The following is a guest post by Francisco Santos Diaz, Director General of INMET, Industrias Metalúrgicas Nacionales C.A. and curator of the Valencia, Venezuela Startup Digest.
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Normally, when people hear about Venezuela in the news, it is expected to hear about oil, OPEC, surrealistic political issues, or beautiful women winning international beauty contests. Nowadays, news includes food and medicine scarcity, electricity rationing, protests, violence in the streets, homicide statistics, and a diaspora of youth leaving a country on the verge of a social explosion. This is not all about what Venezuela has to offer, of course.
In Venezuela, there is a city, Valencia, located in a Valley (hoping to mirror the Silicon), that is number one in the country in terms of industrial production. Located 25 minutes from the main sea port, it is home of the car industry — assembling plants, such as Ford, GM, Chrysler, or headquarters of Mack, Volkswagen and many others, heavy industries, chemicals, manufacturers, food industries like Kraft or the top local brands (Polar) are all located in Valencia.
Valencia, with more than 1.5 million people, has good universities and the population pyramid brings the young, the majority in the street. This is the environment that can create in this big valley, the perfect space to be melt with the new tech environment.
2016 marks the beginning of a new “Valencia Tech.” The first Startup Weekend was celebrated during March at the Executives Association (Asociacion de Ejecutivos del Estado Carabobo). After this successful first experience, the city is planning to do its second Startup Weekend during July, and some other events are in preparation to be done this year. Already, some of the projects presented at the first Startup Weekend are real companies developing their activities and moving ahead.
Besides these private initiatives, Alejandro Feo la Cruz, the Major of Naguanagua, a county in Valencia City, is developing the first legislation on Digital Communities (including discounts on local taxes for digital companies in Naguanagua County). That political movement has made an echo in other majors and we wish that this can be the first of a group of actions that can look at the virtual economy, which for decades has been a blind spot for politics.
All this action improves the chances that small startups can survive a difficult business environment that includes more than nine quarters of negative GDP and inflation above 480% (IMF inflation forecast for 2017 see prices that will rise above 1.400%, http://goo.gl/AWSj59).
Still, in 2016, besides the new generations, the government and most of the society has always been looking at oil, raw materials, heavy industries, manufacturing, and construction as the “real economics.” It is now in the hands of the young to destroy these old prejudices and paradigms that have been weighing so hard until a crisis has made all of us to take a look at digital entrepreneurship as a way to survive the perfect economic storm.
So that is how marketing freelancers, small startups, entrepreneurs — all of them a new generation of digital citizens — are rising in the middle of an industrial city, surrounded by the hardest economic crisis ever felt by Venezuela, just waiting for their chance to become the social entrepreneurs and new unicorns that will change a dark present for a promising future where opportunities will turn into a better reality for all. The next chapter to see what’s going on in Valencia will be at the second Valencia Startup Weekend (Check goo.gl/ECwqWJ and Twitter: @valenciavensw).
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