Andy Freire, co-founder of both Officenet and Axialent, came to campus last week to speak with students about his passion for entrepreneurship. After an initial career at P&G, Friere co-founded and led Officenet, which was purchased by Staples in 2004. His company revolutionized the industry of distribution of office supplies in Latin America. The business raised over fifty million USD. This came from investors including Goldman Sachs, GE Capital, JP Morgan Chase, KKR, among others.
Andy helped Officenet grow organically to over USD 80 million in sales and almost 1,000 employees within five years. A case study about Officenet was written by Harvard Business School and has been taught at over twenty-five universities including Stanford, Georgetown, Commercial University of Paris. Andy has also severed as chairman and CEO at another one of his co-founded organizations, Axilant, a consulting and corporate training firm helping Fortune 500 firms align their corporate culture and leadership behaviors with long term strategy and company values. Axilant has over twenty operations globally and their academic board includes Peter Senge, Ken Wilber and Fred Kofman.
In his talk, it became clear that Friere believes that the characteristics of a good entrepreneur are the ability to adapt to changing scenarios and the ability to find opportunities in them. Entrepreneurs should always to find creative answers to enhance their business strategies and ideas. This ability to face instability also generates additional virtues in entrepreneurs. One of them is being persistent in finding better paths to develop their projects.
We usually think about how institutions or the government can generate proper conditions to promote an entrepreneur friendly environment, but Friere asserted that the real question should be how entrepreneurs can create a favorable environment for the development of their country.
The Officenet leader said that entrepreneurship can and should be one of the most important engines of national development. Friere urged the audience to create environments suitable for enhancing entrepreneurship capacity, focusing on the diffusion of an ethical corporate culture that generates employment, wealth, and innovation for the country.