TLDR: I’m bullish on Latin America. I’m writing this to better express why, what I want to better understand, and who specifically I want to meet.
I’m think Colombia alongside Argentina, can lead the hemisphere in innovation, tech/startups and human-centered policy. Latin America is an emerging market for technology, innovation and cutting edge policy. Colombia is an impressive example of that. Medellín is an exciting example of resilience, innovation and entrepreneurship.
The sheer numbers of Latin America (600 million people) show an untapped opportunity that calls for investment and attention (TechCrunch):
The internet population is set to double from 300 million to 600 million.
Half the population isn’t part of the banking system (and only 15 percent of Mexicans even have a credit card).
And pretty much everyone is coming online via inexpensive Androids.
While India, China and Japan race to build technology fitting of/for their population, LatAm lags in investment (VC spend in China 2016 Q1+Q2: $11.8 billion vs Latin America: $218 million), infrastructure and technology.
There are many people working to change that.
I’m here to know them.
I want to focus on building deep intentional relationships across the innovation ecosystem. While writing the United Nations-Habitat Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Youth document (presented at the GA in 2015) we found three areas to most impact entrepreneurial ecosystems-Investors, Advisers and Entrepreneurs+Community for them. This is where I’ll keep most of my focus. It is, primarily, who I want to know:
- Investors- It takes money. A developed network of financiers that are comfortable dealing with risky capital (varied risk appetites)
- Seed- capital to get a team started
- Angel- capital to help a product develop ARR
- Venture Capital- capital to grow/scale a business
- Advisers– Institutional knowledge mitigates risk/stupid mistakes. A developed ecosystem of knowledge holders to proactively advise, teach and prepare creative problem solvers or entrepreneurs.
- Academic: knowledge developed from studying data, trends and theory. Professors of entrepreneurship that can teach curious students & spread proven ideas.
- Actionable: knowledge developed from experience. Former entrepreneurs that can speak to the challenges and help navigate complexity.
- Policy-advisers: mix of academic/experiential insights that have the power to help craft policy that supports risk taking.*
- Entrepreneurs & Community- It takes a village.
- A support network where deep relationships can be built with other people taking a similar risk, solving tough problems and facing similar dilemmas-both private & professional.
- A robust group that is capable of helping businesses, technologies and entrepreneurs level up–the rising tide lifts all ships.
- Communities for knowledge sharing across these groups, cultivation of these groups, deal sharing, and a way to speed up due diligence. These groups cultivate new entrepreneurs, remind the most experienced of lessons learned and help the investor community keep a pulse while adding value back.
While I’m here I want to mix it up with folks from these three functions. I want to be immersed in their communities, lives and before I leave be able to call them friends, sisters and brothers.
Values are important to me.
This is hard work. Companies aren’t built overnight. Systems aren’t transformed in a day. I want to make relationships with people who more than pass the airport test. These are thing I care about and I will continue to care about them well into my life, whatever I’m working on. That’s why I’m keen to build relationships with amazing people; relationships that are fun to maintain, grow and develop.
I care a lot about New York & New Delhi already. It would be amazing–some point in the future– to help create exponential value by serving as a bridge builder across the three regions. I know that means I’ll have to be a stronger professional, partner and person.
All of this will take time.
I want to meet really cool and interesting people that are passionate about their city, solutions and invested in seeing a more progressive and prosperous future. I want these people to see innovation & entrepreneurship as a means for more than just capital consolidation & growth, but also as a means to solve social problems.
Entrepreneurship as a means for impact
When we published the Innovation & Youth document at the United Nations, we did it with the intention of leveraging young people, creativity and potentially technology as a means to better solve the Sustainable Development Goals. Government alone failed in achieving the Millennium Development Goals– the top down approach wasn’t scalable against resource constraints, but a new approach one that includes both bottom-up and top-down can may be worth trying.
Bottom-up approaches can inspire new solutions & the top-down approaches can recognize, highlight and facilitate the innovation ecosystem to enable new solutions. In this, Government, Industry, Non-profits and everyday people have a role to play.
People are at the center.
We can make our communities better and stronger, create technologies and solutions that turn heads and solve problems that matter, help people/cities/countries unlock their human potential and we can by small actions help people transform the world as we know it. And we can make some serious bank doing all of it.
It takes time, energy and patience. Perhaps most importantly, it takes a community of well-intentioned people who are excited about the future, mutually invested in each other’s success personally and professionally.
The future & Why
I’m excited about LatAm. I’m thrilled about MDE. I came here first to spend significant time getting to know people here and trying my best to be honest, intentional and authentic towards cultivate lasting bonds. I’m going to try my best to learn Spanish quickly so that I can communicate in the language of the land. In the meantime, Spanglish it is.
I intend to listen with an open mind, spend more time understanding than talking, and to follow by asking how can I help.
*The ecosystem map is still a work in progress. Anything marked with a * was not included in the original map.
**The document is iterative. Please do share feedback.