GEN partnered with MiSK Foundation to launch the Entrepreneurship World Cup (EWC), and now it is even bigger and better than last year. EWC Bolivia is led by GEN Bolivia, a national affiliate of the Global Entrepreneurship Network. We spoke with René Salomón, its Country Active Managing Director on how Bolivia is proving to be a leader in the entrepreneurial space through their evident capacity for adaptation and resilience despite the global pandemic and its local and national public policies.
This article is part of a series highlighting EWC national organizers around the world.
ABOUT YOUR COUNTRY’S STARTUP ECOSYSTEM
GEN: Tell us about the startup ecosystem in your country. What are its main characteristics? If you could change one thing to make it better, what would it be? Who are the stars of your country’s ecosystem?
René Salomón: The Bolivian business base is made up of 331,130 companies. A 2019 study worked by different institutions found that there are only 176 technology startups in Bolivia. Therefore, it is necessary to promote flexible rules to have more legal companies and reflect a different and robust startup ecosystem.
The Bolivian commercial code does not recognize startups and the investment law does not allow working with equity or other types of financial operations. This situation makes investing in startups unattractive. For this reason, it is important to work on local and national public policies so the investment, registry and other operating permits are less bureaucratic.
ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION
GEN: Tell us about your organization. What does it do to support entrepreneurs and/or grow your startup ecosystem?
René Salomón: GEN Bolivia has a networking relationship with several universities and enterprises in order to develop projects and to access technical assistance from their teaching staff, students and entrepreneurs.
With public autonomous universities around Bolivia, for example, specific competitions have carried out through the Economic and Enterprise Faculties, while the private universities around the country have executed several startup weekends and other events including Google Developers Groups, Women Tech Makers and others. There is regular collaborative work on market research, graduate theses' and other initiatives that complement the ecosystem activities.
Likewise, networks have been set up with companies and universities to support businesses by holding different activities to promote initiatives that will in future become sustainable businesses, including incubators and accelerators that came up after several years of having startup weekends (Green, Education, Agrotech, Tourism and Fashion), Startup Food Innovation and others.
The networks around GEN Bolivia are principally the voice of entrepreneurs in Bolivia.
ABOUT ENTREPRENEURSHIP WORLD CUP
GEN: When did you decide to get involved in the Entrepreneurship World Cup and why?
René Salomón: I decided to get involved in the Entrepreneurship World Cup after my time serving as an organizer of Global Entrepreneurship Week. Being that EWC is the largest entrepreneurial competition on the planet, it immediately caught our attention and we knew we wanted to take an active part in it.
GEN: How does EWC support the other work that your organization does?
René Salomón: EWC helps provide a singular platform for entrepreneurs in not only Bolivia but also around the world to connect with one another. Therefore, EWC adds special value to our organization in the way that it fits the cooperative way of working with other leaders that we hope to achieve. I’m sure narrowing down hundreds of thousands of applicants to the top 100 to reach a Global Final is a challenge in itself. We were sure Bolivia needed to be a part of that challenge.
GEN: What do you hope to achieve with EWC 2020?
René Salomón: Bolivian entrepreneurs have the potential to develop ideas and achieve their goals. Therefore, I hope that the winner of this year’s competition is a Bolivian. We also hope to triple the number of participants in both ideas and startups, but the largest challenge is obtaining sponsorship from companies that are unfortunately struggling due to COVID-19.
GEN: Did COVID-19 bring any change in the way of working and integrating the ecosystem?
René Salomón: COVID-19 has accelerated the communication between entrepreneurs, universities, government authorities and the entire ecosystem in general. I think we advanced 15 years in six months, and that shows the capacity of adaptation and resilience that Bolivians have.