Ernst & Young is on the search again, for the 26th year, looking for the world's top entrepreneur, a journey that involves thousands of the world's top business leaders and their advisors, judging panels, and a lot of galas and other networking events.
This Saturday, Ernst & Young will announce the winners of its N. America competition at a dinner event at the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill, in San Francisco. Winners in eight categories will be chosen from 26 regional finalists, out of group of 135 companies chosen from 1,700 entries.
Last year, Andrew Mason, CEO of Groupon, and Reid Hoffman, founder of Linked-In, were among the winners. [US Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 winners]
"The entrepreneurs are nominated by others, but they can also nominate themselves," says Ernie Cortes, a partner at Ernst & Young and one of the lead organizers of the competition. "What we're looking for, is not the best managers, or the best financial performance, or the best turnaround story, we're trying to identify the best entrepreneurs."
What are those qualities? That's what several layers of judging panels, and hundreds of on-site and off-site interviews, will determine. It's a process that rolls around the globe in 50 countries, until finally, the "World Entrepreneur of the Year" is named at an event in Monaco.
"There's no cash prize," says Mr Cortes. "But our winners have a large number of liquidity events compared with other companies."
"The CEOs like spending time with other CEOs, especially in other industries. They don't get many chances to do that," adds Mr Cortes.
I spoke with Bill Demas, one of the finalists for the N. American competition. He's the CEO of Turn, a fast growing digital marketing company. He's also worked at Microsoft, Overture, and Yahoo!
"I was impressed with the thoroughness of the entire process of selection and interviews. We've been treated very well."
What is entrepreneurship? For Mr Demas, it is closely tied to innovation.
"It's about being able do something truly different, it's not about doing the same things. It's about being able to trust your gut and vision and produce something of value. It's about knowing your customers and their needs, even before they know them."
Mr Demas is certainly a good manager. He has grown the company from around 50 people when he joined in 2008 to more than 160. He has a great financial story to tell, he has managed to double revenues every year. He also has a successful turnaround story, transforming the company from a very troubled advertising network business.
Those are qualities that mark him a top CEO. Tomorrow we'll find out if he's also one of the world's top entrepreneurs.
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