Let 1,000 ideas bloom — and bear fruit

These days, nearly every major city in the world seems to be striving to create Silicon Valley-like ecosystems where inventors, entrepreneurs, investors and academics can come together and turn innovation into viable businesses.

The outcomes, however, haven’t been the same. Latin America is no exception. Out of 1,000 ideas, maybe 100 are analyzed, 10 might get financed and as few as two actually bear fruit. This is why we’re still not ready to fully capitalize our potential for innovation in every industry in every one of our countries.

Some of our cities are making more progress than others, but by and large we must all overcome four key challenges:

Risk aversion: too often, we prefer to remain in our comfort zone rather than taking risks, closing ourselves to the possibilities of what could have been. But is a cultural shift even feasible? An evaluation of Chile’s policy of attracting foreign entrepreneurs has shown that locals learn a lot when they’re exposed to imported ideas and talent.

Technical skills: Latin America has talent in spades in certain fields, such as ICTs and biotechnology. However, we’re still short of the technical skills required to turn raw talent into thriving industries, so we must train and build up that capacity.

Survive and expand: a curious feature of our countries is the absence of competition. In more prolific ecosystems there are typically several groups working on similar ideas, vying to come up with a better mousetrap. This means that we have extremely high entry barriers to new ideas.

Fear of failure: this might sound similar to risk aversion, but there’s a difference. In Silicon Valley, failure is seen as a learning opportunity, a stepping stone to success. In our culture, failure is viewed as a waste of resources and a stigma.

All of these challenges are connected. We’re dealing with a process of change. We must learn to think in terms of the future and realize, for example, how programs can influence learning processes.

Silicon Valley has already shown us how to be successful. Now, it’s our job to adapt its lessons and experiences to our region’s own needs.

Are you interested in learning more about Latin America’s potential? Join us on Wednesday, June 22 for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Demand Solutions, where we’ll showcase innovation and entrepreneurship in our region.