endeavor louEarlier this month, Insider broke the news that Louisville was set to become the third city in North America to launch an Endeavor affiliate. Endeavor is a prestigious nonprofit program that focuses on high-impact entrepreneurs around the world and provides them with a global mentoring network.

IL talked with Jackson Andrews, the new local head of the program, to learn more about what to expect and how Endeavor may impact the Louisville entrepreneurial community.

Endeavor was founded in 1997 by Linda Rottenberg and Peter Kellner while they were attending Yale Law. Since then, it has served more than 1,000 entrepreneurs and 600 companies. It’s helped create $6.8 billion in revenues and 400,000 jobs. The program is headquartered in New York City.

A testament to the quality of resources in our community, Louisville actually leapfrogged over other cities that had Endeavor affiliate planning in the works. Atlanta, Denver and Toronto are all set to come on board with the program soon, according to Andrews.

“It’s a great win for our city,” Andrews said. “It’s a point of pride for the region.”

The program is focused on scale-ups and high-impact entrepreneurs. The typical entrepreneur who is invited to participate in Endeavor averages $2.5 million in revenue, has 40 employees, and has been in business for four years. More importantly, that entrepreneur must show a desire to give back to the community.

The fact that we were able to establish an Endeavor program here, said Andrews, is proof that “big ideas can go big here.”

The program is being funded in part by the Ogle Foundation, the Gheens Foundation and the Blue Sky Foundation and the members of the local board.

Entrepreneurs are nominated or apply to the program; the local staff also will work to identify qualified entrepreneurs. Over the course of time, the companies receive mentoring and are vetted a number of times until, at the end of the process, they’ve honed their business idea well enough to proceed to the International Panel, where companies are stringently vetted over the course of a few days.

Andrews expects to be able to field six companies a year to the International Panels, which are held six times a year. Only once you make it successfully through those panels do you become an Endeavor Entrepreneur. The next International Panel is in Morocco in October.

The robust network of Endeavor Entrepreneurs opens up avenues to talent, new markets, investors and mentors. Andrews said the focus is “getting the right advice at the right time.”

Endeavor Entrepreneurs also build upon their peer networks at retreats where what Andrews called “happy collisions” are made.

The end game is for these companies to achieve rapid growth and eventually give back to the community by mentoring “younger” companies, multiplying the impact Endeavor has on the community. “Scale up, grow big and give back” is the organization’s ethos.

The local board for Louisville has a number of heavy hitters, including:

  • Sandra Frazier, CEO and managing member of Tandem Public Relations
  • Dan Jones, founder and CEO of 21st Century Parks
  • Kent Lanum, president and CEO of The Paul Ogle Foundation
  • John Schnatter, founder and CEO of Papa John’s International
  • Kent Taylor, founder and CEO of Texas Roadhouse

Founder Linda Rottenberg said she wanted to take “the magic of Silicon Valley and sprinkle it places.” The first places Endeavor worked with were in Chile and Argentina.