Ever since I first heard of the global nonprofit Endeavor, an outfit dedicated to mentoring and empowering entrepreneurs in emerging countries, a few years ago (former colleague Matt Bannick sits on Endeavor’s board), I’ve thought: why, we need this thing to come to Italy. “It’s venture capital without the capital,” as founder Linda Rottenberg says, in this profile in the Wall Street Journal Magazine. (“Rottenberg […] had made her way to Latin America in the mid-1990s. Her eureka moment came in Buenos Aires. Riding in a taxi cab with a driver who had a Ph.D. in engineering, she asked why he wasn’t an entrepreneur—back home, engineers were starting dotcoms. He reacted with a quizzical look: “A what?””)
Don’t get me wrong: entrepreneurs need capital, too. But first of all they need to live in an environment that understands, appreciates and supports the culture of entrepreneurship. Not the mom-and-pop entrepreneurship of opening a bar or buying a taxi license: but the type of work that, through process or management or technological innovation (it doesn’t have to be technology, although that helps), creates a scalable business where there was none before, and therefore creates value for customers, lifts people out of unemployment, and contributes to growth.
So, here is my proposal: dear Endeavor team, please come to Italy. We’re not that different from the Latin American countries where your work has been so impactful.