The impact of mission-driven organizations on emerging markets

Adeo Ressi New York TimesToday, New York Times subscribers are reading the story on Adeo Ressi and the incubator he created: The Founder Institute.  In the article, when asked why he launches also in countries such as Colombia that are nontraditional entrepreneurial environments, he responds that he has created a mission-driven organization with the objective of helping the two percent of the population with “entrepreneurial genes” launch meaningful and enduring technology companies.

As I’ve written before, it’s been quite a rewarding ride to have been able to work with Adeo and the Founder Institute for these past three years and to be able to count on his support while running the program here in Colombia.  At one of the Founder Institute Director meetings that Adeo ran in Silicon Valley, he asked all of us, among other things, about the value of FI in each country.  In my case, I said that I feel that the value of something like the Founder Institute could be even greater in an emerging market such as Colombia, because the size of the startup industry is so small and the know-how is extremely sparse.

There are a ton of other benefits which apply to all cities and countries.  At the top of the list has to be the amazing mentor network that you can create in your own country, but also the amazing international mentor network into which you can tap.  In Colombia, I’ve seen such selfless interest from foreign and local mentors who are anxious to help build the Colombian ecosystem.  Some are unable to attend sessions, but make themselves available for 1:1′s (this is impressive considering their hectic schedules). Sometimes, I’ve actually seen much better behavior from foreigners who live in Colombia and are always available to help out new founders.  I’ve also, unfortunately, seen the flip side of this with one or two Colombian mentors who did a quick stint at mentoring and now limit their activity with the Founder Institute to attending Silicon Valley FI functions and expanding their network with other mentors while desisting totally from helping FI founders (guess what I think of this).

I truly believe this.  There are certainly FI Colombia grads such as ComparaMejor, WomyAds, La Bonoteca, Mashpedia and SiembraViva among others, who are viable companies some of which probably wouldn’t be as viable and others that wouldn’t have existed without the mentorship and guidance of the Founder Institute.  Nonetheless, since the Founder Institute focuses on the actual founders, there are countless founders that passed through the program (some did not graduate) that are active members of the Colombia startup ecosystem.  Some are developing a new startup, some are evangelizing key concepts to their peers and others have gone back to becoming an employee after getting a clearer understanding of what it takes to make a startup successful.  Organizations such as CO Internet and Ruta N in Medellin understand this and have sponsored semesters.

As Adeo also says in the interview, we are helping to create leaders in each ecosystem.  These founders have natural abilities and all they need is some guidance and “conditioning” from the program and, especially, from the awesome mentors who are passionate about working with founders from the Founder Institute.  Although I don’t speak for this country (Colombia), if I did, I’d say one thing.  I’d say how that I’m grateful (which I am personally) to Adeo Ressi for being such a crazy guy and building a mission-driven organization that helps globalize Silicon Valley especially to markets (such as Latin America) that will benefit greatly from this (whether they know it or not).

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