Peru’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Interview with Arturo Cánez

My next interview in Lima was with Arturo Cánez, the Director of Lima Valley and Co-Founder of Startup Academy. He’s also a mentor for Wayra Peru and is incredibly involved in the entrepreneurship community in Lima in many ways. Through his various initiatives, he works to provide events that both foster a community of entrepreneurs and offer training to aspiring entrepreneurs.

While Lima ranks high when it comes to entrepreneurship on measures like those used by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, much of the entrepreneurship in the country has historically been that of necessity and wasn’t the high-growth, technology-driven entrepreneurship that gets lots of press. Therefore, even though Peru actually ranks very high in entrepreneurial activity, its startup ecosystem is still a bit behind those in other countries. However, people like Arturo are helping to change that rather rapidly.

“The ecosystem now is better than just one year ago,” Arturo said.  “We have the fastest growing entrepreneurial network in Latin America…What other countries did in 5 years we did in 1 year and we did it without the support of the government.”

There’s still a lot of work to be done, however, to transform Peru from a country built on entrepreneurial necessity to one with a thriving culture of entrepreneurial innovation.

“For the stage our country is at right now, we have a lot of copy-cat ideas,” Arturo noted. “95% are maybe imitation and the other 5% are innovation.”

This preponderance of copy-cat companies is step one in the growth of a new startup hub and truly innovative companies are bound to come soon once entrepreneurs fully commit to their new ventures. According to Arturo, lots of entrepreneurs in Peru have a day job and are working on their startup on the side. “There are a lot of innovative ideas, innovative companies here in Peru and in Latin America,” but people are scared to leave their jobs and do their startup full time.

Additionally, Arturo argues that

“today, it’s easier here in Peru to get funding than in a different country or even in Silicon Valley…there is a lot of private capital but that capital is not necessarily focused on technology companies.”

He also believes that more accelerator programs focused on technology startups are needed to help anchor the entrepreneurial community in Lima and that the community shouldn’t focus solely on tech and business experts.

“We believe that a new venture, a new company, works better with different skills,” Arturo said, “not only business and technology…so that’s why we promote a multidisciplinary community.”

Finally, Arturo sees the future of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and startup community in Lima intimately tied to the other hubs in Latin America.

“You have, here in Peru, markets that are growing so fast,” Arturo said. And “at this time we need to detect what we are doing different than the other countries…[However], I think it’s so important that new entrepreneurs focus not only on their own country and take not only a local view…We want to focus on our local community but we’re connected to more developed countries…and we believe that those connections help to create a stronger environment.”

In fact, Arturo sees these connections as the future of the ecosystem.

“I think that in 5 years we’re going to have Latin America connected, a lot of countries linked, and a lot of startup entrepreneurs doing their jobs in different countries. In 5 years I think we will have a Latin America with an ecosystem similar to Silicon Valley.”