Emerging markets have a unique opportunity that most will squander.

Think biggerThe other day I wrote a post about thinking bigger and now see that the concept has applicability to countries as well as startups. I took a day trip to Medellin yesterday to talk, along with my friend Conrad Egusa, with the management team of a multibillion dollar corporation with almost 200,000 employees.  They are taking a serious look at Colombia and, particularly, Medellin.  It really made me think about something that I’ve stated verbally but don’t think I’ve written here.  That we are living during a moment in history when a number of things are shifting (e.g., economic power,  penetration of digital tools, etc.).  Many countries (particularly, in emerging markets) such as Colombia can either decide that the future will be much different than the past and start making decisions commensurate with the opportunity before them or squander their window of opportunity and forfeit a much brighter future to emerging market countries who have more insight into this new global context.

This event reminded me of the beginning of the year when an agency in Boston, Massachusetts (Jim and Sandy) reached out to me through my blog here because they were planning to visit Colombia.   For anyone reading this who needs confirmation that writing a blog and connecting with the outside world is rewarding, this should be proof enough.  In that case, I was able to connect them with the national government as well as my Founder Institute alliance partner, Ruta N, and they ended up having a tremendous visit.  In this case, it wasn’t a case of connecting them with others (they had that covered), but more a matter of giving them the low down from a bicultural perspective on what we see here.

Going back to the session we had yesterday morning in Medellin with this impressive group of visitors.  First of all, it was impressive to see that the whole management team from the Chairman and CEO were present.  I just looked at their corporate website and it’s and looking at the management team pictures it’s amazing to see that they were all here.  It was really stimulating to follow their thought process in terms of analyzing the potential for doing business in Colombia and the types of deep, penetrating questions that they asked.

I told things the way I see them and, though there are some things happening here that are exciting, frankly, my opinion is that people here just don’t understand what’s at stake during this transition period, which is a shame.  I see a lot of status quo decision making even within initiatives which are supposed to help Colombia transition.  Things in Colombia are going to improve and I told them that I’m totally bullish on Colombia’s future, but my opinion is also that, as usual, people here are only going half way and don’t understand the tremendous opportunity cost they are paying.  Instead of just delegating responsibility of “innovation” to newly created agencies, countries who don’t want to squander much larger opportunities, need to take ownership from high atop leadership structure so that those agencies can be more effective.

If things continue this way, Colombia will continue being a cool place to live with growing opportunities, but other emerging market countries (within Latin America and without) will be the smart ones that transform their situation.  Now, within Colombia, I must say that it is so much easier to promote Medellin than any other city (such as Bogota).  Compared to Bogota and other cities, I think Medellin is light years ahead in going after the opportunity of which I speak. This, added to the great quality of life there, are exciting and truly satisfying to see. I continue to get people reaching out to me through this blog about moving down here and, mostly, the interest is in Medellin.

Regardless of what this country does with the opportunity in front of, things are getting more interesting by the day.  Nonetheless, Colombia is a small percentage of the overall Latin American market and my goal for the coming years is to get more tapped into the scene in other countries (because of my interests and because that is where I see Tayrona. I know that I really enjoyed my time at Intel Capital Mexico and Brazil and saw some amazing entrepreneurs there.  Recently, I’ve continued to meet the such amazing entrepreneurs from Argentina and have been meeting new impressive ones from Peru and Chile.  That’s what stimulates me, amazing people (such as entrepreneurs) that are able to make great things happen from this great place called Latin America.

Finally, I’m going to plug an event that a friend of mine, Hans Steffens, is organizing and where he’s asked me to be a judge. I’m talking about Startup Weekend Barranquilla which is happening in one week.  I’ve enjoyed participating in all of the Startup Weekends I’ve attended and thank Javier Jaimes, Elkin Garavito and others for allowing me to participate.  Nonetheless, my “wifey” has been limiting my participation in these events (though, I’m the boss in my household – as you can tell, she doesn’t read my blog),  I couldn’t miss this one and am looking forward to it.. Be there or be square! :)



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