As I've written previously, my view is that countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico are farther along in developing their startup ecosystem as measured by a number of metrics (number of high growth startups founded, number of multimillion dollar investment rounds, etc.). This was clear a couple of years back, when Adeo Ressi agreed to open a Colombia chapter of the Founder Institute. As I stated back then, the potential impact that a pre-idea incubator from Silicon Valley could have in Colombia was that much greater. One specific result is that an increasing number of later stage incubators and government initiatives are selecting more and more Founder Institute Colombia grads to fund and/or mentor.
A couple of days ago, a government initiative called Innpulsa selected the first two digital startups to receive over USD $150k in government grants and both of these are Founder Institute Colombia grads. The companies are Androsocial, a site for automating the digital marketing campaigns with market influencers in Latin America. Also selected was La Bonoteca from the chapter in Medellin (sponsored by Ruta N); a mobile app that sends coupons from local businesses for a fixed listing fee. The companies were selected with the help of a panel of veterans from the startup ecosystem. More in-country startups are sure to follow, but it is quite encouraging to see that two Founder Institute grads have kicked of the digital portion of this government initiative.
In the case of Androsocial, the company has already approved 455 market influencers with a reach of over 650k people in six countries throughout Latin America. La Bonoteca has launched their iPhone app with more than 1600 downloads and more than 80 local establishments testing out the service.
Within Latin America, Colombia is still behind countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and Chile in terms of developing a vibrant startup ecosystem. Indeed, the recent Startup Genome report on top startup ecosystems included Sao Paulo, Brazil (#13) and Santiago, Chile (#20) among the top 20. The latter country boasts a President with a highly visible commitment to fomenting startup growth. Two years ago, the environment for new startups was even more dire.
Although there were and are some startups in the country (some of these, such as VivaReal, Zio Studios, ProcessMaker and VoiceBunny are truly world-class), I saw a void in terms of guidance/mentoring for new entrepreneurs developing their ideas for new startups. That is why I felt so strongly that the Founder Institute, a pre-idea incubator could have a tremendous impact on the country and, fortunately, Adeo Ressi felt the same way (it would have been easy to choose to launch his Latin American expansion in Brazil, for instance).
Two years later, after some amazing support from knowledgeable, experienced, and passionate local mentors, international mentors, and strong allies such as Ruta N and CO Internet, Founder Institute grads are among the top candidates for investment from accelerators such as Wayra (also started two years ago and creating a big impact) and funding from sources such as Innpulsa. Nonetheless, the impact extends further as Founder Institute participants and grads are key players and, often leaders in helping move forward the Colombian startup ecosystem.
As I mentioned above, Colombia has a long ways to go and more and more government agencies and private initatives are popping up to help it along. Nonetheless, I'm grateful to the Founder Institute and Adeo Ressi for investing at such an early stage in an ecosystem that counted only a handful of promoters who saw a ton of potential. I'm confident that we are only beginning to see the true measure of the impact that a pre-idea incubator such as the Founder Institute can have in an emerging market such as Colombia.