If I had to define my experience at Red Innova Buenos Aires 2014 in one word, it would be “afterglow”. A couple of days have passed since the conference ended, but I still feel inspired by the conversations that took place during these eventful days, and more optimistic than ever about the future of Latin America’s startup scene.
As a startup founder, the main insight I took away was from a talk Properati‘s CEO Gabriel Gruber gave on the growing importance of mobile. With lots of data to support his recommendations, he explained how shortsighted it would be for any company not to have a mobile strategy, especially in Latin America. The part that stuck with me the most was his definition of “mobile first” – not as in killing our websites, but as in designing with the smallest screens in mind.
On a different and perhaps more emotional level, I also felt validated when listening to Tomás Bermúdez on the importance of going after our dreams. In the case of his startup, Cookapp, this means giving users a chance to do what they really love: cook for each other and enjoy a good meal together.
Making an impact
Beyond Cookapp, I was very pleased to hear from many other entrepreneurs keen above all to make a positive impact on other people’s lives. As expected, several of these caught the eye of the Red Innova Challenge‘s jury, such as BikeStorming, Mr Presta and uSound.
While some featured ventures were more socially-oriented than others, all had a trait in common: passion. This quality was visible during Wayra Argentina‘s lively Demo Day pitching session. Despite its name, it showcased startups from several other countries, such as Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.
Leading the way
The Venezuelan startup was motorcycle courier and transportation marketplace TuMotorizado, and their presentation included a very telling fact; even in these troubled times for their country, their numbers have kept on growing steadily. I am tempted to take this even further and say that not only can entrepreneurship blossom despite difficulties, but it can also be our way out of the crisis and into sustainable prosperity.
As NXTP Labs‘ co-founder Marta Cruz mentioned during the panel I had the chance to moderate on women in technology, this is one of the reasons why it is so important for everyone to give female entrepreneurship all the support it deserves. With that in mind, it was invigorating to see how many women were participating in Red Innova at all levels, from organizers to attendees and speakers.
Hope in the young generation
It was refreshing as well to see very young faces everywhere – not only in the crowd, but also on stage, where teenagers Nicolás Bilinkis and Joel Sobol Mark wowed everyone with their burgeoning project, Bookmerang. While both seemed more mature and experienced than your average teenager, Bilinkis insisted that they only recently started to learn how to code, suggesting that it wouldn’t take incredible efforts for other kids to follow their path.
I couldn’t help but connecting this to Buenos Aires’ initiative BA Emprende, which was highlighted on several occasions during the course of the conference, culminating in a surprise guest appearance by Mayor Mauricio Macri. From my perspective, this was notable for several reasons: it acknowledged the community building work that Pablo Larguía and his team have been doing with Red Innova; it showed care for entrepreneurs; and it gave hope for improvement.
The part that left me the most hopeful was the mention of Buenos Aires’ recent partnership with the online coding education platform Codecademy, which will now be available in Spanish for Argentine children to learn how to program. Will a bunch of these kids be on stage at Red Innova a few years from now? I certainly hope so.