Startup Nomad Interview with Michael Goldberg

My Startup Nomad interview this week is with Michael Goldberg, a 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 is teaching the upcoming Coursera course, Beyond Silicon Valley: Growing Entrepreneurship in Transitioning Economies (which I am taking) and was gracious enough to meet up with me on a Google+ Hangout to talk about the differences between mature entrepreneurial ecosystems – like that in Silicon Valley – and those that are still developing or in transition.

Check out the interview below and leave a comment to let me know what you think of what Michael had to say.

If you’d like to sign up for Michael’s Coursera course: Beyond Silicon Valley: Growing Entrepreneurship in Transitioning Economies, just click the title of the course to see the Coursera page for the course and sign up. Please let me know if you sign up and we can work through the course together!

The book Michael mentioned in his interview is Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Why Public Efforts to Boost Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Have Failed — And What To Do About It by Josh Lerner and you can buy it at Amazon by clicking the title.

The podcast he mentioned is Plant Money podcast and you can check it out by clicking the title


Startup Nomad Interview with Matt Wilson

This week’s interview is with Matt Wilson, the co-founder of Under30CEO and the Adventurer in Residence of Under30Experiences. Matt is one of a handful of people that I know who shares my passion for both entrepreneurship and travel and has been able to combine those two loves and live a life even more adventurous than I do.

I chatted with him via a Google+ Hangout while he was in New York and I was in Mexico City to catch up about what’s new with him and what he sees happening in entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world as he brings young adventurers to explore.

Startup Nomad Interview with Angela Cois (Mexico)

This week’s Startup Nomad interview is with Angela Cois, the COO and Cofounder of LastRoom. She’s an Italian who relocated to Mexico many years ago and has been involved in the startup community practically since it began to grow in Mexico. The idea for her company was actually born during a Startup Weekend back in 2010.

Like many of the other people I spoke to in Latin America, Angela says that a lack of capital is really holding the ecosystem back.

“It’s a big problem,” she told me. “There is money but it’s difficult to catch the interest of an investor. There are plenty of traditional investors…but e-commerce or digital tech companies are quite far from their knowledge or perception and they see it as a very high risk investment.”

In her opinion, this is especially true in the so-called ‘valley of death,’ the time between a startup company’s initial seed funding and when it can generate enough revenue to sustain itself. Here in Mexico, specifically, she noted that accelerator programs and other seed funds have helped improve access to the very initial seed money needed to create a minimum viable product and launch; between this initial investment and the time that the company is generating revenue and needs growth capital of $1 million dollars or more, however, there are almost no options for funding, “unless you know people.”

“It’s a pity that very good projects just die because they run out of money,” she said.

She thinks that aversion to earlier stage investments in tech companies can and will change, however.

“It’s a culture,” she said. “It’s a culture that is gradually growing the last few years thanks to events and to a lot of initiatives that people are doing to promote the ecosystem, but this kind of sensibility or culture is not so strong here [yet].”

She believes that the cultural change and the growth in access to capital must come from the people on the ground in the entrepreneurial ecosystem here, not from government initiatives.

“It’s a matter of entrepreneurs, of people,” she told me.”And of investors; because without money you can’t keep on trying. You could have the best business model but if you don’t have money you can try for 3 months or 6 months and then you have to stop, you have to give up…

…I think that this organic growth can come from both sides:,” she continued. “From entrepreneurs and investors. We have to learn, both sides, we have to learn a lot.”

Along those same lines, Angela expressed another common sentiment among the Latin American entrepreneurs with whom I’ve spoken: that the ecosystem needs to see local role models in order to reach its full potential.

“We need to learn  a lot because we don’t have great role models here,” she said. “We are the first doing this. It’s not the same as Silicon Valley.”

So what is Angela’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?

“Start your own business when you have personal savings [to fund it] and when you’re more mature in how you utilize your personal resources” she said. “It makes you more serious if you’re trying to figure out the best way to spend your money, focusing only on your priorities and on your core business, and this is very important because it makes you more concentrated. It’s a great thing for entrepreneurs.”


Argentina’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Interview with Juan Melano

My next stop in Buenos Aires was to speak with Juan Melano, one of the original organizers of Palermo Valley and the Founder of, which is a portfolio company of the Wayra program in Argentina. Juan is a cancer survivor and after that experience he knew that he needed to find a way to have his dream job before he died, which is how he ended up in entrepreneurship.

Juan shared with me that Argentina’s biggest asset when it comes to entrepreneurship is its talent pool.  “If you’re starting your company here the good thing you’ll get is the human resources here…very good people who are very good at what they do,” he said. He continued:

“There are a lot of talented people here – very well-educated, very capable, very creative – and not very expensive compared to the United States…[Unlike in other countries, in Argentina] there is a lot of talent everywhere – a very good mix of engineers, of business people, of designers. It’s a very good mix to create.”

Because he recognized this talent pool in Argentina, Juan was one of the original supporters of Palermo Valley back in the mid-late 2000s. Through Palermo Valley, he said, Buenos Aires started to develop a real community of entrepreneurs. Before that there wasn’t a community and people didn’t share and communicate but Palermo Valley was able to start connecting people and an ecosystem began to develop. However, there was still a lack of capital because venture capitalists were the only source and they would only invest in copy-cats of U.S. based companies with already proven business models and that were designed to be quickly acquired when those U.S. companies decided to expand into Latin America. Truly innovative new companies didn’t have the opportunity to start or grow until more recently.

When Wayra, government programs, and other sources of capital started to come in to fund these truly innovative companies, it wasn’t long before the community really took off. “Now we have another problem,” Juan said, “that there are a lot of startups trying to raise an additional amount of money…We do have a great local ecosystem and I think everything is because of what happened in those early meetings at Palermo Valley…

…In 2011 we [people in the Argentinian entrepreneurship scene] took a trip to Silicon Valley and they were like ‘Who are these guys?’ Now they know who ‘these guys’ are.”

And since Argentinian entrepreneurs are now recognized, “VCs are no longer investing only in clones but also in original ideas.” Plus,

“there is a lot of angel investing as well that wasn’t happening before and is contributing to the growth of this ecosystem.”

On the negative side, however, Juan said that government regulations aren’t very “open-market friendly.” To open a company and get everything up and running will take six months so Juan actually wouldn’t recommend starting a company in Argentina unless there is a clear strategic reason to do so. He would recommend a country with a more streamlined process for opening a business, like Chile. However, these regulations could change at any moment with the whims of the current politicians.

“That’s the thing in Argentina,” he said, “you never know.”

So what’s Juan’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? First he said, jokingly but seriously,  “it’s a nightmare, don’t do it.” He continued on, however, to say, “but if you’re really passionate about it, it’s the best thing that can happen to you because it’s like a little baby that you see grow up and it’s an extension of yourself.”

So his real advice?

  1. “Just do it.”
  2. You need to build a team that you can really care about because you will be with them every day and every night.
  3. “At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter where you’re based but how you deal with the different markets and how you build your company.”

Finally, some parting words of inspiration from Juan:

“[Entrepreneurship] is not about the money. It’s about really being passionate about something: about an idea, about something you want to change, you want to do, you want to create and you make it possible, and by making it possible you are living the dream.”



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.

Chile’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Interview with Claudio Barahona of Wayra

If you know anything about entrepreneurship in Latin America you know that Wayra is an incredible powerhouse in the space. Owned by Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica, Wayra is an incubation program with locations in numerous countries in Latin America and Europe. I was lucky enough to speak with a few of Wayra’s representatives along my journey through Latin America and my first introduction was with Claudio Barahona, the Business Development Manager for Wayra’s Santiago, Chile office.

Claudio was kind enough to let me pick his brain about Wayra and the work it does as well as about Chile’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. He also gave me a tour of the offices and we chatted with entrepreneurs from Crowdsourced Testing and Thinker Thing about their experiences in Startup Chile, Wayra, and Santiago’s entrepreneurship scene more generally.

The video is a long one this week but trust me, it’s well worth it. Check out what Claudio and some of Wayra’s entrepreneurs had to say and then let me know your thoughts: