Colombia’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Interview with Rene Rojas

Next up for Startup Nomad in Bogotá was a visit to HubBOG, a startup “campus” that includes acceleration, an academy, co-working space, and investment, to meet with Rene Rojas, the co-founder and CEO. He is also an entrepreneur and a mentor and investor for startups and has helped to create a number of programs to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Bogotá.

According to Rene,

“Bogotá is growing.”

There are two large government agencies (AppsCo and iNNpulsa) supporting the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, but both just started in 2012 so there is more work to be done.

“If you compare us to Silicon Valley,” Rene told me, “of course, we are at the beginning…

…I would focus more on the creation of institutions who make self-sustaining business goals [than on government agencies]: companies who encourage people to become an entrepreneur and who help startups or entrepreneurs to go to the next level. We need that sort of company. If we don’t create that type of company here then, when the government closes the tap [of money to support entrepreneurship], everything will be lost.”

“If you compare us to New York, we are closer to NY….

…Mayor Bloomberg is providing services to the startups and companies that really help startups through his policies,” Rene told me. “Here we need more policies, maybe some tax credits or other incentives to develop the industry.”

“If you compare us with Israel, Tel Aviv, it’s very difficult because it’s in the blood of the Israeli population to be an entrepreneur,” Rene said. “It’s a part of the culture. We don’t have that…

…We are very entrepreneurial but we are not startups. We have a lot of entrepreneurs in the areas of textiles or handmade products or services. We don’t have the industry for startups. We have to work on that.”

One of the key areas that needs to be developed in Colombia’s entrepreneurial community, according to Rene, is the business knowledge and capacity of the entrepreneurs and other players in the startup scene.

“In Colombia, we have a lot of very good talent in development and programming and in designers, but not necessarily in business,” Rene told me. “We have a very similar situation, like in other countries, that a lot of engineers create new solutions and new platforms without asking the market what they really need or what they want to be solved. We have to correct that. We have to train new people who want to learn business from a startup point of view.”

And, given the pace of technological growth and adoption of technology to make people’s lives easier such as e-commerce and the plethora of internet services and marketplaces, Rene believes that Colombia will get there soon.

“I think in 5 years – because of the speed of internet and because the government is doing well – we could make bigger spaces like HubBOG and we could have a better future,” he said. “I think we need 5 years; we don’t need more than that.”

Rene’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?:

“Don’t try to get money through your startup. The more interest you put in becoming a billionaire in a startup the closer to failure you are.

…If you put your attention on making money, you will lose. If you put your happiness before money, the money will appear…

…You have to create the curiosity in yourself because you don’t do anything for yourself if you don’t like it. If you create a company, never, never create a company in a product or service that you don’t like. Always create a company in a way of your happiness…

…Happiness is the big issue in human life so find your passion. Passion and then a lot of work…work, work, work hard.”

 

Are you familiar with the startup ecosystem in Colombia or anywhere else in the world? Let me know what you thought of Rene’s interview in the comments section below and if you know someone I should interview for an upcoming Startup Nomad post, drop me a line about that as well. 

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