This week we’re talking with Alejandro Mayta, the organizer of Startup Peru. Startup Peru is a bit different than Startup Chile or Startup America because it’s completely private and Alejandro is building it without the support of the government (the Peruvian government is working on their own initiative with a different name). Alejandro has been involved in entrepreneurial projects of his own and is learning more and more about the ecosystem as he builds up Startup Peru, so it was interesting to hear his take on what the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Lima is lacking.
One of the key problems that Alejandro sees in the Peruvian entrepreneurial ecosystem is a lack of talent skilled in the business side of building startups. Unlike in the U.S. where technical talent – programmers, designers, etc. – are a hot commodity, Alejandro says that it’s actually fairly easy to find top technical talent in Lima but that filling out the business side of the team is difficult.
Along those same lines, he says that it’s difficult to find qualified mentors and role models for new startup teams. Even in the organized programs, if you ask a mentor what his business is/was he’ll respond saying, “No, I’m not an entrepreneur, I’m just a mentor,” because he’s likely coming from a corporate background. While he can still be very valuable to the new entrepreneurs, there are going to be things that would be better addressed by someone who has gone through the process of building a business from nothing.
This lack of mentors due in large part to the fact that Peru doesn’t have any startups (with the exception of Papaya) that have successfully been able to expand to other countries and it doesn’t have examples of big exits. Peruvian startups stay entirely Peruvian and Peru is a very small market, so finding huge success stories like Mercado Libre and pulling from their founding teams for mentors is basically impossible.
“More than just innovation we need knowledge and understanding of what it is to build a business,” Alejandro said.
He feels that Peru is behind in understanding and learning about widely known startups concepts in other countries, for example, the principles of lean startup, minimum viable product, and pivoting rapidly. And Peru is also behind in certain infrastructure – internet bandwidth and the adoption of ecommerce, for example – that would encourage and support the creation of rapid-growth businesses. This is partly because there isn’t a community that works together to push Peru forward.
“The worst thing [about being an entrepreneur in Lima] is the lack of cooperation between us. There isn’t trust. We don’t share,” Alejandro said.
It’s difficult to see rapid growth in an entrepreneurial community when its members won’t help and support each other.
Finally, Alejandro said,
“Investment doesn’t exist…It could, but it’s an enormous problem and it depends in large part on the politicians.”
Despite all of those hurdles, Alejandro does see Lima as a city ripe with possibility and is committed to building a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem there.
“The best thing about being an entrepreneur in Lima is that there is still a lot of undiscovered opportunity,” he said.
The question, then, is how do people like Alejandro go about taking advantage of that undiscovered opportunity and building a startup community that supports and shares with each other?