I tell ya, what a difference a few years make. About two years ago, Adeo Ressi, founder and CEO of the Founder Institute, acquiesced to opening a chapter of this startup incubator in Colombia, I was able to commence from pretty intense work in developing an ecosystem in this country. Even though there have been some Colombian startup success stories headed by people such as Andres Barreto, Juan Diego Calle, Martin Schrimpff and Jose Velez whom I mentioned in a VentureBeat article at the end of 2011, the term “Colombian startup” has been closer to being an oxymoron than many here would like to admit, but things are slowly changing and, today, Forbes published an article about Adeo Ressi and the Founder Institute where the Colombian chapter is discussed.
This isn’t the first time that Adeo has mentioned Colombia in the press. After visiting Colombia for the first time and then returning to kick-off the first Founder Institute semester here, he came away from the experience with a fondness for the country. He’s also mentioned the impact that the Founder Institute is having in Colombia in interviews with the New York Times and Businessweek, among others.
Although I’ve mentioned several times that the Colombian ecosystem still has a ways to go when compared to other countries in the region such as Brazil, Argentina and probably also Chile and Mexico, there’s a growing group of competent people in-country laboring push Colombian entrepreneurs to new heights. I have written a number of times about the ecosystems of Argentina and Brazil as well as new startups in Argentina such as Joincube and others such as Smowtion and Brazilian players such as Compra3 and even Pio.la from Venezuelan uber startup guy, Hernan Aracena. Nonetheless, these countries have already created some leading startups such as MercadoLibre and Buscape, among others. Thus, I’ve always been cognizant of the fact that the efforts in Colombia are the ones that most need visibility within the the global market.
Starting in 2009 with an article I wrote for VentureBeat on LetMego, a startup from founders Alex Torrenegra and Leonardo Suarez, I was able to start things off. After this, VentureBeat went on to publish my article on real estate portal VivaReal not only on their site, but also in the digital edition New York Times right before that company started raising an important round of funding and explosive growth. Later, I was able to highlight Zio Studios’ funding round in 2011. Aside from this, when interviewed for publications such as Inc Magazine, I don’t miss the chance to promote the reasons why investors should think about Latin American startups.
Ok. Well this has all been well and good. Promoting the Colombian and Latin American ecosystem is important as is educating local entrepreneurs on the basics of creating a viable startup. Nonetheless, my efforts in this respect have an egotistical motive and an attempt to solve a curious problem: myy desire to run an investment fund while living in a country that I’ve grown fond of (and gave me a beautiful wife and children), but that didn’t have a viable startup ecosystem. Hence, two years ago, I started the promotion phase (highlighting existing successes and educating potential entrepreneurs) and am now ready to start a more “meaty” phase of working full-time to develop strong startups, which I also recently wrote about.
As I mentioned, since working as a Strategic Investment Manager at Intel Capital, my goal has been to create my own fund and fund companies which I feel can become high impact startups. During that stint, I presented four companies in one year to the investment committee at headquarters in Santa Clara, California (quite uncommon in Latin America at the time). This, even though I was unable to present one of the deals I was most enthused about (it was counter-intuitive at the time). I was even reprimanded by my bosses for suggesting it (the company went on to be wildly successful).
Probably the most rewarding experience was working with a company called JackBe that we didn’t fund during my tenure, but that I advised to change their business being a technology provider within the Pharma industry to becoming a tools company. Since then, I’ve felt my path lay in funding and working with startups. In order to accomplish this while living in Colombia, I’ve had to develop a step by step strategy. I’m about midway through a strategy, which, every day gets closer to becoming reality.