Colombia’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Interview with Cesar Cortes

My next stop in Medellin was at Ruta N, an amazing public non-profit that is playing a huge role in Medellin’s rapid acceleration into a major Latin American startup hub. While there, I met with Cesar Cortes, the Director of ICT in Science, Technology, and Innovation Plan for Ruta N. Cesar is  a Colombian who spent many years in the startup world of the United States (Boston, DC, and Silicon Valley) before moving back to Medellin in late 2012.

He gave me a tour of the absolutely gorgeous building where Ruta N is housed and let me pick his brain about the startup ecosystem in Medellin and its rapid growth. Below, you’ll see my interview with him as well as a video showing the Ruta N space because it was such a beautiful office building that I couldn’t help but let you all take a peak.

Unsurprisingly, Cesar had a lot of the same observations of the ecosystem as some of the other players in the scene with whom I’d already spoken. He said that currently,

“there is a lot of excitement [around entrepreneurship]…there are a number of co-working spaces being established around the city, a number of Meetup groups, a lot of foreigners coming to Medellin.”

While Cesar recognizes that Medellin is still in the early stages of developing its ecosystem, “this is a very fertile ground,” he said.

“This is the right time to be here, the right moment…It’s still at the very early stage but there are a lot of resources and initiatives and money that are being invested in the ecosystem at various levels…In 10 years Medellin will be recognized as one of the most innovative cities in Latin America.”

Because the ecosystem’s development is still at it’s early stages, however, “there are a number of gaps that we still have to fill,” Cesar said. “One of the gaps that we have is access to mainstream capital.” This access to capital is one of the gaps that Ruta N seeks to fill with its numerous programs and is, in fact, a lead investor in Velum Ventures, one of the first venture capital firms in Colombia, whose founding partner I interviewed as well.

Ruta N is also a key player in promoting Medellin as an entrepreneurship hub and has a program to help foreign companies bring their business operations to Medellin – complete with office space in their incredible building – along with their many other programs to help foster entrepreneurial growth and innovation in the city.

So what’s Cesar advice for new or aspiring entrepreneurs?

“Dream big; think globally, and really get to know the programs that are available to you [no matter where you’re located] because there are a lot of resources available.”

 

Here’s a look at the beautiful building where Ruta N is housed: