Creating a business environment that helps you get ahead

Want to create a business environment that helps you get ahead? Here’s how to do it.

If you’re trying to launch a startup in Latin America or the Caribbean, you might want to get some tips from two business experts who’ve been in Colombia and Mexico lately to meet with executives, entrepreneurs and financial investors.

Now back from their travels, Ambassador David Thorne — senior advisor to Secretary of State John Kerry — and Deborah Magid of IBM took part in a recent U.S. State Department webchat to share their insights and experience in the business world. They answered questions from webchat participants and offered advice on how to establish the right conditions for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Here are seven key takeaways from the webchat:

  • The way to help yourself is to move FAST. When you get an idea, act on it quickly — because someone else might think of it, too.
  • Seek a mentor. Look for someone who’s been successful in your country, because having a mentor improves your chances of getting your enterprise going by about tenfold.
  • Don’t borrow money. Debt puts a burden on your enterprise that you often won’t be able to overcome. Instead, seek support from friends, family and ‘angel’ investors. And don’t overlook crowdsourcing, which is becoming an essential source of capital for entrepreneurs.
  • Innovate — don’t imitate. You don’t need to be the Silicon Valley of Havana, for example. You want to take lessons from Silicon Valley, and build a community with its own business climate. You’ve got your own culture, your own way of doing business, your own neighbors and your own business ecosystem.
  • Don’t get discouraged, and don’t worry about failing. Failure does not preclude future success, and can even help you achieve it by teaching you things you need to know.
  • Network! Get out and meet each other. Entrepreneurial culture is built on a supportive environment, and networking builds the right climate. Also, networking can help you in unexpected ways — you might find a partner or investor.
  • Take advantage of local resources. Reach out to government and community organizations, and bring sympathetic investors into your incubator groups to develop ideas that can become businesses.

And don’t forget …

In some countries, U.S. embassies are trying to encourage meetups and hackathons to help entrepreneurs brainstorm solutions to their problems. And by meeting reps from other startups, you can learn about new business models, new technologies and new investment opportunities.

Give back.

It’s important to mentor others, too. Pledge that once you’re successful, you’ll help other new entrepreneurs. By mentoring young innovators, you make your country a more welcoming place for startups.

Watch the full English recap here

Watch the full Spanish recap here