“In a world that’s transforming radically because of the Covid-19 pandemic, only one path exists for our economic future. That path is the creation of new businesses and ventures. I say this because over the last 50 years, 100% of net new job growth in the U.S. has come from startups -- as big companies got bigger, they also got much leaner and have created exactly zero net new jobs over the last few decades. Moreover, the pandemic has rendered many industries less relevant (e.g., travel), so the need for job creation, and hence startups, has never been greater.” - Bob Dorf, Lifelong entrepreneur, Lean Startup co-developer
What we’ve learned about the Future of Entrepreneurship
If we want to create positive change globally, many global challenges need to be solved first. This is where innovation comes in. Technology at the core of any venture is a low-risk way to scale and build a startup in order to make a positive impact.
For the entrepreneur, what is it that’s needed to build tangible results?
I’ve interviewed Pedro López Sela of ExO Builder to tell us more about ExO Builder, canou, EBELI (Evidence Based Entrepreneurship & Lean Innovation), and how these can help design, develop, scale, and grow new ventures.
Pedro: The story began with 40 friends in the nineties who wanted to create a non-for-profit focused on social mobility/capillarity. We analyzed everything and ended up creating an online business school for people that were studying in or just graduated from IT degrees. We used ICQ (zoom’s grandparent) and Netscape because video conferencing and screen sharing had not been invented yet. We decided to focus on building business capabilities for self-employment and micro enterprising because public universities in Mexico produced per capita one of the highest rates of IT engineers in the world, but there was no industry in Mexico. You would hear about people who studied for four to five years at a university but ended up driving cabs or fixing copying machines. I mean, that's one of the least efficient things I've ever heard, right?
The purpose was just to help these students get some kind of ROI for investing so much time in improving their skills as engineers. To help move them to move at least one step up in Maslow’s pyramid. And then, hopefully, they would start hiring a few friends. This wasn’t going to be a Microsoft or Facebook unicorn, but maybe they would hire 5 to 10 people and bring value to their communities.
Lisa: How did you begin connecting with students?
Pedro: At the time, we were scattered all over the world. I was living in DC, some were in Asia, others in Europe, but we all shared the same purpose of giving back and paying forward. We had been active in student unions and reached out to old friends to build a support network with kids in Mexico.
We started training them individually for periods of 12 months and provided them with stipends to make sure they would not get a job, kind of living expenses if you will. But soon enough we understood that just training them and throwing them out in the world was not efficient either, they needed further support.
We ended up creating a tiny entrepreneurial ecosystem with all the support mechanisms that you see nowadays, except back in the day we were experimenting. To contextualize, we designed entities similar to an incubator, an accelerator, an international accelerator, a soft landing unit, a makerspace, etc.
We had to be resourceful and ingenious so we asked friends for support like pro bono work from consultants or lawyers, like donations from companies that would provide infrastructure, like intros to relevant stakeholders that would help our entrepreneurs move forward. It was not just about giving a couple of lectures, they needed a support system that backs in 2005 someone coined as ‘excubator’ and today we call ‘venture building’.
Our journey was based on knowledge and experience. We basically geeked out for hours talking about experiences we had or books we read that would enable us to empower our entrepreneurs. This is how we built our system.
When we started there was no Lean Startup, it was about rolling your sleeves and bootstrapping. We started putting all the valuable books, tips, tools, do’s and don’ts, best practices, etc. into a big folder called ‘Business Model ToolBox’. A massive super disorganized library that only a few of us knew how to use. And the community started growing to the point that we ended up having about 300 people around the globe pitching in at some point and in some way.
By 2010 we started running cohorts to train more entrepreneurs by developing scale economies. That is when we started building speed and footprint all the way to 2020 when we ran the largest Company Building Program in the world by supporting 2,500+ entrepreneurs with Pacific Alliance and Interamerican Development Bank, as well as cohort number 50.
Lisa: How can an entrepreneur access ‘The Business Model Toolbox’?
Pedro: The BMT evolved. It became so unmanageable that we designed a navigation manual and then decided to just divide it within the group with everyone getting the task of finding the ‘golden nuggets’ within all that information.
This allowed us to create a linear pathway or funnel. So instead of jumping from one book to another, to a web page, etc., you could use the system and follow the steps. That systematization of the BMT was reborn as ‘Evidence Based Entrepreneurship & Lean Innovation’ or EBELI.
Also, when we started supporting larger groups of entrepreneurs, we developed basic software to design startups. We had been fans of Peter Diamandis and Salim Ismail for years and we believed in the 6 Ds. So we digitized business model design and later on venture building. That’s how canou was born. What you can use today is the 5.0 version or, as we like to call it, venture building on steroids.
Lisa: How did you come up with the name canou?
Pedro: An amazing design startup that we worked with, helped us come up with the name. After going through our programs and understanding our ubuntu philosophy (‘a person is a person through other people’), they suggested that our SAAS should be called that way. It was an analogy to ‘being in the same boat’.
Lisa: What will you do next?
Pedro: We have been training people for 20+ years. We have been blessed with the unprecedented support of brilliant generous misfits that we call mentors, senseis, and friends. Now is the time we blow this thing up, the time to grow exponentially until every entrepreneur is empowered. We have experimented long enough.
In 2020 we ran cohorts 48, 49, and 50. Forty-nine was the largest Company Building Program in the world, with 2,500+ entrepreneurs and a teaching team of 300+ experts from 20+ countries. It was massive. And it led us to introspection and analysis of what should follow.
By then, we had trained 100,000+ people from America, Asia, and Europe. Probably about 1’000,000 people have gone through a program based on the whole or a part of EBELI. So we spoke to some of our mentors, some of which you’ll see as panelists on Tuesday’s event. (see information below) We asked what should be next and they challenged us to eat our own dog food. And we did.
We applied EBELI to EBELI and came up with a new foundation:
Massive Transformative Purpose: Until Every Entrepreneur is Empowered
Massive Transformative Objective: 10 Million Entrepreneurs in 10 Years
Lisa: Wow! 10 million in 10 years, how do you plan to reach that many people?
Pedro: It took us 20 years to train a hundred thousand people. The current situation of the world is critical, we must level up to rise to the challenge. Also, now is the time we take advantage of 20+ Gutenberg moments because of Exponential Technologies and rely on the giants that have guided and supported us so far.
By now, we have created a systematic high-impact startup factory that can be replicated and scaled at ease. We are a growing community of experts worldwide trained in training and supporting entrepreneurs.
In 2018 we started training instructors and sherpas. Instructors are experts in EBELI that can guide and train large groups of people, like cohorts. On the other hand, sherpas are entrepreneurs trained in startup mentorship and executive coaching that work alongside entrepreneurial teams. The model was inspired by the mountaineers from the Himalayas, meaning that the teacher must have walked the walk in order to teach.
In 2020 we wrote the book about EBELI and it will be released before the end of 2021. It was a massive collaborative effort with our community members and alumni. We received comments to enrich, update and upgrade EBELI of 7,000+ people. We haven’t heard of such a huge crowdsourcing effort since the Longitude Prize from the British government.
We also adjusted canou to make it even more friendly and more robust. By now it has been used by space scientists, artisans, lab researchers, small business owners, activists, big corporations, PhDs, teenagers, etc. Now, it can be used by entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, government officials, students, educators, innovation managers, and anyone that wants to design, develop, scale and grow any kind of venture.
And finally, we evolved our model with the ExO model. This means that we can replicate our ecosystem with a plug-and-play modality that allows almost immediate scalability.
Lisa: And what about ExO Builder?
Pedro: The ExO Builder is the next generation of entrepreneurial ecosystems’ support network. It is a model based on the inefficiencies of the global markets that focuses on leveraging the global network in order to create real global startups.
Imagine you build a startup with an entrepreneur from Asia, an invention created in Latinamerica, add other entrepreneurs from Europe, raise seed capital in Africa and source mentors from the Middle East. Wouldn't that be something?
With the digitalization we have undergone because of Covid-19, the world could do so. Except, with the ExO Builder you have a team that started working remotely and digitally since the 90’s. Remember ICQ?
The basis of the ExO Builder ecosystem is the ExO Studios, which specializes in Exponential Startups. We are creating a global mesh that connects stakeholders, entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, etc.
With the ExO Builder, we have evolved venture building into an exponential, repeatable, and scalable sherpa-like model for people that want to improve the world. This is how we have created a high-impact technology-based startup factory that can develop regional economies and value chains for exponential growth.
Lisa: How is this different from other entities in the entrepreneurial ecosystem?
Pedro: The global ecosystem is formed by different stakeholders that work together in a delicate balance, each taking care of their role. First, you have entrepreneurial curricula and culture-building activities, such as schools, hackathons, meetups, etc. Then, incubators, where entrepreneurs design their business models. After, accelerators that help scalability of teams and technology. Also, initial funding by grants or awards. And early funding by angels and VCs.
The ExO Builder is a global ecosystem formed by autonomous cells that might work independently or rely on one another, depending on the specific circumstances. And it is connected to some of the most relevant stakeholders in the world, be it entrepreneurial, academic, governmental, not-for-profit, or activists. This is what creates synergies that share the same purpose, improving the world one entrepreneur at a time.
ExO Builder ecosystem is about tangible results, impact, and social mobility.
Respectable entrepreneurs don’t care about all the buzzwords and the lingo. They focus on understanding the problem, making a difference, working on it, and then just helping that ‘thing’ scale and grow. That's what we want to do. It’s about action.
“When Canou/ExO Builder joined OpenExO, many things become possible.” - Kent Langley Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer of OpenExO, Inc.
Join us this Tuesday, October 26, 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM EST for a panel of disruptive ideas and ground-breaking insights as we bring together the most revolutionary minds and reflect on what the future of entrepreneurship will look like in a few years from now.
Why Join Us?
- Be part of an Exponential Ecosystem of Venture Building
- Actively collaborate on transforming the world for a better future
- Get the opportunity to sherpaing organizations in your field of expertise
- Actively collaborate on transforming the world for a better future
- Get access to the EBELI toolsets and be part of their design and development
- Participate with the StartUps, in the cohorts, and the marketplace as many times and as often as you would like
- Be part of teams that have a massive impact on the world
How does one develop business innovation with a new venture? This is where Pedro López Sela will give you some insight. You’ll learn about the Venture Builder model in his recent article: Venture Building: The Most Powerful Tool For Corporate Innovation
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