Perceptions of a Peruvian Tech Strategist living in Europe.
Angelo shares his experience as a virtual EIR, supporting 3 Swiss EP partners and entrepreneurs in Peru.
Angelo Batalla Bendezu has lived abroad since 2004, living in California, Maryland, and most recently Germany. He works with leaders in the private and public sector to create and implement technology strategies.
We sat down (virtually!) with Angelo to hear more about his experience as a Swiss EP EIR, his reflections of the ecosystem in Peru, and some tips on how to spring forward.
Hi Angelo, your support to 3 local Swiss EP partners has been great, especially because you are a Peruvian diaspora. Could you start by sharing how you heard about Swiss EP & what motivated you to apply to be an EIR?
Since 2014 I have been supporting Peruvian organizations to strengthen their innovation and technology systems. Most recently, reflecting on my experiences in the EU and the US-led me to search for a platform to continue supporting the Peruvian ecosystem within a structured framework that will allow me to build bridges and transfer know-how. During my search, I found the Swiss EP program and thought it was a great way to build a sturdier bridge and have the kind of relationship I wanted with Peru. The program was a happy surprise. I believe Swiss EP’s support contributes to the ecosystem evolving much faster. As a diaspora, I am very happy to help my home country. The program has allowed me to create new relationships that have inspired me in my personal and professional life
You worked with 3 Swiss EP partners, JAKU Emprende UNSA in Arequipa, HUB UDEP in Piura and Incubagraria in Lima. All three are university business incubators, and the mission focused on defining their strategy within their respective "parent organizations". what challenges do you think they face?
One thing that kept popping up is the different models being followed from other countries. For me, this is a double-edged sword because you need to focus on the details and your context for it to work. The leadership in the parent organization needs to be open to the probability of a copy-paste not working meaning the incubator team needs more space and time to find a winning formula that adapts to their reality. There is a foggy understanding of the models being adopted. They have resources but lack a clear path to the desired results.
In the US there is a never-ending appetite for new ideas and enough capital to fund them. This pairing gives entrepreneurs the luxury of failing knowing they can try again.
While Peru’s incubators and innovation centers apply a US-based model, they do not have the same resources. Peruvian entrepreneurs do not get the chance to fail and try again. The minute entrepreneurs fail, they fall off the journey and go back to a regular job. It becomes a vicious cycle. It’s a long-term change of mentality, for students to understand their options and incubators to understand how to optimize their resources and diversify.
Another challenge is that currently, incubators are industry-agnostic. It’s a good starting point, but they’ll need to specialize eventually. It will not surprise me if some universities start focusing on very specialized fields like mining, water treatment, agribusinesses, renewables, etc. The entrepreneurs have accommodated to the agnostic nature, but if the incubators start specializing that helps entrepreneurs specialize too.
From your Europe/US experience, what are the main differences w/ the Peruvian ecosystem?
With respect to Human Capital, Peru has nothing to envy other countries. The tricky part comes in creating strong teams and making that amazing talent work in unison. Fear of failure and/or lack of trust might be to blame, but I think organizations could incorporate training around building and leading diverse high-performing teams.
Another difference is the degree of collaboration that takes place. Ecosystems like Munich, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston are clear examples where the investment and entrepreneurial ecosystems (including the private sector, universities, and government) work together to advance and share access to resources like labs, capital, and others in a very seamless manner.
You also had the opportunity to mentor some startups who gave very good feedback on your sessions. Tell us about this experience, what are some common challenges for them?
Well first, the regulatory system in Peru presents a huge challenge; it's changing but it is still unclear. It is hard to identify where innovation can occur making it hard for entrepreneurs with good solutions and for competitive investors. Good ideas do not have a clear and supporting ecosystem.
Another aspect is the lack of intentionality from some entrepreneurs. Too often teams have a well-defined solution for hypothesized problems instead of well-defined problems with a hypothesized solution. It’s important to have a baseline understanding of what technology and innovation mean; from what I saw innovation seems to be tacitly understood as the development of apps without considering scaling challenges and exit strategies.
Lastly, another pattern that caught my attention is the ongoing attempts to solve systemic issues with apps (i.e.: hunger, poverty, electrification, diversity, etc.). I think for an early-stage ecosystem, it is and will continue to be difficult to address these problems with isolated digital solutions. I think the talent needs to focus on local/regional problems that are more tangible to fix and have a clear value proposition. I think they can tackle systemic issues, but they need to be strategic about what needs to be done in the short term.
What recommendations would you give to organizations and entrepreneurs facing the challenges of an emerging ecosystem?
1- Make sure the entrepreneurship and innovation paths are for you, don’t do it because it is trendy. Entrepreneurship takes a toll on you emotionally, financially, and impacts your physical and mental health. Not everybody can do it, nor everyone should do it. Be aware of the risks and your strengths following this path.
2- Keeping in mind that Innovation is about making ideas work, do not focus exclusively on apps. They are important but some challenges cannot be solved by them. An example of this is a startup Hub UDEP introduced me, they focus on making industrial machinery locally to make fruit juice. While the startup might not be as sexy as an app with a colorful logo, it addresses a tangible market challenge: accessibility to local industrial machinery. The startup does not depend on international technicians, they even have the chance to patent their work, on top of that they create a quantifiable economic cycle.
3- Focus on understanding the needs of your local economy and find out whether other communities have the same issue. If done successfully, there is a chance your solution has a market, and somebody might be interested in paying for it.
4- Given the vastness of Peru, organizations & entrepreneurs should try to build diverse teams. It is important in a fragmented economy like Peru’s to understand the community which can be done by working in multifaceted, multidisciplinary, & heterogeneous teams.
Collaboration is one of Swiss EP’s key objectives; your mission resulted in the formation of a working group between the three incubators. What is the importance of this, and what do the organizations gain by coming together in this working group?
The institutions I supported are in different parts of Peru, in slightly different stages, but with similar problems. A Working group allows these organizations to share learnings and shorten learning curves. Since the ecosystem lacks density – the best way to grow is together. Collaboration is important because they get to share, know-how, networks, and resources. Peru is big & having the opportunity to learn from each other is paramount.
As mentioned, you are a diaspora, so we are curious to know: How will you stay connected to the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem in Peru?
I would like Peru to be recognized as a center of ideas, creativity, and innovation on the global stage. Supporting the ecosystem is how I add a grain of sand to this future reality.
I’m in ongoing communication with some of the organizations I met throughout the EIR program. For example, there is a continuing collaboration with Hub UDEP to identify strategies to streamline innovation at the local level, working with the Innovation department in the University and the Regional Government.
Thank you so much Angelo for all of your support and for sharing this time with us!