One of the most exciting opportunities Remote Year offers is direct access to the heart of the entrepreneurial communities in each of the cities we visit. We work out of local incubators and co-working spaces, we mingle with locals and hear from other entrepreneurs, allowing us to really get to know the scene.
For someone whose passion is helping entrepreneurs and building communities, this is an incredibly exciting and unique opportunity. So yes, I’m in heaven.
The first community we’re exploring on this year-long journey is Córdoba, Argentina, a city bursting with entrepreneurial energy and potential. Since arriving here only three short weeks ago, I’ve talked with a number of people actively working to grow and support the community.
Maria Elena Provensal was one of the first people I met. She manages the programs at Incutex, the company builder and co-working space we’re based out of this month. She’s been actively supporting and growing the local startup scene over the last few years. We had a chance to talk and she shared her thoughts with me about the problems and opportunities Córdoba’s entrepreneurial community faces.
Victor Mochkofsky is another local activist we met early on, and I’m not sure how else to say it, but he’s a doll. He was born in Córdoba, studied here, moved to the States and worked there for a number of years and then realized his passion was community and people, so he moved back to Argentina. He reminds me of an Argentinian Jonathan Cottrell. Someone who loves their community more than words, and will do just about anything to see it flourish.
These are just two of the wonderful people I’ve met during my time so far here in Córdoba. From them, as well as other influencers and local entrepreneurs, I’ve been able to highlight eight interesting factoids about the entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole.
- The entrepreneurial bug has been planted, but only really since 2012. This is crazy to me, to see the growth over only four short years. Incutex just started their fourth program, and they’re one of the largest players in the local scene. Despite or possibly because of the newness of the entrepreneurial community, there’s an energy and excitement that’s palpable. People want to help each other succeed.
- The largest first round investment by only Argentinian investors was 1 million dollars in Gi FlyBike, a company that is current in the company builder program at Incutex. This was incredible to me when we frequently hear about large multi-million dollar investments in the U.S., but it’s also a sign of growth and potential for startups coming out of Argentina in the global ecosystem.
- There are limited mentors with lean startup knowledge to provide the necessary guidance to up and coming entrepreneurs. The majority of the mentors locally have big business experience, but not the ‘build, measure, learn, pivot’ experience. This was one problem that Maria mentioned, which stuck with me. Without effective mentorship, the learning curve for the current entrepreneurs is steep, and slows the collective growth within the community.
- There’s a huge number of small business owners who don’t realize they’re actually entrepreneurs. While this is true around the world, it sticks out especially here. On every corner you’ll see another small café or kiosko. If you were to talk to any of these owners, they would likely not self-identify as entrepreneurs, but they are. They’re the blood, sweat and tears that go into the small business community and make cities into homes and communities.
- Startup Weekend has had a huge impact on the growth in Córdoba. For me, this hits close to home due to the impact that Startup Weekend and more recently Startup Week had on my involvement in the entrepreneurial world. The minute I heard from Juan Gabriel Goiriz, another of our local contacts, that he had attended a number of Startup Weekends, I lit up. Maria also attended a Startup Weekend which her team ended up winning. Both Maria and Gabi told me, along with lots of other local networking opportunities, bring people together and support the ecosystem’s growth and awareness.
- There’s a government program called Emprenden Industria that allows big businesses to forego taxes and instead invest that money in locally vetted entrepreneurs. This is huge. To have government support behind a community’s desire to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem will definitely help speed up the growth and supplement the limited local funding.
- The emphasis on building a team over an idea is just as important here as it is in other places in the world. When I talked with Maria, she told me that the growth in numbers of applicants for the Incutex has grown from 60 the first year, 160 the second year, 250 the third year and 400 this last round. That means that more time and energy has to go into the vetting process of deciding on who will be accepted. At the end of the day, it’s the team above the idea or anything else that they look for. One concept that crosses even language barriers.
I’m fully aware that this is only a bird’s eye view of the local scene. I know there are many more niche components to the ecosystem. That being said, I do feel as though we learned a lot from the local entrepreneurs and have a better idea of what the concept of ‘being an entrepreneur’ is like outside of the U.S., and also what people outside of the U.S. think about our concept of entrepreneurship.
Either way, I know I’ll continue to learn and grow from my experiences with other local entrepreneurs around the world. Hopefully, I’ll even be able to swing by a Startup Weekend or Startup Week event to make this year complete, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
With love, Paige