Lima, Peru

Obviously, after my amazing vacation to Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca in Peru, it was back to the capital, Lima, to get some work done. In a few weeks you’ll be able to learn about the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Lima over at Startup Nomad (we’re still in Argentina on that blog). However, I also managed to do a little bit of exploring in my down time in Peru’s capital city.

While I have to say Lima was probably one of my least favorite cities in all of my travels ever based on pure aesthetics, the food there was absolutely amazing! Because I was more interested in stuffing my face than in taking in the sites and architecture, this week’s video is pretty short, but it does give you a look at a bit of the downtown historic area of the city, so enjoy.

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.

Sillustani Funeral Towers, Peru

As I mentioned in previous posts, when I visited Peru I took a little vacation from the entrepreneurship world and visited Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. I booked through a tour group that arranged everything for me and it included visits to some other, lesser known sites to break up the travel time between the big attractions.

On my way from Puno, where I visited Lake Titicaca, to the airport in Juliaca where I would catch my flight back to Lima at the end of my vacation, we stopped at the ruins of the Sillustani Funeral Towers. Situated at the edge of a lake this archaeological site is home to dozens of funeral towers, which, I can only assume, hold hundreds or possibly thousands of skeletons.

While Sillustani was far from the most exciting tourist attraction I’ve ever visited, I still wanted to share what I saw there in case any of you would like to break up your journey between the Juliaca airport and Lake Titicaca like I did. This week’s video is short, but you’ll get a very good idea of what you will see if you visit Sillustani.

Argentina’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Interview with Lorena Suarez of Wayra

My first stop when I arrived in Buenos Aires was at Wayra to speak with Lorena Suarez. Having visited the Wayra offices in Santiago when I was in Chile I knew that the people at Wayra in Argentina would be super well plugged in to what was happening in the ecosystem and might be able to point me in the direction of some great events and/or people to talk to so I was psyched that Lorena agreed to sit down with me and chat.

Lorena came to Wayra after working in telecommunications for a number of years and she transferred from another group within Telefonica (the telecommunications company that owns Wayra) to Wayra. She has a background in economics and business and has been with Wayra for 2 years.

According to Lorena,

“Argentina has a very strong entrepreneurial culture.”

There are a lot of large internet companies created in the lates 1990s and very early 2000s that are still up and running in Argentina. After 2001 the activity stopped but nowadays the activity is growing again. “The quality and amount of startups in Buenos Aires today is significant and interesting,” Lorena said. “We’re seeing more and more major projects with major teams and balanced teams…We evaluated almost 3,000 projects [this year].”

Lorena noted that while “the political and economic context is not very simple for entrepreneurs [in Argentina],” this instability has actually aided the entrepreneurial ecosystem in some ways.

“Fortunately or not, we are trained to handle uncertainty and perhaps that’s why Argentinian entrepreneurs can be so creative: because uncertainty is something that’s been present in our history and our economy,”she said.

She also noted that Argentina has a lot of talent to offer and “talent is the most valuable asset.” Entrepreneurs that start their companies in Buenos Aires have access to people who are well-educated and can find talented and experienced engineers, designers, and others.

On the negative side, however, starting a company can require a massive amount of patience as you’ll need up to 2 months to wade through the regulations and processes necessary to open a new business there.  Additionally, as with many countries in Latin America, there is a lack of funding available for startups – especially at the early stage after seed funding but before they’ve created enough traction for a Series A round. “After finishing at an accelerator the companies already have clients, they’re already at break-even, they have a clearer idea of where they’re going but they don’t yet have enough traction to go to a VC for a series A,” Lorena says. “We are starting to see people filling this space but, for me, there is still room there for people to fill that space.”

Lorena continued:

“Investment is also something that needs to be created and developed. 50% of investments in Argentinian startups came from abroad, from foreign investors. I believe that it’s a matter of time all over Latin America but we still need to mature in this area.”

“At the beginning, we needed to explain what an accelerator is here in Buenos Aires and it’s very, very new how to pitch, how to deal with an investor, how to present yourself, what an investor looks at, what you need as a team, all of those things. Nowadays I think we’ve improved a lot but at the beginning we needed to explain.”

So what advice does Lorena have for entrepreneurs just starting out?

  1.  “Focus on traction. Don’t fall in love with your ideas, just go out and try to communicate with your customers. Customers or users are the ones who really say that what you are creating has value.”
  2. “Focus. It’s really easy to get distracted…I prefer to see a company that does, in an excellent way, 1 thing and not a lot of things in an average way.”
  3. “Give back. We are all players, not only the venture capitalists, accelerators, and other investors but also the entrepreneurs. If we want to create an ecosystem we need to understand that we are all key players, entrepreneurs too…Creating a very strong and very creative entrepreneurial ecosystem in Buenos Aires is something we all need to keep in mind.”

Lake Titicaca

After my visit to Machu Picchu I headed off to Puno to visit Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca is a massive lake on the border between Bolivia and Peru which is famous for its extremely high altitude and its city built on man-made floating islands.

If you visit, you can take a tour out to the islands to learn about the peoples that live there and how their islands are made as well as walk around and take pictures. It’s a super strange experience as you can definitely feel that they’re not solid land. You also have the option of traveling between islands on their traditional boats, which appeared to be at least partially woven out of the same reeds that they use to build their islands.

After visiting the floating islands, your tour will likely continue out to a typical island where you’ll climb up a steep hill to see the views of the lake – which is so large it appears to be the ocean – and have a lovely lunch of typical food.

Check out the video below for a quick look at the floating islands and how they’re made.

Argentina Startup Overview

After a lovely and eventful visit to Chile it’s time for Startup Nomad to head on to Argentina. Argentina may not receive as much press as Chile or Colombia for its startup scene, but it’s actually one of the most developed and least dependent on foreign talent and money. It’s also the home of the biggest exit I’ve heard of from South America, the golden child of Latin American VC, Mercado Libre.

Argentina’s political instability and currency fluctuation problems mean some added headaches for Argentinian entrepreneurs and investors in Argentinian startups. According to many of the people I spoke with though, that’s part of the reason that Argentina’s startup scene is more mature and more self-sufficient than some in other countries: it simply has to be and the people are used to needing to be adaptable to the constant change.

If you take a look at the graphs below (from the GEM data visualization tool) you’ll see that Argentina has a lot going on in the realm of entrepreneurship making even those in the United States look like a bunch of non-entrepreneurs in comparison.

Total early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA)
Percentage of 18-64 population who are either a nascent entrepreneur or owner-manager of a new business.
New Business Ownership Rate
Percentage of 18-64 population who are currently a owner-manager of a new business, i.e., owning and managing a running business that has paid salaries, wages, or any other payments to the owners for more than three months, but not more than 42 months.

Following with the trend I saw of a more self-sufficient entrepreneurial ecosystem built by and around Argentinians instead of foreigners, Argentina is the first stop along my Startup Nomad journey where I did not speak to any foreigners during my interviews. Over the next few weeks we’ll chat with some of the players in Buenos Aires’ startup scene and hear their take on what makes the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Argentina different from other places.

Inka Express Bus Trip from Cusco to Puno, Peru

When I visited Peru, I booked a tour that included visits to both Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. Instead of flying from Cusco (the jumping off point to visit Machu Picchu) to Puno (the jumping off point to visit Lake Titicaca) I opted for the Inka Express bus to take me on the journey, which included stops at a number of historic, archaeological, and religious sites.

Stops included Andahuaylillas, Raqchi, Sicuani, La Raya, and Pukara. While none of these will get mentioned on any list I have of most spectacular sites to see in Latin America, I was glad that I chose the bus trip and got to visit these areas instead of sleeping through a plane ride. There were some great views of the mountains behind ruins and one stop even included a mummified human body (check out the video). Plus, we got to make friends with some llama and alpaca and the lunch that was included was also fairly tasty as far as tour group buffets go.

Check out the video to see the sites and the mummified body!

Chile’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Events in Santiago

Usually, Startup Nomad is interviews and country overviews, however, while I was in Chile, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a few really cool events that allowed me in with my camera! I don’t usually get to film the events I attend so I was psyched and wanted to share with you.

The three videos below are of Cumpre Emprendedores (Entrepreurs Summit), which was hosted by the Chilean government’s entrepreneurship promotion organization and featured Chile’s president as the keynote speaker; a Startup Chile investors event where 3 international investors gave mini-talks to the audience about the investing landscape and what they look for in companies they’d consider investing in; and the Startup Chile Demo Day, which included pitches from current Startup Chile participants who are fundraising and talks from investors and successful entrepreneurs.

Cumbre Emprendedores:

Startup Chile Investors Event:

Startup Chile Demo Day:

Chile’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Interview with Cristian Chong

Cristian Chong is the current account manager for Oro V. He’s been involved with a number of startups, has a Master’s degree in Business, Entrepreneurship, and Technology, and helped start Movistar Innova, the innovation arm of telecommunications giant Telefonica. He’s Chilean and currently resides in Santiago, but he’s lived and worked abroad so he has a unique view of Santiago’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and how it differs from other parts of the world.

Check out this week’s Startup Nomad interview (below) to see what Cristian had to say and then weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

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: