Taking the lessons of the Startup Nation on the road to Latin America
I was recently asked to deliver a talk on the concept of startup growth to a group of post-graduate students from Colombia who were on a field trip to San Francisco. I came upon this opportunity quite fortuitously, but the organization that made this happen caught my attention, and I think what they are doing is deemed discussing.
IDEA (International Development Accelerator) is a social startup launched in Israel with presence both in Latin America and the US. They are focusing on democratizing startup innovation and knowledge to tackle local challenges. At their core, they are helping students understand how startups work so they can get a better perspective on how they can launch and grow their startups back in their home countries.
How it works
IDEA connects high school and university students to innovation and startup leaders via field trips into Silicon Valley. They complement these visits with talks, classes, and activities that help them get inspired and work on their social projects.
I was asked to do a second presentation, this time to high school students. I was a little bit skeptical because traditionally you would think youngsters between 16-18 are not likely the best recipients of a presentation on Growth Strategy and Startup Troubleshooting. However, I was surprised at the level of engagement I got to experience.
For starters, perhaps it was because the group came from Mexico, my home country, but very quickly a one-way presentation became a lively discussion on how to launch a brand to protect local Mexican artisans with the same notions of Fair Trade Coffee that brand such as Juan Valdez have in Colombia.
It might well be that because IDEA International was born in Israel, the Startup Nation, that they know how to foster innovation intrinsically. Or perhaps it was just by mere chance that I stumbled upon an elegant social startup connecting ideas with local challenges. Whatever it was, I got the sense that they are on the right path.
IDEA reminded me of the early ages of a competition where I’ve mentored teams, the Hult Prize. Every year hundreds of social startups compete to solve the world’s problems based on a theme. This year the challenge is related to re-igniting the potential of the world’s refugees.
IDEA and the Hult Prize share the classic elements of accelerators that simply work. Put together a diverse group of individuals with a common purpose, nurture them through relevant information and then wait for them to blow your minds.
The challenge, as it is with any early stage startup, is scaling and sustainable growth. IDEA seems to be on the right path, so yours truly will keep an eye on them.