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“Startup Buenos Aires” puts the city in the global map of startups

“Startup Buenos Aires” puts the city in the global map of startups

Posted by Clarisa Herrera on June 02, 2014

A New Yorker trying to succeed in Buenos Aires. As you know it is usually the other way around, and it is more common to find people from the Argentinian capital looking for success in New York, but in this case, the story tells a different tale. A native of the big apple came to Buenos Aires to shape a strong necessity the actual local technological community had: an entrepreneurial community.

The main character of this story is Lisa Besserman and her creation, Startup Buenos Aires, an initiative the own Besserman will be presenting at the Latam Startups Conference, to be held in Lima in september.

Besserman currently lives in Buenos Aires but in her background she has an important path in the new yorker entrepreneurial scene, where she worked for a company that designed  Apps for mobile phones until 2012.

After not being in a vacation for two years she realized there was a favourable juncture in her life: she had her work team in California and her clients all over the US, meaning she didn't need to stay at an office so she came up with the idea of working remotely so that she could skip the winter in New York. She took a map and started looking for a place with a similar time zone and a city where she could enjoy the summer in, and she randomly decided to try her own luck in Buenos Aires.

“I didn't have any contacts nor did I speak spanish but the plan was to  stay for two or three months and if I didn't like it I would go somewhere else” Besserman says.

Before getting there she started to investigate a little more about the startups community in the city to be able to have contacts and friends when she got there:

“I investigated a little but I couldn't find any entrepreneurial community, which was really weird. There wasn't any organization or any event or some institution that promoted events. When I finally go there, I couldn't believe the amount of entrepreneurs that where in the city, nor did I believe the huge amount of talent. So it was a place where all the elements where three but there wasn't a place that put it all together, every entrepreneur was working on its onw, in a very fragmented way with the help of groups in the social media” she points out.

Palermo Valley an institution that for several years had dominated in the local entrepreneurial scene as a reference institution of the industry, was becoming less important for the time Lisa arrived in Buenos Aires. After starting to meet key people, entrepreneurs, accelerators and players of the local technological ecosystem, Lisa realized that no matter the level of development the startups had or how experienced the entrepreneur was they all lacked resources:

“They all needed something and there wasn't really any place where they could go find whatever they needed. Then I started to make connections, if someone needed a developer I would make the connection, if some entrepreneur needed to talk to a journalist I would do the same, I started doing all of this on my own, in my little network” she tells us.

Then the big question occurred to her: Why not do it at a bigger level? taking the entrepreneurs, the talent, the sources and put it all in one place, centralized, so the idea of creating Startup Buenos Aires finally appeared:

“Originally Startup Buenos Aires was born to be a small group but once I started telling the community about the mission of the organization and what we were doing, it became something bigger than I expected. Everybody needed that space and the possibility of bringing international events to the city” she points out.

Talent to export

After reaching that point, she created a team that mostly had volunteers that were very connected to the community, locals and foreigners:

“Out of the seven, four are foreigners. The reason for that is that the local community is also mixed, 40% of the entrepreneurs are not local. The mission of the organization is to put Buenos Aires in the global map for entrepreneurs, to have a cosmopolitan team goes along with our mission, diversity is an important ingredient” she believes.

Consulted by the failures of the local ecosystem, Besserman explains her vision in the scenery:

“I think that there are two things missing at a local level, there is talent but we need investment and I think Argentina is a very risky country to invest in at the time because of the instability of the economic situation, which is a shame given the excellent many technological companies that need investment -she goes on- there is also missing support from the government. If you look at ecosystems such as the one in Chile or Brazil the state governments are very prolific, but Argentina doesn't have those”.

Even with this situation, the recognition local startups have gained through acquisitions or fusions, is a key element towards the visibility of the local talent that has been very present lately:

“The fact that US or European companies are looking for local talent to grow or expand is great, and it is the proof that it is possible for Argentinian companies to show themselves to the world, Argentina is getting a higher profile in this sense around the world, the innovation and talent of entrepreneurs. It definitely brings attention to the industry of the city” she says.

Besserman has a clear objective for a medium term, she wants to turn Buenos Aires to the next outsourcing hub: “When companies think of technological outsourcing they think of the East, India, or Russia, mainly because of costs. Russia for example is not a good option because of the time zones, and it is a really big issue they have to put up with, the better option is Buenos Aires. The costs are lower, the time zone is similar, the quality of the work is excellent and besides, the level of english is really high in the technological community” she concludes.

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