Startup Nations Policy Dialogue: Global Insights for Transforming the Latin American Region
15 Dec 2017

A workshop of Latin America’s entrepreneurship policy and innovation agents took place at the tail end of the Startup Nations Summit (SNS) 2017 in Tallinn, Estonia. Startup Nations co-hosted this workshop with PRODEM and the Latin American Dynamic Entrepreneurship and Innovation Policy Network, and had Dr. Hugo Kantis as its lead facilitator.

SNS allowed policy representatives to identify, test, and monitor innovative policies and smart, public-sector programs that aim at supporting new and young firms. Delegates representing Latin American countries convened for a follow-on workshop focused on two objectives: a) to foster collective learning in favor of entrepreneurship ecosystems in Latin America, and b) learn from the global experiences and knowledge from a regional perspective, building on what each participant captured during the SNS sessions.

Kantis synthesized “six ideas main ideas Latin America took back home," which emerged from the workshop, as follows:

  1. Despite being a small country, Estonia was able to develop a highly innovative and entrepreneurial economy. This was a strong impression among participants, many of which represented small Latin American countries and who often find the lack of scale as an explanation for why their ecosystems face limitations in their development.
  2. Nonetheless, the limitations imposed by size are real and the regional integration of ecosystems is therefore a promising path to overcome them. The annual PRODEM Seminar-Workshop is a forum that seeks to strengthen regional integration.
  3. There is tension when weighing supporting “High-Growth Firms” vs. “determining what to do with the other entrepreneurial firms”. During the various SNS panels, content focused on the former, but the questions from the audience tended to displace that focus towards other forms of entrepreneurship. Kantis pointed out two risks that should be considered in this regard:
    1. The risk of mixing it all up as part of the same group, i.e. the risk of addressing the various types of firms and objectives with the same policies. Nobel prize winner, Economist Tinbergen, had already described the problems arising from one-size fits-all instruments. As Kantis expressed at the workshop, this approach “is like wanting to kill two birds with one stone, and the likely outcome is that none will be effectively targeted.”  Specialization by type of entrepreneurial firms and by problem area is a recommended approach, even when there certainly are cross-cutting policies such as entrepreneurship education or regulatory streamlining to start and close a business.
    2. The risk of becoming prisoners of narrow definitions of High-Growth Firms (HGFs). High-growth enterprises, according to some operational definitions focused on growth rates or sales which do not have a solid conceptual basis end up making the pool of target entrepreneurial ventures too narrow. In this way, the tension between HGFs and the rest of entrepreneurial firms exacerbates to the point where “the rest” become a bigger priority. PRODEM’s definition of “dynamic entrepreneurship” is in this sense a more encompassing alternative which has solid conceptual basis.  
  4. It is important to consider the “leveraging effect” in entrepreneurship policymaking.
    1. Leveraging the roles of the public and the private sectors: the challenge is finding the right policy formula in the mix – a matter of fine-tuning using a long-term evolution perspective.
    2. Leveraging the local/national/regional/global spheres: the challenge is avoiding false dilemmas. Via open ecosystems and regional and global integration, it is possible to address the multidimensional aspect of an ecosystem, which includes features from the local, the national spheres, etc.
  5. Without quality human capital, the ecosystem does not work, and that is an issue not only for the firms but also to government policies and programs. This is why it is key to work from the education system to gain time departing from key spaces for training of entrepreneurs and policy agents. It is from this conviction that PRODEM is fostering the Latin America Dynamic Entrepreneurship and Innovation Policy Network.
  6. We must innovate in the ways we design and implement policies. At SNS, we learned of a few innovative approaches.
    1. Innovation in policymaking processes: we learned about public policy applications of the Public Policy Lean Canvas, the regulatory sandbox and policy experiments.
    2. Innovation in policy instruments:
      1. New entrepreneurship legislation (e.g. digital business registration in Italy, new forms of startup financing, etc.)
      2. Uncommon policy approaches (e.g. Estonia’s e-residency program; Finland’s universal basic income experiment)
      3. Tackling other policies’ side-effects on entrepreneurs (e.g. create an Entrepreneurs’ Ombudsman).

Participants in this regional workshop in Estonia were:

  1. Marcia Montes Cantillo, Deputy Minister for the Economy, Industry & Commerce, Costa Rica
  2. Otavio Caixeta, Director, Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication, Brazil
  3. Jose Checo, Entrepreneurship Director, Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Dominican Republic
  4. Alejandra Vivas, Coordinator, Under-Secretary of Entrepreneurs, Ministry of Production, Argentina
  5. Gonzalo Villaran Elias, Executive at the Unit of Knowledge Management and Development, Innovate Peru
  6. Gary Urteaga, Founder & Startup Policy Advisor, Peru
  7. Tadashi Takaoka, Head of Entrepreneurship, Corfo, Chile
  8. Sebastian Diaz, CMO, Start-Up Chile
  9. Liliana Reyes, Director of Venture Capital, National Entrepreneurship Institute (INADEM), Mexico
  10. Víctor Montaño Pérez, Director of High Impact Entrepreneurship Programs, National Entrepreneurship Institute (INADEM), Mexico
  11. Alberto Saracho, Economic Development Director and Founding Partner, Fundación IDEA, Mexico
  12. Carmen Sánchez Balcarce, Manager of Entrepreneurship Promotion, Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining, Uruguay
  13. Sara Goldberg Cohen, Chief of Operations, National Agency of Research and Innovation (ANII), Uruguay
  14. Leticia Romero, Head of ICT in Education and Digital Inclusion, National Secretariat for Information and Communication Technologies (SENATICs), Paraguay
  15. Alcides E. Corbeta, General Coordinator, CONACYT, Paraguay
  16. Felipe Matos, Executive Director, Dínamo, Brazil
  17. Laura Lopez Castilla, Entrepreneurship Director, National Business Association (ANDI), Colombia
  18. Jorge Lawson, Director, Argentinean National Bank
  19. Carla Goglia, Executive Director, Fundación Empretec Argentina

They will meet again at the 8th PRODEM Seminar-Workshop for Entrepreneurship Professionals in Medellin, Colombia during May 8-11, 2018. 

A Spanish version of this report was posted on the PRODEM blog at

Hugo Kantis


Dr. Kantis is the Director of the Entrepreneurial Development Program at the Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento (UNGS) in Buenos Aires,… More