Technology Entrepreneurship in Latin America

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In recent decades, technology has opened the door for many young entrepreneurs in Latin America. Not only has it offered an open space to develop projects and ideas new to their region, but it also offers them the possibility of adapting the technologies they create to the specific needs in their environment. In turn, this accommodation to different environments potentially leads to the creation of original ideas that can be duplicated and transferred to other countries with similar environments.

In view of this potential, many multinational companies, such as Intel, 3M, Cisco, and Microsoft, have held numerous technology and innovation contests for university students and recent graduates throughout the region in order to gather talent into one single space in search of the next big idea.

On April 15, Intel held its Intel Challenge Latin America 2013 in coordination with YouNoodle, a company based in California that provides a technology platform for entrepreneurs worldwide to help organizations innovate at a quicker pace. During the first round of the Intel Challenge Latin America 2013, 221 projects from Peru, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico entered the competition and only 45 passed on to the next round.

One of those 45 was a project by Steven Vargas Angeles, an EmprendeAhora alum. After Steven completed the EmprendeAhora program in 2010 (along with his fellow alumni Coco in 2008, Gerson in 2010, Alexia, and Antonella in 2012 and 2010) he continued developing his business idea – CIPLI Research Center with his brothers Lester and Marcos, and together they competed in the Intel Challenge Latin America 2013 with their FractalUp project. FractulUp is a digital tool that serves as a daily educational assistant that allows the user to read summarized content of a professor’s lectures. While initially it is only in English, it will soon work in Spanish and French.

From the 11 Peruvians that advanced to the second round, the Vargas brothers were selected as the only representatives of their country advancing to the next round of the competition. For the ongoing third round, participants traveled to Silicon Valley on July 2nd and will stay throughout July to attend the YouNoodle camp and present their projects after the completion of the camp. All three brothers were able to go to Silicon Valley after receiving sponsorship for one from the Peruvian government through the Commission on Science and Technology (CONCYTEC).

During the camp, the entrepreneurs will attend courses taught by Stanford professors, visit multiple technology companies, and meet with expert mentors and investors. The objective of this participation is to advance their skills as company founders and help them become ambassadors of technological entrepreneurship in their countries of origin.

Towards the end of July the Vargas brothers will have the opportunity to present their project to a panel of experts from Silicon Valley who will select the top three teams, which will then be invited to represent Latin America in the Intel Global Challenge at UC Berkeley in October 2013.

The Vargas brothers’ project benefits those that do have Internet access as well as those that do not – since they will be developing the offline version of the digital tool during the next phase of their project. Many times offline versions of useful tools are not developed, given that it is assumed that if you have a computer you will automatically have Internet access, so the Vargas brothers’ innovation and accommodation to the needs of their environment has allowed them to create an original idea that will hopefully lead them to a positive result in their presentation to the panel of experts.

Stay tuned to find out if the Vargas brothers make it to the next round!

Claudia Hasbun is Program Assistant for Latin America & the Caribbean at CIPE.

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