A Colombian company that helps give birth to promising companies is targeting the emerging middle class in Latin America and across the developing world.
Since its launch in Colombia in 2011, Polymath Ventures has founded two successful companies, with plans already forming to roll out three more over the course of the next two years.
The goal, said Managing Partner Wenyi Cai in an interview with Colombia Reports, is to offer high-level services to a rapidly growing but largely untapped market in Colombia and other countries like it.
“The middle class aren’t really being served as well as they could be in developing countries,” said Cai, who clarified that “middle class” in Colombia consists of people earning “about 4 times the minimum wage.”
A company that builds companies
As a business seeder, explained Cai, Polymath Ventures identifies gaps in the existing marketplace and brings experienced industry insiders together to grow businesses to fill them.
“For example, before we set up our taxi company Taximo,we saw that the existing taxi system was risky for both drivers and consumers,” Cai said,
“So we located Colombians who had the expertise we needed to found and grow the business. We then gave them management support, money and equity [ownership stake]. Then they take it from there.”
In just two short years, Taximo has grown into a successful taxi network, said Cai.
And in the next two years, Polymath Ventures hopes to use the same model to launch three more companies, addressing the needs of women and targeting employment.
“By bringing different people to look at solve a problem, we get businesses that serve an existing need, which is different from many start-up companies, who might have an idea, app or service and then see if there is a market.”
“We think there is a science for coming up with a great business idea,” Cai said.
Bringing back the Colombian Diaspora
“So far we have found it easier to find the high level management talent that we need for these businesses in Colombians who have recently returned from overseas. They are more likely to take risks and more likely to have the skills need to found and build a company,” Cai said.
This is a marked change from only three years ago, when a so-called “brain drain” saw educated Colombians moving abroad in large numbers to find work.
As cities such as central Colombia’s Medellin continue to emerge as hubs of innovation, companies like Polymath Ventures hope to capitalize on growing middle-class demand and further the country’s economic growth.
- Interview with Wenyi Cai
- Preguntas Frecuentes sobre Taximo (Taximo)
- Polymath Ventures’ Craig Edelman: Colombia the Perfect Launch Pad to LatAm (PulsoSocial)
- Polymath Seed Fellows 2013: In Search of Professionals to Build Businesses in Colombia (PulsoSocial)
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