torsdag, mars 31, 2016

If you can imagine it, you can make it

Jelena (on the left) represented ESBRI at GEC 2016. In this photo with startup Procleaner S.A.S., that manufactures environmentally friendly cleaning products.    
Two weeks ago I attended the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) in Medellín, the second largest city in Colombia. Organized by the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), the event has grown significantly during its eight-year history. Starting off as a gathering of the organizations that host Global Entrepreneurship Week, GEC now brings together policymakers, investors, researchers, entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts from all corners of the world. Together, they help founders start and scale, while at the same time working towards building one healthy global entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Organizing GEC is an excellent opportunity for a host city to showcase its entrepreneurial and innovative landscape. And it is no coincidence that Medellín was chosen as the host city of the GEC 2016. It is an amazing example of a place that underwent a tremendous transformation – from one of the world’s most dangerous cities to the ”Innovative City of the Year” 2013, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

A view of cable cars in Medellín.
The city’s response to violence and fear was investing in infrastructure and education and shifting focus to the people of Medellín. Medellín boasts an impressive urban area with well-built roads and the only metro system in the country. However, there is still a less modern, poorer side of the city on its outskirts, the so-called favelas. In an attempt to make these parts better connected to the city, a cable car system has been built.

Another effort towards integration was building a big library in the middle of a favela, to bring education closer to the poor. Spain Library is an unusual structure, built with very small windows in order to isolate the space from the dangerous world outside. As Mayor of Medellín pointed out during the gala event organized for GEC delegates, the way forward is to continue empowering the young generation by investing in education and entrepreneurship.

During the last day of GEC, the international delegates got a closer look at Medellín’s thriving entrepreneurial scene. We visited Fondo Emprender, Latin America’s largest seed capital grant fund and met some of their amazing startups. One of them is Row Tecnología, a construction company offering environmentally friendly building solutions with focus on energy and operational efficiency, and security. Another great startup is Soluciones Roboticas Integrales – three young men who claim ”if you can imagine it, you can make it”. One of the solutions they offer is mine detection and removal.

Coming back from Colombia, the main impression I take with me is that of achieving the impossible. Just as Jonathan Ortmans pointed out in his opening speech, entrepreneurship is now way beyond just commercial purposes, it is about the ”possibilities of human endeavors”. And the city of Medellín certainly proves this point.


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