Alice Schaus is returning to finish her second year in the International Development program. She spent her summer internship with Endeavor Lebanon, an organization that supports entrepreneurship, in Beirut.

The IDEV Summer Internship Series highlights the experiences of IDEV students participating in internships this past summer. Each year, IDEV students intern with various development organizations around the world. These internships are generously funded by SAIS donors, and offer valuable opportunities for students to gain real-world experience between their first and second years at SAIS. Alice's internship with Endeavor was sponsored by the Ferris Family Foundation.

This summer I worked with Endeavor, a global nonprofit that supports high-impact entrepreneurs in 30 different countries. High-impact entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs with scalable businesses that will create wealth and high-quality jobs, and also reinvest their knowledge and financial gains in the next generation of entrepreneurs. The idea behind Endeavor is that by supporting entrepreneurs that give back to the startup ecosystem, the impact of Endeavor is multiplied, and in fact 90 percent of Endeavor Entrepreneurs go on to serve as mentors, investors, or active promoters of entrepreneurship. Selected entrepreneurs are provided with access to comprehensive customized services, including introductions to local and international business mentors and volunteers from consulting firms who will help them address key needs.

During my internship, I was mostly involved in the Searching & Selection process of new Endeavor Entrepreneurs. Before an entrepreneur gets selected as a high-impact entrepreneur by Endeavor, he or she goes through a rigorous selection process. The last stage of this process is the International Selection Panel (ISP). I was very fortunate to attend the first-ever ISP in Beirut. The whole team in Beirut was involved in organizing the event and was very excited to have people coming from all over the world. During the ISP, panelists (most of whom have a venture capital or entrepreneurial background) interviewed candidates about their businesses, evaluating them on their potential for high-impact growth, and then deliberated on which candidates should be selected to become Endeavor Entrepreneurs.

The panelists ended up selecting six entrepreneurs who collectively lead 12 companies from ten countries. The businesses ranged from an on-demand supermarket delivery service in Italy, to an African payment service based in Kenya and an e-learning platform in Saudi Arabia. Other than helping out at the conference, I was able to attend both the interviews and the deliberations by the panelists as an observer. I was particularly impressed by Al-Mouneer, an Egyptian start-up founded by two women, an ophthalmologist and a data scientist. Al-Mouneer’s goal is to prevent vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy and improve the quality of life for patients with diabetes, by opening diabetic retina centers in the country. These centers are some of the very first to seamlessly integrate technology by going completely paperless and providing patients with tools to manage appointments and access their medical history online. While being a business, this venture also tries to address a social problem affecting a large number of people in Egypt.  

Listening to these start-up stories makes me want to further understand the challenges of building impactful businesses that address critical needs in emerging global marketplaces. I am planning on taking a course on social entrepreneurship at SAIS this year.

PHOTO CREDIT: "Corniche" by Evan Bench, from Flickr Creative Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Below, scenes from the author's time in Lebanon.

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