in 1991 right after the Berlin wall came down, I experienced firsthand the enormous challenges of being a company builder in an entrepreneur unfriendly place. Endeavor’s vision of identifying and lifting up entrepreneurs accelerating economic growth, job creation and innovation with a spirit of giving back was simply exquisite. On the cusp of moving to a new place trying to build a career in VC I was hesitant to commit but told Linda I would for a year. As many of you have experienced, the gravitational pull that is Linda and Endeavor is a force to be reckoned with. Here I am 25 years later, still experiencing the same joy, excitement, fulfillment and energy that attracted me so many years ago.
Endeavor you have been a constant and important companion on my own entrepreneurial journey. You showed me how to plant the seed of a big dream and feed it with passion, optimism, and determination. I’m not sure I would have had the courage to start my own firm, nor been as successful, had I not seen what was possible watching the bravery and resilience of the Endeavor entrepreneurs I met. If they believed in themselves with all the barriers and risks they faced, how could I not believe in myself? Meeting the young Wences Casares of Patagon.com, Andy Freire and Santi Blinkis of Officenet, Martin Migoya and Guibert Andres Englebienne of Globant, or Marcos Galperin and Hernan Kazah from Mercado Libre was so darn inspiring.
Endeavor there were times in my travels around the world I questioned what I was doing going to places like Chile, South Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Jordan, the Philippines, Bulgaria or Saudi Arabia among so many others. But upon my return it was clear, as I carried what I called the Endeavor afterglow. I so appreciate the many years of steadfast support from my wife Ann and my partners at Emergence Capital, Gordon Ritter and Brian Jacobs and others supporting me in those efforts.
What I learned on those adventures abroad were that despite our myriad of differences, across geographies, languages, laws, religions, customs and cultures, Endeavor entrepreneurs are a common force for good. Endeavor entrepreneurs all want to make a difference, to provide for their families and communities, to build something lasting and of significance. They showed up not for money, but for the love of the game, the desire to be better and the aspiration to be great. I watched in awe as the ever growing Endeavor ecosystem of ISP participants and supporters traveled across continents and multiple time zones to generously give their time and expertise with no expectation of any direct benefit. Endeavor showed me the best in people and made me love humanity even more. Many deep and lasting friendships have emerged due to the sacred and magical process called an international selection panel (ISP).
Endeavor, you have given me the opportunity to build long and lasting relationships as a board member, mentor, coach and confidant. To watch and support the growth of team members and leaders like Allen Taylor, Larry Brooks, Fernando Fabre, Adrian Garcia-Aranyos, Margarita Chavez, Joanna Harries, Jackie Carmel and so many others along the way has been a tremendous honor and privilege.
Generally, I look to avoid joining board committees, but the opportunity to work with true superstars like Nicolas Szekasy, on Audit, and Reid Hoffman and Nick Beim on Catalyst over the years has been incredible. The organization has never been stronger financially and organizationally. The brilliance of the Catalyst model championed by Nick, Reid and former board member Joanna Rees has demonstrated the potential for a truly self-sustaining philanthropy.
As a brilliant and visionary co-founder, Peter Kellner, bet on me as a young VC to join the board of Endeavor, and was an early and passionate advocate when I started my own firm Emergence. I will never forget that.
From our Chairman, Edgar Bronfman Jr., I learned what it meant to be a great Chairman and the commitment and passion required to take an organization from being quaint to important. Your combination of intellect, leadership, humanity and humility is something I will always aspire to emulate. Not to mention, my repertoire of off-color jokes has expanded immeasurably with every Gala.
Finally Linda Rottenberg, our fearless leader. We talk about big bubbles at Endeavor. The bigger the bubble, the bigger the impact. You are the air in my Endeavor bubble. You are the air in all Endeavor bubbles. It’s hard to describe the depth of admiration and respect I have for you as a visionary and as a leader. You have, through force of will and personality, curated the most exquisite and diverse network of people on the planet aligned on making a difference. You have a superpower that makes everyone feel connected and valued. You have grown and continue to grow immeasurably as a leader and been courageous and determined to keep the Endeavor spirit alive and relevant. I know of no one I respect or admire more as an entrepreneur and I have been blessed to be by your side for the last 25 years.
While my time has finally come to step down as a board member, Endeavor is and always will be in my heart and soul.
Thank you Endeavor for a remarkable life chapter for which I am forever grateful and proud.
Onward and upward!
Founding Board Member, Endeavor