New York

Linda Rottenberg, AB ‘90; Co-founder & CEO, Endeavor Global

Linda Rottenberg

Linda Rottenberg

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur – I became one accidentally when I came across a problem that I just had to solve! The now infamous founding story behind Endeavor is that I was riding a taxi in Buenos Aires circa 1990s when I learned that the driver had an engineering degree but couldn’t find any other job. He didn’t want to work for the corrupt government or the private head honchos, yet the concept of starting one’s own business was outlandish at the time in Latin America. I co-founded Endeavor to help othersbecome entrepreneurs by creating support networks that would encourage people to take risks, think big and affect change.

What three pieces of advice/lessons learned would you give about the entrepreneurial journey?

  1. You don’t need a hoodie, Silicon Valley zip code or golden rolodex to have a million-dollar idea!  The biggest barriers to entrepreneurship are not financial, structural, cultural, or political; they are psychological. The keys to unlocking success are believing in yourself and finding others who believe in you.

  2.  Surround yourself with mentors or role models who can offer you a rotating mixture of tough love, fresh insights, strategic expertise and clear direction for when you lose your way—as every entrepreneur inevitably does! 

  3. Accepting the world as it is will likely lead to a life that’s, well, acceptable. If you want to have a more fulfilling life, you’ll look at the world around you not as it is, but as it can be.

What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur?

It’s a great excuse to be crazy! I always say, If you’re not being called crazy it means you’re not thinking big enough. Being misunderstood is par for the course! 

Do you believe there is some sort of pattern/formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?

I believe that there are recommended strategies but no surefire formulas. We have more than 1,400 entrepreneurs in the Endeavor network today and none took the same path to get there. Take two of our earliest and most successful entrepreneurs from Argentina: one of them (Wences Casares, Founder of Xapo) is the son of sheep farmer who started several failed ventures before striking gold; the other (Marcos Galperin, Founder of MercadoLibre) graduated from Wharton and Stanford then worked at JP Morgan before returning home to start his now NASDAQ-listed company. An entrepreneur is fundamentally in the business of disrupting the status quo and doing the unexpected, so the idea that there could be a set rulebook for going about it is oxymoronic!

How has your Harvard education benefited you personally, professionally as an entrepreneur?

I majored in Social Studies which trained me to think about the various drivers of social impact, from the political to the cultural to the individual. It also introduced me to Joseph Schumpeter, the Austrian economist who argued that a nation’s “fiery spirits” (a.k.a. entrepreneurs) are its most powerful economic change agents as forces of “creative destruction.” He’s the one that spoke out to me most from my requisite shelf of dead white men (Webster, Tocqueville, Durkheim, etc) that I still keep in homage to my SocStud days! My global education has continued off the page and deepens everyday as I speak with entrepreneurs in emerging markets tackling problems in innovative ways. I can’t overstate the importance of spending time in other countries to gain a global understanding of doing business and doing life!

Endeavor Inc.

Established in 1997, Endeavor is leading the global high-impact entrepreneurship movement by selecting, mentoring, and accelerating fast-growth companies around the world. To date, Endeavor has screened more than 50,000 entrepreneurs and selected more than a thousand individuals leading over 850 companies that have created 650,000 jobs and generated $10 billion in revenues. Headquartered in New York City, Endeavor currently operates in 28 countries throughout Europe, Latin America, North America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East