Endeavor, the selective global network aimed at helping scaling startups connect with funding, resources, education, and talent, has selected the first two companies to join its Atlanta office, opened earlier this year. After presenting in front of an international selection board last week, QASymphony and Cognira will represent Endeavor’s first southeastern chapter.
To get to the international board, these two companies first had to make it through the local Atlanta board, which includes co-chairs Jeff Arnold, founder of Sharecare, and Boland T. Jones, founder of PGi, as well as executives from Chik-fil-A, Cox Enterprises, H.J. Russell & Company, Rubicon Global, and Atlanta Ventures.
It wasn’t an easy process — according to Aaron Hurst, Endeavor Atlanta Managing Director, 2.5 percent of the companies initially screened for the program make it in.
”We are thrilled to welcome Dave, Hatem, and Bahadir into the Endeavor network. These are experienced entrepreneurs with a track record of scaling ventures and their companies are poised for outsized success,” says Hurst. “In addition, they all have a desire to pay it forward and multiply their impact in the Atlanta ecosystem.”
QASymphony is an agile QA testing software company that has raised about $50 million in funding since being founded in 2011 and was recently named the the 8th fastest-growing private software company in the country on the Inc. 5000 list.
“As I started to discover and learn about the people in this network on a global basis I was simply blown away,” says CEO Dave Keil. “And as I went through the interview process and spent time with CEOs and very senior leaders of huge, successful companies, both in the U.S. and in South America, I could tell that if I was lucky enough to get in, this was going to be an extremely positive opportunity for our company.”
Hatem Sellami, co-founder and CEO of Cognira, also references the unmatched Endeavor network. Cognira does data analytics, forecasting, and software implementation specifically for large retail clients with at least half a billion in revenue. Started by a team of Ph.D’s and data science experts with decades of experience, Cognira already has a large roster of clients and access to multiple markets.
“You could say maybe we don’t need Endeavor. But that wasn’t necessarily true — we need Endeavor because there is always room to learn, there’s always room to be coached and get advice, there are plenty of people that have grown companies bigger than we have,” says Sellami.
He points out the access to talent Endeavor can provide, as well as the connection to investors. Sellami says Cognira plans to raise funding fairly soon.
Keil also says the Endeavor network will help them with talent recruitment, and provide guidance towards the challenges associated with scaling quickly. When Keil started three years ago, QASymphony based most of their development team in Vietnam, with only four developers here in the Atlanta-based U.S. headquarters. That team is now at 65 people and growing.
“The whole challenge around scaling our business is one that is probably going to be the biggest challenge we face,” says Keil. “So what I can now do is learn from the scaling experiences that many other Endeavor members have, and benefit from that experience they can share.”
Both agree Endeavor’s network will give them access to markets in regions they don’t currently have connections in. Endeavor first launched in Latin America and has 30 offices around the globe, in North and South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
Keil says the QASymphony brand, which is already strong in North America and Western Europe (the company opened a London office this year with six employees), will benefit from more connections throughout Europe, Asia, and South America.
“We think that the contacts and the network can really sophisticate our thinking about what it means to have local expertise in countries like Italy and Spain, for example, and then to work with some of these leaders who can help us make the right connections to companies that would ultimately be potential customers for us,” says Keil.
Sellami says they will use the Endeavor network to deepen networks in the Latin America and Asia-Pacific regions. Cognira already has an international brand with a development office in Tunisia, where Sellami is originally from.
In fact, Cognira is the first company ever to be a “joint-office company” between both the Tunisia and Atlanta chapters. These offices opened within two weeks of each other and Sellami was first approached by the Tunisian office.
Due to his connections in Tunisia, after speaking with Endeavor’s co-founder and CEO Linda Rottenberg, he realized that by belonging to both offices he could fulfill the double mission of Endeavor entrepreneurs — to take from the network, and to give back.
“Because Tunisia’s startup ecosystem is new, I can help Endeavor Tunisia and be a mentor to Tunisian companies,” says Sellami. “The model for Endeavor is that you get, and eventually when you make it, you give back. So this partnership helps me allow to get from the Atlanta office, and giving, hopefully from day one, to the Tunisia office.”