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The Entrepreneur Factor

Monthly Archives: October 2011

Carlos Slim has ranked somewhere in the top 3 on the Forbes’ list of richest men since 2006. As he continues to amass wealth, he could become billionaire number 1 for the third year in a row. By his own accounts, Carlos Slim Helú is not a self-made man but his father, Don Julian Slim Haddad, was. Don Julian was a keen entrepreneur and he taught his kids to be the same. He started with a Lebanese dry goods store in Mexico City and it grew from there. By the time he died, the Slim family owned several properties, businesses, and stocks.

Carlos followed in his father’s steps. His first venture was the 1965 acquisition of Inversora Bursatil and Jarritos del Sur. He incorporated it into Inmobiliaria Carso, later known as Grupo Carso. He persevered in purchasing properties and investing in industrial and commercial companies throughout the years. When the inflation of 1982 crippled most businesses, he invested and rehabilitated them. His big break was the purchase of the country’s telecommunications giant, Telmex.  With a knack for sniffing out good deals, he now owns over 200 companies in Latin America alone. His latest acquisitions include increased shares in the New York Times and Saks.

Owning all of this has earned him the moniker Mr. Monopoly in Mexico. He has also been accused of using political contacts to further enhance his wealth. There is even a Slim Watch segment in a Mexican online publication. Being a capitalist in a developed country with a corrupt government will definitely continue to make Slim and others like him under suspicion.

Having trained the next generation to run his company, Slim is now more active in the philanthropic work. The projects run by Telmex and Ideal show that his takeover days are over as he focuses on uplifting the economies of the developed countries he works with.

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If you think of a fashion guru, Phil Knight is the last person that would come to mind. But Knight is actually a very important figure in the world of fashion, especially in sports apparel. Phil Knight is inarguably the king of sports fashion, if not the king of sports controversy.

Without a degree in fashion, his clothing and shoe company did not start out in typical fashion style. Philip Hampson Knight started out by selling Japanese Adidas knockoffs from the back of his car. However, with the help of his track coach, Bill Bowerman, they came up with designs that were innovative and functional. Knight even tested new shoes out himself.

His business degree and a calling for entrepreneurship played a significant part in his success. By mixing that up with his love for sports, he was able to build his shoe empire and expand into sportswear and equipment. He redefined the business of sports, especially with the way he inadvertently made other athletes part of his brand as his product.  Now, are you wondering what his company is? It’s Nike.

His strength lies in the way he is willing to take risks, especially on the marketing side. Nike has always come up with bold and memorable marketing slogans and advertisements. Knight seems to thrive on the amount of publicity and controversy his ad could generate, focusing on getting the product out there and in everybody’s face. It had even come to a point when all that was needed was a swooshing sound and everybody knew what it was.

His campaigns may have caused controversy; his love for sports may have made him too extravagant to a fault; but no one can deny how his brand, the logo and the slogans have become more popular because of them.

phil knight

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By coming up with a way to help Bangladeshi women earn money for themselves, Muhammad Yunus has placed microcredit and the Grameen Bank on the spotlight. The social entrepreneur earned praise for the microfinance innovation that has won the world over. Yet certain decisions have tarnished his good name and slighted microcredit. Will this negative campaign be enough to smear both?

He was an economics professor at Chittagong University when massive rainfall and floods overtook Bangladesh leaving its poor inhabitants without food or money for the rising cost of crops. The worsening poverty and high mortality the mass starvation caused had bothered him. So he went to nearby Jobra in search of a solution that could help the villagers.

On one occasion, Yunus lent a total of $27 as capital to female basket weavers at a very low interest rate. Their income successfully helped provide for their families and slowly paid off the debt. The Grameen project was, thus, born.  In time, Yunus established the Grameen Bank based on his vision of the right to credit to be “recognized as a fundamental human right”.

The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize was the highest recognition he received. However, he said that his conscience started bothering him again. This time, he decided to go into politics. Things started going downhill from there.

Although long out of the political arena, former allies in the government still view him as a threat and continue to discredit him and what he stands for. The latest move was his removal from his post as managing director of Grameen Bank for noncompliance. Politicians also discredited his work claiming microcredit isn’t an effective model.

Yunus continues to find support from other countries and their leaders. He doesn’t let the mudslinging affect his mission. And although microcredit still has a long way to go and isn’t the end-all solution to poverty, efforts are being made to improve on it. In the eyes of the rest of the world, his legacy will remain.

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Andrew GowerAndrew Christopher Gower is one of the richest young entrepreneurs today, yet only a few know  him. He rarely gives out interviews, and the international media doesn’t mind. Online, there’s nothing much to read about him. It’s amazing how he was able to keep his life away from the eye of the press when he had over £113 million – that’s about$174 million – in his pocket.  And that was way back in 2008.

To those who don’t know him, Gower is the lead developer and co-founder of Jagex, Ltd., a Java-based game creator and distributor. Gaming geeks may be familiar with the MMORPG game RuneScape, which he personally created while still a student at Cambridge. It wasn’t the first game he created though; Gower has been into programming since he was seven. He knew he wanted a career in computer games by the age of 10. After engaging in programming for years, he built Jagex with his brother Paul Gower and friend Constant Tedder.

Was it difficult for him to transcend from being a programmer to company owner?  Yes, so much so that he decided to let go of his position as a member of the board of directors last year. He remains only as the principal architect, but the company will forever be his brainchild.

His decision to let go of the reigns is probably due to his extremely private persona.  In an exclusive interview, Grower commented on being on the Sunday Times Rich List every year.  He never liked it, he said. He wished people focused more on the games he created rather than himself. It was never really about the money for him. It was all about his passion. Having been named as one of UK’s richest young entrepreneurs, Grower said that he did not aim to make millions out of creating games. Wealth only followed, to his surprise.

To those aspiring to be like him, his advice is to create realistic goals and stick to what they have passion for.

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