MEXICO CITY, JUNE 22—The most constructive war in Latin American history erupted with guns blazing this month: a “battle” for startup supremacy between Mexico and Colombia, two fast-growing startup nations in a friendly fight to launch thousands of startups. The first “shot” was fired in Mexico City on June 1, with a long-planned response the following week in Bogota, Colombia, where the so-called battle began in 2012.
Three years ago, the Colombian Ministry of Technology and Innovation(MINTIC) launched “apps.co,” a massive, ten-week startup training program that has now trained 960 startups in seven cities throughout the nation. The eight-week “virtual incubator” blends training, mentorship, and skill-building for entrepreneurs who arrive with a business idea and—when successful—graduate with an operating startup. The program’s rigorous methodology is based on the “Lean LaunchPad” method pioneered by Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur-turned-educator Steve Blank.
A 2012 Colombian pilot program designed and taught by yours truly–Blank’s co-author, Bob Dorf, saw more than 500 Colombian startups apply for 30 team openings. Three years later, more than a dozen of those are successful, growing tech-enabled businesses, and scores more successes have emerged from the 960 teams trained since that first successful program.
Teams receive indepth training in Blank’s Customer Development methodology, adapted for the Latin market and taught by Dorf. Each team quickly develops a “business model canvas,” outlining all the elements they believe will make their businesses successful—not just the product and its features, but the customer targets, marketing, pricing and distribution strategies and more. Rapid-fire customer discovery activities infuse the startup with feedback that drives iteration of every aspect of the business, often leading quickly to product launch and customer acceptance.
Mexico launches “LeanStartupsMX”
Observing the Colombian success, Mexico’s INADEM, a unit of its Ministry of Economy(similar to the American SBA) felt its tech entrepreneurs needed a similarly structured, ambitious program. On June 1, 32 startup teams, chosen from 696 applicants, joined 50 mentors in their first full week of intensive training.
The “war” is brewing with Mexico striving to train more teams than Colombia—a noble competition that should serve both countries’ entrepreneurial goals well.
During their first week, Mexican startup teams were trained to develop their initial business model, and to validate that model using customer discovery, competitive analysis and other techniques. Experienced entrepreneurs and academics recruited as mentors guide the progress of each team, while the mentors themselves receive parallel training to help scale the program.
At the end of week one of ten, the huge conference center at Mexico’s Anahuac University was strewn with energized yet exhausted Mexican entrepreneurs who’d taken their first steps toward building their tech or tech-enabled startups.
Next steps in Colombia
June 8 saw Colombia launching “stage two” of their apps.co program, in the planning for nearly a year. Based on its initial success, the MINTIC program is now expanding to 20 Colombian cities and seeking to train at least 1,000 more startup teams in the year beginning September, launched with a four-day training program for nearly 100 mentors and coaches. Alex Osterwalder, father of the business model canvas, trained new and refreshed new mentors on business modeling. Dorf then trained the mentors on how to use Customer Development to test and iterate the business model and turn the startup into a repeatable, scalable, profitable business.
This war will be won by both sides, as two ambitious Latin governments implement a local program and build local talent pools of coaches and mentors to develop many more startup successes in their emerging economies.
Bob Dorf is an allegedly retired serial entrepreneur and co-author of the bestselling Startup Owner’s Manual, now in 15 languages. Reach him at www.bobdorf.nyc. Learn more about Colombia at www.apps.co and LeanStartupsMX at www.leanstartupsmx.com