Strengthening the Ecosystem of Startups in Latin America

Latin America has always been a fascinating region to me. Its cultural and geographic diversity make it one of the most interesting in the world, and those things that most capture my attention are their ability to adapt to changes and the infinite imagination they have to overcome adversity.

It is no surprise, then, that it is one of the most enterprising regions and its ecosystem of startups is one of the most dynamic and with the highest potential on the planet. Several technology companies have emerged in the region in recent years, and many of them have been consolidated in markets which, in principle are on the outside, like the American one.

Latin America is facing an historic opportunity to generate wealth and employment through entrepreneurship, relying on its entrepreneur DNA to generate new businesses, attracting foreign startups who seek to base their operations in the region in search of new users. Harnessing this potential requires governments to be able to articulate smart public policies focused on the needs and concerns of Latino entrepreneurs, fostering an innovative approach to solving local problems.

With these problems in mind, Techstars, with the support of Google, have carried out a process of discussion with entrepreneurs and industry benchmark agents about the five pillars that we believe are required to build thriving communities of entrepreneurship in the region, including the creation of public policies. During 2015, we organized discussion workshops in nine cities in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic to share concerns, identify success stories, and think of solutions that strengthen the ecosystem of startups based on culture, density, capital, talent and regulatory environment.

Among the most interesting results we have detected are the need to generate more women entrepreneurs by promoting the study of technological careers from an early age in this demographic, as well as working to change the sometimes inaccurate perception within the region on venturing and failing as part of the learning process. From a regulatory point of view, the most discussed topics were on how to create modern and harmonized legislation between different countries in the region that could simplify the processes of generation and closure of companies, limit the liability of intermediaries for content generated by its users, and promote the availability of capital. Most surprising, however, we found dozens of examples of successful initiatives and models in the region and that can be replicated and used as a reference by other countries.

Fostering the Startup Ecosystem in Latin America

These, among other conclusions and recommendations are documented in the report “Fostering the Startup Ecosystem in Latin America”, which we proudly present this week at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Medellin, Colombia, to world leaders. This paper is available for free at the link below. We trust this process is just the first step towards greater involvement of entrepreneurs in building tools and policies that affect them directly, and we will continue to have more instances of discussion and community participation.

We believe the development of the startup ecosystem should be based on greater public-private collaboration, so that all the actors that comprise it, directly or indirectly, reap the benefits of entrepreneurship.








U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry Visits Startup Weekend ASEAN To Encourage Young Entrepreneurs 

8/5/2015, Kuala Lumpur – JW Marriott

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“You can make all the difference in the world…and we’re counting on you to do it,” Secretary Kerry said while speaking to an excited group of Startup Weekenders yesterday. The entrepreneurs came from all over Southeast Asia to participate in Generation Startup Weekend (aka Startup Weekend ASEAN), an effort led by Techstars Community Programs and its partners at Magic, YSEALI, and the U.S. State Department to bolster entrepreneurship in Malaysia and the ASEAN region as a whole.

The energy in the room was extraordinary, with entrepreneurs cheering on almost every one of Kerry’s points and excitedly telling him about the startups they were currently working on. He showed a genuine interest in the projects and was particularly excited about a handful of teams and individuals:

  • Navnidh Bhalla (Singapore) and Hans Ivander (Indonesia) from Forest Fire Solution a Drone Technology designed to help firefighters battling large fires
  • Louise Ivan Payawal (Philippines) from Apollo Asia a Solar and Kinetic Energy Powered Wireless Charging solution. They formed a team with members from four different countries which included Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia and actually ended up winning the Startup Weekend.
  • Brian Soo Hon Wye (Malaysia) from NomNom a Social Mobile Food Application
  • Patricia Wong (Malaysia) from Hearts2Offer a Youth Volunteer Portal Top 9 SW ASEAN. Her team consisted of members from three different countries which included Myanmar, Brunei and Malaysia.
  • Nazreen Mohamad (Malaysia) from Readiscuss an Online Social Debate Portal

Kerry went on to explain how important it is for this generation to drive entrepreneurship forward and that there is an incredible opportunity to change the world for the better upon us.

“Life is defined by making life better for others and giving back to one’s community,” Kerry said toward the end of his comments.

He closed by reminding everyone not to listen to the cynics, not to ever be embarrassed or think twice about being excited about something, to go for it and pursue what you want.

As Kerry and his group filed out, the entrepreneurs returned to Startup Weekend which has now concluded. The winners from the Apollo Asia team will take part in the first Techstars Community Summit for Community Leaders starting on Friday August 7th. They also won a sponsored trip to the United States to meet U.S. entrepreneurs and technology incubators.

You can learn more about the Summit taking place this weekend here.








Pitch Like a Girl

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The Sunday night audience of the recent Startup Weekend Seattle Girls event was different than the usual crowd. It was full of parents, young siblings, and community members beaming with pride and excitement to see the girls’ final demos. This was the final day of a Startup Weekend created just for girls ages 10-15. The event was held at Lake Washington Girls Middle School, and was a first of its kind event focused on young women and showing them the possibilities of Startup Weekend and the world of entrepreneurship.

After the final pitches got started, it was clear how hard they all worked over the weekend. The presentations went smoothly and each girl on each team spoke about a different part of their new app or website. And did I mention how excited the parents were? A Dad’s celebration scream almost scared me right out of my seat when he found out his daughter’s team won!

One of my favorite parts of the day was when the girls were asked, “what did you learn over the weekend?” Their responses were all things I wish I had learned in middle school:

  • revenue streams
  • teamwork
  • task management
  • working under time pressure
  • how to build a website

While the event was wrapping up and the girls were celebrating, I got the opportunity to speak to a parent of one of the attendees, Jeff Sprung of Seattle. One of the awesome parts of Editions Month is hearing from new audiences and demographics – so I wanted to hear his story behind his daughter being involved and hear a parent’s perspective on events like this:

I asked about the motivation behind signing their daughter up for Startup Weekend Girls. It’s a strong message and inspiration for more events like this to happen:

“What’s still holding women back from reaching the very highest levels of professional America today are stereotypes and expectations. These limitations will continue to erode, and Startup Girls propels that erosion. As parents of a girl, we try to kickstart this change by teaching our daughter to reject stereotypes and expectations about who’s in charge and who can be in charge, to take risks and fail and get up and be willing to take risks again, to get in the face of people who deny her opportunity. Giving our daughter the opportunity to learn from experts how to start up a company fits this philosophy perfectly.”

Events with young ages like this need parental support. I talked to him about why experiences like this are important for girls from the parents’ point of view:

“Our economy, our government, and our communities benefit from the unique contributions women make. We want to teach our daughter that she can achieve whatever she wants, and whatever her male classmates can achieve. Given that women in our country earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man, we still have a lot of work to do. I think Startup Girls can be part of the solution.”

Overall, the weekend went well and we’re thrilled to hear about learning new skills:

“My daughter worked hard and intensely to achieve what she and her team did over the weekend. This resulted in impressive accomplishments:  a great concept, financial modeling, a website, an app. I think it was eye-opening for her to see the incredibly hard work that goes into starting a new company. My wife and I were blown away by what these middle schools girls could accomplish over a weekend. We were particularly impressed by this generation’s adeptness with technology and new software applications. It far exceeds the skills of their parents’ generation!”

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Here are the final teams from the weekend, great job everyone!

1st place – Warefair

An app to guide customers to clothing retailers that practice ethical and sustainable business choices.

2nd place – Chore Hub

Helping connect neighbors through exchanging chores, easy solution to finding help for the chores you dislike!

3rd place – Monster Cupcakes

An app and website to create custom cupcakes and have them delivered to your door, pick out the flavor, frosting, decorations, etc!

Most Passionate – Pit Souls

A website dedicated to changing the people’s perception of pitbull dogs, inspired by one of the team member’s own dog.

Most Ambitious – Open Door

A website aimed at helping the homeless get back on their feet with a network of resources available online and in their local community.

 

For more information on this event and the organizing team, please visit: http://www.up.co/communities/usa/seattle/startup-weekend/5279

Interested in organizing a Startup Weekend for Girls or Youth? Learn more about bringing it to your community.