When the Founder Institute, the largest startup accelerator in the world, settled in Caracas a year ago, the representation assigned in Venezuela did not expect the high number of applications that its initial call had, to be part of the acceleration program. There were 180 in total who applied for the first cohort, in which nine entrepreneurs graduated, with eight of them formalizing the launch of their technology company in a hostile but eager market.
E-commerce, marketplaces, echtech or fintech. The variety was present both in the applications and at the time of specifying the business model, with the accompaniment now of the Founder Institute, Caracas chapter, for guidance in the development process and in the search for raising capital.
The hidden talent in technology in Venezuela was a surprising finding for the FI volunteers in Caracas, among them Sandy Gómez, an economist and valuation specialist at Arca Economic Analysis, who after having managed to anchor the FI in the Venezuelan capital, organic and even anecdotal, he has been impressed with the response that those related to the area have given to his presence, and how, in the face of a complicated economic context, with few guarantees, the commitment becomes greater.
For the application in the guidance and training programs of the FI, which last approximately two months and two of them have already been executed in Venezuela with expert training, psychometric tests are assumed that allow evaluating the willingness of the entrepreneurs or future entrepreneurs in technology companies, and their ability to deal with obstacles of various kinds.
In Venezuela, where businesses have grown along with the crisis due to necessity and the destruction of formal employment, with a business life span reduced to three years due to improvisation or lack of training, the Founder Institute, which is dedicated Precisely to provide the right tools to deal with or avoid mistakes, it has run into a more aware and rooted generation, which sees in the Venezuelan market, the same one that presents setbacks even in payment mechanisms, a perfect opportunity to innovate.
“There are many things that you can do to close the gap in the Venezuelan market by bringing the best practices. You do not have to reinvent the wheel and delivery is one of them, we did not invent it, it already existed in other places, what happens is that we had not found the formula to get into this market, but the second great catalyst is that when we move to the multi-currency system, we do not have the denominations of bills for small payments, then the app fixed that payment issue. These are problems that we still have in Venezuela and that are day-to-day and that it is possible that they will spread, and to which a solution can be proposed, “says Gómez, in a conversation with Bloomberg Line.
To the lack of technological advances in the country, which is just beginning to have new internet access options with satellite links, another factor is added, which, although it highlights the most negative elements of the national economic crisis, is also used as a point of honor when recognizing failures and not repeating them.
“Venezuela has a peculiarity, when the country has gone through its boom cycles, all those mistakes are left under the rug, because well, 30 years ago an entrepreneur of his time did not have to have been a Tech entrepreneur, he launched an initiative and he went bankrupt, but maybe he did it with subsidized loans and the scar doesn’t hurt the same. There are many things that this generation does not have. Credits do not have. That mistake is not going to be made like this, since the different mistake would be new information about the ecosystem”, explains Sandy Gómez, who also reveals that for this very reason, the accompaniment of the FI does not stop at the end of the training and continues even until participation in the investment rounds is achieved.
The accelerator, based in Silicon Valley and with a presence in 200 cities since 2009, is also recognized by Venezuelans who make a living in the tech world, throughout the country and in the most remote citieswith great experience in programming and offering their work for large companies in the United States and the rest of the continent.
Marco Villegas, director of Arca Economic Analysis and co-director of FI Caracas talks about that talent that they have been able to identify in the face of so many requests, that in addition to thanking the presence of the institution in the country, they also enthusiastically see the participation of Venezuelan experts and successful among mentors.
“They have told us: ‘With that I feel that I am helping Venezuela a little.’ With all the knowledge they may have and willing to contribute in the process, and it has been one of the best experiences we have been able to experience. Venezuelans in Google, in Meta (Facebook), Amazon, or in the startups that are already here, are supporting the ecosystem,” says Villegas about the integration of facilitators in acceleration programs, which is moving towards a third call in the South American country.
The sustainability of the ideas proposed in a market like the Venezuelan one, of course, is questionable, however from the FI delegation in Caracas, they prefer to focus on the strength behind who proposes it and its flexibility to mutate and support the ‘Venezuela laboratory’, with the sights set on offering solutions, because once that happens, in other scenarios it will be easier.