Follow-Up Startup Nomad Interview with Michael Goldberg

Back in April, I chatted with Michael Goldberg, visiting assistant professor of design and innovation at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management and the co-founder and managing partner of Bridge Investment Fund. He also has a MOOC on Coursera called Beyond Silicon Valley: Growing Entrepreneurship in Transitioning Economies.

We talked just before his course launched for the first time and it was a huge success, so I decided to check back in with Michael and see what he’d learned about the entrepreneurial ecosystems in some of the communities that had lots of students participating in his course. Check out the interview below and let us know your thoughts.

Also, be sure to sign up for Michael’s course on Coursera. It’s absolutely free and it will give you some great insight into how entrepreneurial communities are built.

Entering Entrepreneurship: Start Small

Because I work with first-time entrepreneurs that don’t have a business management background or education, lots of the people who come to me have been thinking about entrepreneurship for years – sometimes even for decades – but they have been held back from starting to build their businesses by fear and a lack of confidence. I’m not a life coach or a motivational speaker so I’m not going to try to tell you how to squash that fear or gain confidence. However, I can appeal to the logical thinker within all of you and get you to start building your business, if you really want to, right now.

It’s not rocket science and it’s not a magical technique, but the key to not letting fear stop you is to simply start small. That’s pretty generic (a.k.a lame) advice though, so let’s get a bit more specific.

  • Step 1: If you’re afraid that people will think you’re crazy or will judge you if you fail, just decide not to tell them yet. It’s as simple as that. There is a lot of work that can be done to start building your business that nobody will know about unless you tell them, so just don’t tell them. Then they can’t look at you like you’re crazy or judge you. Problem solved.
  • Okay, step 2: Don’t commit to becoming an entrepreneur, just commit to exploring the option. It’s scary to leave a job you feel secure in with a paycheck that comes every two weeks to try to build your own business and not be sure what the future holds. So don’t commit to doing it just yet. Just commit to looking into it and evaluating its pros and cons as you would any other job opportunity that cane your way.
  • Step 3: Do some market research. Understanding your market – who they are, where they are, what motivates them to spend – will help you feel more confident in building your business. It’s also an integral part of your planning if you do decide to become an entrepreneur. Now, remember, right now you’ve just committed to exploring the option of becoming an entrepreneur so there is no stress attached to this research. If you love researching, awesome, you can’t lose anything with this exercise. If you hate researching, the worst case scenario is that you waste a few hours (and trust me, those hours were no less productive than all of those others hours you probably spend eating, drinking, watching TV, and surfing Facebook and YouTube). After researching though, you’ll probably feel more energized by, more committed to, and less scared by the idea of building your business. Don’t know how to start doing market research? Well, lucky for you I have a video for that so stick around until the end of the video for that link.
  • Step 4: Keep researching. If you’re still interested in pursuing your idea, keep the research going. Start looking into how you’d go about building your business and what it would cost you. Just start to gather some facts to put behind your ideas, this isn’t something super formal or serious yet but it will help you develop your idea.
  • Step 5: Stop researching. Okay, now you’re starting to think my list of steps is getting too long, right? Well, that’s because it is. At this point, you’re cut off. You took the pressure off yourself and did some research to find out if your idea is viable. At this point, you need to decide if you’re going to pursue it or not and, if you are, you need to set the fear and self-consciousness aside because they are not helpful to entrepreneurs.

Still feeling apprehensive? That’s normal. You’ll need to have a thick skin and a real commitment to your idea to succeed but you’re human. You will be nervous and stressed and that’s okay. Just start small and take little steps towards building your business. Eventually, those little projects will have helped you build  up enough momentum that you’ll keep moving forward despite your insecurities.

If you’re a Spanish speaker, check out this talk by Startup Nomad interviewee Stefy Cohen for a little inspiration: If you’re not already watching at you’ll have to head over to the site to get the link for Stefy’s talk.

If you liked this video, please let me know by giving it a thumbs up on YouTube and Facebook and be sure to subscribe to my channel and to email updates to make sure you never miss any tips or info to help you build your business. 

Startup Nomad Interview with Beto Marquez (Mexico)

After my Latin American adventures last year I felt like Mexico City is just too big a city and I needed to come back and dig a little deeper into the entrepreneurial ecosystem before I head off to Spain (and maybe some other parts of Europe). My first interview back in D.F. was with Beto Marquez, the Marketing and Project Manager for NextLab Ventures Group.

Now that I’ve had time to explore a large chunk of the rest of Latin America (Mexico was my first stop on the Startup Nomad tour), I have a bit of a broader perspective on Mexico and its ecosystem, so it was interesting to come back to where I started with a more mature view of the overall Latin American ecosystem and Mexico’s place within it.

According to Beto,

“Mexico is seen like this country that is more Americanized than Latin Americanized…we’ve been kind of segregated from all of the activity and all of the agreements that they make. We’re not really a part of it.”

This is partly because of Mexico’s physical proximity to the U.S. and partly because of its sheer size. With a population of roughly 121 million and a GDP of just under 1.2 trillion USD (the next largest Spanish-speaking Latin American country has fewer than 50 million people), Mexico’s in a bit of a different position than it’s much smaller Latin American neighbors. That could explain why, despite its separation, it’s been attracting foreign entrepreneurs who want to set up their companies and lives in Mexico City.

“[The entrepreneurial ecosystem] is a really nice mix of Mexicans and foreigners,” Beto said, “but not as many from the United States.” 

While Mexico has a large enough market to sustain major business growth, however, there are still a number of issues holding back its entrepreneurial ecosystem, one of which being a lack of a mature investment ecosystem.

“The exits here are much more difficult than in the US,” Beto told me.

“Going for an IPO is not really a likely exit option here, so it’s not attractive for investors to take risks on startups here. What I have seen is a VC invests and then a bigger VC buys out the first VC but, eventually, the biggest VC firm has to IPO the company and that’s where it gets it’s return. But here that cycle gets cut off because there isn’t a proper way to make a company public” and so investors have reduced potential for successful exits.

Because of that, Beto believes that,

“the biggest challenge [to the ecosystem] is the investor part.” He continued to say that, “we [Mexico] have some firms but we are really green. We are not even close to being mature yet.”

At the same time that the economic factors hold back the growth of Mexico’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, there are also cultural factors in play that make it more difficult for the startup scene to develop. “There are two issues that I’ve seen that I really struggle with in young people,” Beto said. “The first one is that, I don’t know why, but they are somewhat apathetic. You have to really push this entrepreneurial view of life…The other one is our culture. This is a country that has suffered a lot of macro-economic devaluations …and our parents have this way of seeing things that you have to work, you have to make money as fast as possible, and, most of all, not to take risks and not to take loans. So most young people still have this way of seeing things from their parents…

…We are not raised to take risks, just to get a job and ‘yeah, that’s life, deal with it.'” 

Beto believes that mentality is slowly changing, however.

“A lot of people more and more are trying to get out of this square way of thinking and be more entrepreneurial,” he said. “It’s definitely a trend here.”

Startup Nomad will have to come back to Mexico in a few years to see how the ecosystem has developed.


What’s your take on what Beto had to say about Mexico’s entrepreneurial ecosystem? Do you agree that both cultural and economic factors are holding it back? Please weigh in in the comments section below. 

Also, please let me know where I should go and whom I should interview next. Let me know below 🙂

Argentina’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Interview with Martin Vivas

My next stop in Argentina was to speak with Martin Vivas. He’s a powerhouse in the entrepreneurship scene in Buenos Aires helping to organize Palermo Valley, Founders’ Place, and Startup Weekend and basically being a part of everything having to do with startups. Because he’s been involved in the ecosystem for so long and has been an integral part of helping it to continue to mature, he had some interesting observations about what the entrepreneurial ecosystem is like in Argentina and why it has developed the way it has. Check out the video below to hear what he had to say and then weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

This is interview is in Spanish (except for the first few seconds) so I apologize in advance for my lack of skills in the language department.