Interview with Juan Gabriel Arboleda Ramírez, Administrative and Financial Director, Advanced Prosthetics SAS and founder of StartCo
Tell me a little about StartCo. Where did this initiative come from, and what’s the event all about?
In Colombia, we are seeing that the topic of entrepreneurship is gaining more and more traction. Of course, we are still far from reaching other countries, especially in our region, such as Chile, Brazil, Argentina, or Mexico.
But I think that Colombia is taking the right path to entrepreneurship because we are seeing the development of very important companies. An example would be Rappi, a home delivery service. You ask what you want and they’ll bring it to your door in less than an hour.
I have a company dedicated to the creation of robotic orthopaedic devices—particularly 3D-printed hand prostheses—and throughout this entire process of building a company, I had the opportunity to go to many entrepreneurship events—some outside the country, including some in Europe—where I learned very important lessons. One of them is the importance of generating a meaningful network of like-minded people.
Considering the overwhelming path of creating and building a business in Colombia, and the challenges when raising funds and getting investors interested, we decided to create StartCo, an event and a platform that allows people to grow their network and make meaningful connections.
Through StartCo, we wanted to achieve three objectives.
The first was to help startups create strategic relationships with the country’s major corporate agents with whom they could work together. The second objective was to enable startups to raise investment and financing.
And finally, the third objective was to get startups to know the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem that exists in Colombia.
For the first objective, we invited large national companies from the insurance, banking, agriculture, health industry, public, and service sectors, among others. The goal was to get the innovation department representatives of different companies to meet these startups and maybe initiate common projects.
For example, there is a startup called Talentum that deals with human management issues and the selection of personnel. As I understood, they achieved some very important things thanks to different agreements with the big companies in the country.
For the second objective, we invited 100 angel investors and12 investment funds from Colombia and the region to get to know the startups. And finally, we invited all the stakeholders of the investment ecosystem that are responsible for promoting entrepreneurship in our country and the region so that they could present their programs, incubators, and accelerators.
¿Cómo han elegido a las startups participantes? ¿Cuáles son sus criterios?
To decide which selection criteria we could apply in the choice of startups, we have communicated with different entities in the area of entrepreneurship.
As a result, and with the help of Eventtia, we have created registration forms asking participants to fill in the following fields: basic startup, legal, financial, accounting, and strategy information, so that we could evaluate if the startups had what we were searching for.
First, they had to be very clear about their business model, who they are, how they sell their products, etc. Second, they had to be very clear about their differentiating factor, how are they differentiating themselves from the rest, what makes them innovative, and why people should buy from them and not from others.
And finally, they had to present the scalability of their business, how they’re presenting their products to the masses, and how they’ll be selling their items to thousands of people. We have selected the participating startups under these criteria, plus the evaluation of the team.
What activities did you introduce in the event program?
The main dynamic of the event was focused on the presentation of those 265 startups. Each one had a stand where they could present what they considered necessary to explain their value proposition and their business. It could be a small prototype, a video, or anything else that they considered important. That was the main dynamic.
Of the 6,400 attendees attending the event during the two days, they all interacted freely with the startups that were segmented in categories such as ICT, FinTech, agro industry and food, etc. All attendees could roam freely to interact with the teams of these startups.
As a second dynamic, we invited all the entrepreneurs who have already reached high levels to tell us their stories. This is why we created a central scenario where people could listen to a speaker every hour for 20 minutes.
We invited speakers such as Matthieu Tenenbaum, the CEO of Renault Colombia, and David Vélez from NuBank, a digital bank in Brazil with six million customers. Also, we arranged some private tables across the venue where startups and investors could meet each other for one-on-one meetings.
Another dynamic was the startup contest. Eventtia created a mobile application so that when listening to the presentations of each startup, attendees could qualify them according to some specific aspects.
For example, we introduced criteria such as the business model, scalability level, and differentiating factor. Having this ranking, people evaluated who were the best startups.
Finally, we organized a live investment round. The best 10 startups had to present their pitch and be evaluated by other entities. Of these 10 startups, 4 received an investment worth $1 million.
How have you measured the impact of the event?
To give you some figures, our two-day event had 6,400 attendees from 19 countries. We had more than 100 angel investors, and 265 startups from 9 countries participated in 9 different categories. The business expectations have reached $11 million and the investment expectations have been around $12 million.
How did you assess the satisfaction level of the attendees?
During the event, we asked the assistants to fill out some surveys. At the end of the event, we surveyed the startups and collected information regarding their business and investment expectations.
What was the planning process of StartCo?It took us a year to prepare the event. But more than preparing it was to build it. Planning it took us about four months. For the second edition of the event, we will also take a year.
We are going to work hard on the strategic aspect and everything we have to do to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We’ll focus on organizing an event that will offer a more enriched experience to its participants. We’ll decide what kind of speakers we should invite. We’ll design the event activities that will take place simultaneously during the event. We’ll also look for allies, obviously.
What were your biggest challenges when planning the event?
We had two big challenges. The first one was to motivate the Colombia startups to register and participate.
The second one was to attract more attendees. Since it was the first edition, it was difficult to get people to trust and believe in our event. But we succeeded.
What best practices of planning and managing an event of these characteristics could you share with us?
The most important thing is to have a good team. If you ask me why StartCo did so well, I think it was because we put together an excellent team. Without a good team, it would have been impossible.
Second, it is essential to find a powerful planning tool. Eventtia was extremely important in managing the event because its software is simple and easy to use.
It helped us connect with the payment gateway, generate invoices easily, get people vote for the best startups, design surveys, send mass messages, and create the mobile app. All this has been possible thanks to Eventtia.
Third, you have to have a good entrepreneurial spirit. If someone wants to plan an event, they have to have a clear vision and know why they’re doing it.
In my case, it was to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Colombia. A good team, a good tool, and a good entrepreneurial spirit are enough to carry out an event like this.
Thank you very much for your time!