Ruta N is making headway promoting innovation in Medellin

Ruta N is a non-profit set up by the Mayor’s office in Medellin almost two years ago to as a center for innovation and business.  Its mission is to enable new knowledge-based businesses with the help of international companies and organizations in strengthening the city’s science, technology and innovation ecosystem.  Among it’s successes are helping convince Hewlett-Packard to open a 1000+ employee global service center and helping spin off a company with an award winning team of biotech researchers.

Ruta N has been able to create such an impact thanks to a seasoned and passionate group of leaders and team members.  Juan Pablo Ortega, a technology industry veteran who has studied in EAFIT University as well as at MIT, leads the organization’s innovation initiatives.    Among those who work with Juan Pablo are Luis Florez, a serial entrepreneur and former VC investor, and Catalina Gutierrez, who worked for Medellin’s former mayor and other organizations.

I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with Juan Pablo on several occasions and have been impressed with his passion and vision for what can be accomplished in terms of promoting innovation in Medellin.  The Hewlett-Packard investment is a big win as are other initiatives to promote new startups such as the aforementioned team of researchers who developed a new technique for constructing tailored skull implants at the EAFIT University.  Thanks to help from the Ruta N team in developing a business around this innovation, the researchers are now starting to sell said implants internationally.

Juan Pablo has believes that these accomplishments are only the beginning of what is in store for Medellin.  In terms of enabling innovation, he sees much potential for Ruta N to leverage these early wins and continue to have an impact on the city’s development.

Ruta N is set to open a complex of three buildings.  One of these will house the Hewlett-Packard global service center and the other two will be dedicated to different initiatives.  In addition to promoting biotech, energy and animation companies and research, the team has plans to promote new digital or web businesses, which are part and parcel of the knowledge-based industries that the city wishes to, grow.

This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Luis Florez and Catalina Gutierrez (see photo) to discuss what they’ve been working on and what we can expect in the future. Luis previously worked for a local VC and has experience guiding startups in their growth phase, and Catalina brings a wealth of knowledge in making public and private partnerships work together to produce visible results.

During my visit, Luis and Catalina spoke to me about the results they’ve been able to accomplish as well as plans for the future.  Among these are additional plans within their Nruta startup acceleration initiative to promote and support new companies from a variety of sectors including web or digital businesses, which has already worked with industry experts such as 3Com co-founder Kenneth Morse.  Though biotech startups have been the initial beneficiaries of this initiative, the team is preparing to work with digital companies as well.

It’s good to see so much tangible activity (with some notable results) around innovation in a Latin American city.  I’ve only started to investigate the digital startup scene and, though still nascent, I’ve discovered some bright entrepreneurs and developers eager to eager to start their own companies.  Hopefully, they’ll be beneficiaries of Ruta N’s plans to enable web technology firms in the near future.

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