Fifteen years ago, Medellín, Colombia’s second largest city, resembled a diabolical sort of place. Business was corrupt. Violence was heavy. For Conrad Egusa, an entrepreneur who has practiced success in the Silicon Valley and in New York, Medellín might have been the last place on earth where he would choose to spawn his latest idea – a start-up incubator. But instead, Egusa thinks Medellín is ideal.
Along with his local partner, Edinson Alberto Arrieta Aguas, the two are hopeful about Medellín, which is the city they chose to cradle their recently launched Espacio, a start-up incubator that offers a community-driven brand of marketing, technology, and PR support to a mix of Colombian and foreign entrepreneurs. According to TechCrunch Espacio is backed by .CO, a digital enterprise web domain, and the Founder Institute.
“Medellin is unlike any other city I have been to, and the only region I can compare it to is Silicon Valley. When I arrived in the city, the more I became involved in the entrepreneurial scene here, the more I learned about the great government initiatives (from Ruta N, iNNpulsa), and the active startup scene,” Egusa told Pulso Social.
But if Espacio wants Medellín to be the next Silicon Valley, it faces some stiff competition for the title. Chile’s government-backed Start-UpChile aims to have 1,000 fledgling firms and has already established itself. And imitating the pearl of Chile’s strategy, Brazil also wants to lift prohibitive immigration laws that will make its cities more attractive to foreigners for testing their ideas in institutes like Rio’s 21212 Digial Accelerator.
Medellin And regional competition isn’t the only challenge. What Espacio has to figure out is how to lure Angel Investors – a hot matter The Economist talks about in its recent article about Latin America’s entrepreneurial climate. The final key that successful tech entrepreneurs need for solving the start-up labyrinth is private venture capital for investment in their projects. According to The Economist, even Rio and Santiago see difficulty luring angel money away from America’s innovation hubs in Silicon Valley and New York.
Egusa, however, sees the challenge from a different perspective. He says that what he perceives to be one of the most fundamental challenges is a mere lack of success stories in Colombia and even greater Latin America.
“Latin America needs to have a number of entrepreneurial success stories, which will not only catch the eye of foreign venture capitalists, but will also serve as inspiration to the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Egusa, in an interview with PulsoSocial.
Indeed, he has now made himself into something of a ventriloquist with the power to tell those stories. And if he and Espacio don’t tell success, Medellín might watch the Angels fly right on by.