It’s been tough to find the time to write during the last several weeks, but after an eventful trip to Silicon Valley and other activities, there’s a lot to reflect on. In a few hours, I launch the 2012 Founder Institute semester in both Bogota and Medellin. It’s the culmination of a lot of time taken on the part of local and international mentors as well as support from sponsors (CO Internet, Ruta N, Microsoft) trying to guide new entrepreneurs in Colombia along their paths to (hopefully) success. Already five of the nine Founder Institute Bogota 2011 grads have lined up funding for ventures that they are running. I thought this was as good time as any to reflect on the state of the Colombian startup ecosystem (some might debate that we could even call it that).
There is certainly a lot of work to do here in Colombia to get this ecosystem off the ground. Sometimes it seems that, compared to countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Chile, there’s a level of inertia that needs to become overcome here. As I mentioned previously, there are some lights and a core group of people who want to see things improve. For example, there are a small number of talented entrepreneurs making headway (some of these from the Founder Institute) while a lot of the country culture, simultaneously, seems to be in a state of suspended animation with the world passing it by.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in Silicon Valley attending a number of Founder Institute events and having some meetings. I’ve written about some of the meetings such when I had that great breakfast with an impressive and all around great guy, Ranjith Kumaran, co-founder of YouSendIt and founder of PunchTab. He’s had an enviable knack (talent) for acquiring millions of users (also some companies) and turn a segment of these into customers. This is the type of talent that we are bringing to bear here in Colombia not to mention the CEO of Bundled and Director of the Founder Institute Seattle, among other things, Dave Parker.
Aside from this, we have the CEO’s of companies such as Process Maker, SnappyGo, VivaReal, Voice123, PagosOnline, Kactoos, Zio Studios and others ready to guide the next batch of startup founders not only coming out of the Founder Institute, but also from other accelerators. One of these is Wayra of which, as I’ve written, I’m a tremendous fan. I recently participated in the activities leading up to selecting the next 10 startups selected to be “accelerated.” I’m actually an advisor to one of these called Opination, a company dedicated to making surveys fun and disrupting to market research industry.
There’s still a lot of components of the ecosystem that need to be improved. A few days ago, for instance, I was speaking at a breakfast given by Microsoft for it’s hardware manufacturers about the transition that we’re experiencing and the impact of the cloud, mobile apps, etc. There is indeed interest, but, and they may be right, the impression one gets is that such stuff is far removed from this market at the moment. A few days prior, I had spoken to 413 small business owners about a similar topic and, although many were interested, it’s apparent that the local market has a long way to go in order to adopt the powerful and accessible tools available to them.
Finally, and one of the areas I hope to remedy in the near future, is the lack of local Angel investors. Money is not lacking in this country, but an interest and understanding of the potential in the web/mobile sector is still quite faint. There are ways to address this and I hope to make this my future project. The easy thing would definitely be to “forget about it” (remembering the Sopranos), but I guess it’s the Don Quixote in me that keeps on truck’n.