Colombia’s national business Association ANDI insists that new entrepreneurs in Colombia have “incredible potential and talent;” they just need a new culture of innovation and access to the right resources to succeed. ANDI intends to facilitate both.
In 1996, Juanchi Velez, a regular Colombian businessman who had a passion for beer, wanted to dedicate his life’s work to the hoppy beverage. There were very few breweries in Medellin at the time however, so Velez packed his bags and moved to Atlanta where he began working for a microbrewery to learn the trade. It was there, in the American city know for inventing the bubbly Coke, that Velez first tasted craft beer.
He became hooked after that, and ended up earning a partnership in a microbrewery that would become the best microbrewery in the US in 2002. Armed with the knowledge, contacts, confidence and ambition that was always there, Velez knew at that point what he wanted to do: return to his native Colombia and start making beers for his country. In 2007, Tres Cordilleras became a reality in Medellin and grew rapidly, selling near 1.8 million bottles in 2012, with over 600 points of sale.
This is a Colombian entrepreneurial success story by all means. Yet ANDI sees a problem with this.
Colombia Reports sat down with Juan Sebastian Franco, ANDI’s Assistant Director for the Antioquia region, to unpack the problem, and to find out what ANDI is doing about it.
Franco asserted that the main problem with this story is that Velez was unable to or unsure how to find the resources, mentorship, and guidance here in Colombia to launch his business, and he needed to look outside of the country to get those necessities.
What ANDI wants to do, is to “help Colombia grow by helping Colombian businesses ventures grow [through] generating a culture of innovation…creating contacts between aspiring entrepreneurs and CEOs of Colombia’s biggest Companies…and establishing programs that allow for the transmission of knowledge and experience between both parties.”
“We want to help create the next generation of Colombia’s biggest companies.”
Franco asserted that innovation is the primary places to start as this is where the majority of entrepreneurs stop. For example, there is no real “culture of patenting” in Colombia according to Franco. 90% of all patents in Colombia are owned by foreign businesses, and this is a trend that ANDI hopes to reverse.
“The entrepreneurs in Medellin [and Colombia] have incredible potential…but many entrepreneurs still don’t know what innovation is. They don’t know how to innovate, what kind of culture cultivates innovation, and how to realize innovation.”
Franco is leading ANDI in preparing “InnovationLand,” which will be a large scale networking event and entrepreneurial showcase that will take place during the final two weeks of this November in Medellin.
On establishing contacts between young entrepreneurs and these CEO’s, ANDI hopes to help aspiring business owners answer the Colombian CEO’s question, Why do I want to hear your idea? If ANDI feels as though the entrepreneur is prepared and “has sufficient potential, then we will knock on the door of the president of Bancolombia for him.”
“We believe that for entrepreneurs, making contacts is the first level for the growth of their business.”
Finally, once the contact has been made, ANDI wants to ensure that the information and the experience and resources are being shared between the biggest companies and the newest ventures. “These Colombian companies have an incredible amount of experience, and we want to [ensure] that we give that experience to the entrepreneurs, so we have programs that allow for the transmission of that knowledge.”
Their primary program is called ‘ANDI of the Future,’ which is designed to support the next generation of Colombian entrepreneurs. Since the program began just eight years ago, they have 160 entrepreneurs who currently have about 100 companies, of which the collective businesses bring in about $40 million a year. The companies have created over 600 new jobs as well. “It’s still a super new program, but it is a nice achievement,” said Franco.
The Assistant Director also emphasized how important a role Medellin itself can play in growing Colombia’s innovation culture and overall business environment. “Medellin has the biggest environment for supporting entrepreneurs [of any Colombian city] right now. If you go to universities, they are talking about entrepreneurship, if you go to institutes like Parque A, 24/7 they are doing things related to entrepreneurship.”
He also acknowledged how important it is to begin and grow companies within Medellin specifically because foreign companies are less likely to choose to settle in the city in the valley with difficult access to ports or the country’s capital. “It gets harder to see big companies saying, ‘I want to be in Medellin.'”
Ultimately for ANDI, it doesn’t matter where the entrepreneurs come from, as long as they have high-level potential and great ideas and are dedicated to growing within Colombia.
“They can be poor, they can be rich, they can be from wherever they want, but the important thing is that they have the talent and the passion and the innovation in their minds. This is what we look for in an ANDI entrepreneur.”
No doubt had ANDI recruited Juanchi Velez over a decade ago, Tres Cordilleras would be thriving just as well today.
ANDI is an organization that is made up of the largest companies in Colombia. ANDI works with businesses in 32 different sectors, and represents the collective group’s interests in different settings, most predominantly to the Colombian government. These businesses include Suramerica, Bancolombia, Coltejer and Postobon. ANDI is looking to add to the government’s recent initiatives in building a culture of innovation across Colombia. Juan Sebastian Franco focuses on Medellin and the Antioquia Department.
- Interview with Juan Sebastian Franco (Colombia Reports)
- Tres Cordilleras Website
- 30 microcervecerías le ponen sabor al mercado (El Colombiano)
- ANDI Website