Miguel Angel Figueroa: Strengthen your local ecosystem; instead of emulating external ecosystems
While on a business trip to London, I was told about the unpredictable weather of the city. Me, a guy from Latin America accustomed to warm weather. I was fine, until it started raining with no end in sight. Inevitably, I had to buy a jacket from the Piccadilly Circus area. I really loved that jacket. Not only was it a great deal but also it was cool looking and fashionable, and it was lightweight and nice to wear during that trip. That jacket became one of my favorite pieces of clothing, until I moved to Chicago for graduate school. I naively thought that I could handle the winter, with my cool jacket, living downtown and only four blocks from the chilly winds of Lake Michigan. My jacket was worn out by then, and of course my common sense (and shivering) made me get a new thicker coat; a very warm one. Similar to my old favorite jacket, the word “Entrepreneurship” has been worn out. In the last ten years, working in the area of Entrepreneurship, both in the not-for-profit and the for-profit worlds, I’ve seen this topic used by a variety of institutions just because its looks cool, because everyone is using it, because it’s in fashion or because of a specific event. Just like my jacket. Of course there are massive amounts of great research regarding entrepreneurship explained from different perspectives: environmental, psychological, economical, and so on. Which then gave birth to great books, programs and movements, and even schools that reached several groups of people and nations.
On the other hand, it is also about the environment, my old jacket was out of context in the windy city (Chicago). From a Latin-
American perspective, forgive me if I am generalizing, I’ve seen great emphasis “mostly” on the awareness link of the chain, which involves: educational components, contests, business plans and idea competitions. Don’t get me wrong, these are great activities that have benefited a lot of people. In my experience in the Hub 7 S.A. (an accelerator that we run in Bolivia) we’ve come across a lot of paradigms established in the minds of entrepreneurs that are hard to deal with due to the hole we leave in the other links (Pre-Incubation, Incubation, Acceleration, Funding) aside and therefore are creating weak and disarticulated ecosystems.
After six months of researching the Bolivian Ecosystem, we decided to organize a National Symposium of Entrepreneurship in order to identify the community leaders and feeders who promote the creation of value through entrepreneurship. To do that, we invited leaders from more than 80 organizations including the Vice Ministry of Science and Technology of Bolivia, nine universities and even the private sector. We divided the event in two parts; the first one focused on the leaders with the purpose of mapping the ecosystem using a methodology proposed by Babson Collage; and the second part, focused on more than 450 entrepreneurs that we received. We gathered under the following assumptions (cf. Novus Foundation, GEM, 2010):
- Seven out of 10 Bolivians consider themselves entrepreneurs
- 66% of the entrepreneurial initiatives create self-employment, with no potential of growing or scalability. We called them static or survival entrepreneurs.
- Less than one percent of the ventures incorporate new technologies and innovation processes.
- The traditional education has its focused on job seekers, instead of job makers.
- The urgent need to change the focus from the static to the dynamic entrepreneurship
From those discussions, workshops and conferences; we agreed in the following conclusions to work over this 2014:
- Grow local ecosystems working on its needs and values; instead ofemulating external ecosystems coping activities with no context or organic participants.
- We need to feed and strength local ecosystems, being inclusive cuts across sectors, that focus should be on the impact and not activities.
- Emerging and established entrepreneurs must lead the community, to bring credibility and resources, but partnering with the government on policies for tax, investment, development.
- Focusing on the links of incubation and acceleration in order to actually create business, provide them resources to create value, accelerating replicable and scalable dynamic ventures.
- Engagement in collaboration, there is still the need for large number of events for entrepreneurs and the startups to connect, but also to mentor and be mentor by serial and establish entrepreneurs.
- Focus on the creating value, which come from identifying opportunities, and satisfying needs to create replicable and scalable business models throughout lean methodologies.
- Companies and capital should cooperate, modeling high growth startups, convening space and resources diversifying investments for local startups.