Entrepreneurship in Latin America: The Case for Peru

From Start-Up Peru to the Lima Founder Council and the arrival of Singularity University, Peru is on the rise as a hub of entrepreneurship in Latin America.

Peru isn’t always perceived as the most obvious spot for entrepreneurship in Latin America. Surrounded by more traditionally eye-catching ecosystems like those of Chile, Colombia, Brazil and even Argentina, it has largely flown under the radar. But that is starting to change.

In November, Peruvian government initiative Start-Up Peru was unveiled, marking a new era in the country’s entrepreneurial development. “This program signifies a push for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas, support for organizations, and the emergence of new entities that are developing a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in Peru,” Arturo Cánez, Director of Lima Valley, reflected at the time. And this government program isn’t the only thing the market has going for it.

Peruvians has always been an entrepreneurial and innovative, and we have been witnessing more diversity in the type of entrepreneurship in the country,” explained Gary Urteaga, one of Peru’s leading entrepreneurial figures in a recent interview with PulsoSocial. The founder of Holsens and CinePapaya, Urteaga is now working to bring the Founder Council, the brainchild of Founder Institute CEO Adeo Ressi, to Peru.

garyurteagaWhile Peru’s entrepreneurs have historically been motivated by the need to feed their own families and make ends meet, there has been a rush of new entrepreneurs in recent years with more know-how, education and, most importantly, passion. “The food industry in Peru is a perfect example,” Urteaga pointed out. “For the past 20 years, students, professionals, executives and people from all walks of life have been quitting their jobs for the dream of opening a restaurant. And some of these startups have actually grown into huge brand names, having celebrity chefs and restaurateurs inspiring their sous-chefs and the younger generation in the general public to follow their path.”

Tech, he said, is following suit:

I believe that something similar is happening in the IT industry now, but faster and bigger, because software and the internet can help entrepreneurs reach a larger consumer base with lower cost of scaling up.

A number of programs and initiatives have boosted the country’s tech endeavors, including the Science and Technology Program (FINCyT) created by the Inter-American Development Bank, which helps entrepreneurs and innovators to access grants. Peru’s Ministry of Production has opened up a new innovation fund, FIDECOM, and companies, universities and research institutions have been inspired to join in by a number of incentives for collaboration. “So, with more funds to finance the experience of trial and error and the resilience to failure, plus the inspiration of a few success stories, everyone in the ecosystem is eager to leave their stamp on the market,” Urteaga affirmed.

He made specific nod to Start-Up Peru, which will offer funding to startups and incubators alike (you can get a full shake-down on the initiative here):

This has generated a rush of universities and organizations to join the industry, and they are strengthening their entrepreneurship and innovation centers with the short-term objective of applying for and winning one of the six grants offered by Start-Up Peru for incubators. There is a lot of excitement in the ecosystem, and I think the bumps on the road are just insignificant when compared to the fact that more and more entrepreneurs will have access to resources and support for them to venture and create things.

This doesn’t mean that it’s been entirely smooth sailing, or that there won’t be any obstacles ahead. Our ecosystem is evolving, but what we lack in Peru are more stakeholders with experience, know-how and resources for angel, seed and venture capital for early-stage incubation, acceleration, growth and scaling up of startups,” he reflected.

While Wayra has been an important catalyst, the presence of more entities like it would prove even more impactful. And the diversity of the startups being built in Peru is an issue as well. Along those lines, the Peruvian Corporation for Development (COFIDE) is working with other local players to develop a new program for the ecosystem and encourage entrepreneurs to think beyond web technologies and apps. Urteaga pointed to artificial intelligence and robotics, biotechnology and bioinformatics, energy and environmental systems, medicine, neuroscience, nanotechnology and digital fabrication as areas for exploration.

On this front, Singularity University could have an effect, as it is launching a Global Impact Competition for Peru. It is currently seeking out corporate sponsors to help fund a scholarship for one local entrepreneur to take part in its 10-week program in Silicon Valley.

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Another initiative aimed at fortifying Peru’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is the Lima Founder Council, the local chapter of a global entity with the mission of helping to launch “billion dollar technology companies in various cities around the world.” It gathers major players in the ecosystem to share their ideas and execute strategies to accomplish the goal at hand.

When everyone works together, amazing things can be done. Silicon Valley creates some of the strongest technology companies in the world, and collaboration is the backbone to that success,” Urteaga remarked. “I strongly believe that collaboration and paying-it-forward are very important values in the entrepreneurship and innovation community.”

Come spring, the Lima Founder Council will host its flagship event, inviting all of the stakeholders in Peru’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to attend as well as the general public. Thus far, the reaction to the event has been overwhelmingly positive “What makes this event special is that the theme of the activity is collaboration, and bringing competing institutions and leaders together, strengthening the bonds between each other, and opening the doors to anyone that wants to join,” Urteaga explained.

Given the buzz generated and the anticipated full participation of the ecosystem in the event, Adeo Ressi himself is slated to attend and speak – not only a sign of Peru’s entrepreneurial potential, but also an indication that it has already, in many respects, arrived.