Last July 18th of 2012 was the public launch of "Manizales Mas" ("Manizales Plus", in english), the first initiative of the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project in Colombia.
As described in a recent article by Newswise, "the project will seek to enrich the city’s entrepreneurship ecosystem to support ambitious entrepreneurs in rapidly starting new ventures, while accelerating and scaling existing ones". Manizales is a city in central Colombia, capital of the Department of Caldas and part of the region of Colombian Coffee-Growers Axis.
Seeing the project becoming a reality was extremely special for me, not just because I am a Babson student from Colombia, but also because the project is one of the manifestations of how the understanding of what entrepreneurship really means is slowly changing. Four particular things called my attention during the launch ceremony:
- The "lingo" is changing: Before coming to Babson as a student, I used to work at Endeavor Colombia. The more I learned about the concept of High Impact Entrepreneurship thanks to my job, the more I was exposed to the difficulties that our national ecosystem faced to even understand the term. However, seeing local entrepreneurs, politicians and of course the local project leaders in Manizales giving speeches where expressions like "self-employment is not entrepreneurship" or "is all about sustainable growth" were used, made me positive about key actors now getting the difference between the diverse types of entrepreneurship and their completely different impacts in the economic development of our country.
- An example of team work: A quite impressive moment to me was seeing on stage all actors of the project symbolically committing to the project, pasting "+" signs on the main project wall: there were private sector reps, university reps, government reps, among others. Colombia has always been known as a very creative, enthusiastic and hardworking culture, but in my opinion collaboration hasn't necessarily been our strength, specially when it comes to entrepreneurship development projects: there is lots of redundancy and thus, inefficiency. That's why seeing people focusing efforts on a winning project, together, gave me a lot of hope.
- The power of the regions: There is the common say that "Colombia is a country of regions", however main entrepreneurship development efforts have been focused around the capital. Even if my home is half "manizaleño" (being my husband from there and knowing through him the potential of the city), Manizales wouldn't be on my top of mind of cities where you would expect an entrepreneurial revolution to happen. But "Manizales Mas" is proving me wrong. The spotlight is now on Manizales and all Colombian regions have an eye on it to learn from this truly pioneering experience.
- An "Entrepreneur-centric" model: Despite the multiple players involved "Manizales Mas" is very emphatic about the entrepreneurs being the reason and main beneficiary of the project. I loved that.
The platform is set, the citizens excited, the actors committed. Good luck to "Manizales Mas" and I look forward to witness and support a first in class bet in Colombia.