Gradually we’re seeing the province of Mendoza develop into a highly attractive business destination. Just this week for instance the Financial Times conducted an in-depth report into the province, describing it as one of the most dynamic provincial economies of Argentina. And it’s within this environment, that we’re seeing an emerging and exciting entrepreneurial scene take hold. More and more young people are seeing entrepreneurship as an option, and want to take this route. Digital technology is a key factor here – technology from cloud computing to social media, mean it has never been easier to build a business, even with limited resources, which can then scale internationally.
This was one of the conclusions I reached, while on a panel discussion at the Fifty50 event held in Mendoza last Friday, at the Dante Robino winery. Fifty50 is the name of a series of talks given by company leaders to young and aspiring entrepreneurs. It’s an opportunity to share experiences, and hopefully inspire the next generation of business leaders. The event was organized by UNAJE, the Argentine Union of Young Entrepreneurs (Unión Argentina de Jóvenes Empresarios). UNAJE is a civil association that brings together young entrepreneurs from all sectors, aiming to help them contribute to the next generation.
I was fortunate to be joined on stage by other business leaders from the region, including Emilio Luis Magnaghi (La Cooperativa Empresa Eléctrica de Godoy Cruz y Grupo Cooperativa), Ricardo Greco (Aden), Nazareno El Hom (Xinca), and Mauricio Badaloni (Andesmar). It was fascinating to hear their experiences of being an entrepreneur in the region, and how Mendoza has changed over the past decade.
During the event, we spoke about various aspects of entrepreneurship, and I want to share some of the insights here.
The motivation for starting a business
Initially, we spoke about our personal motivations for starting a business. In the case of Belatrix, I talked about how there were really three drivers for starting the business: firstly, that since a young age, I had been starting small businesses with my brother Alex, and father Luis – ranging from being a DJ, to selling hardware, to computers. So it was in our nature to be entrepreneurial, and it was encouraged by our family. Secondly, when we had the major economic crisis in Argentina in 2001, many people had to leave the province and even the country – indeed, this was my brother´s case and mine. But here, we found in the crisis, an opportunity to generate impact. As Alex was leaving for the USA, we discovered the opportunity to export software development from Argentina. This opportunity emerged because, one of the effects of the crisis was that there were a lot of unemployed professionals. As a result, we knew we wanted to export knowledge, not people. And thirdly, my co-founders and myself were suffering from the effects of economic crisis, and that was a major driver to work even harder to achieve our dreams.
Building companies with a social mission
We spoke about the importance of building companies that have a social mission. This has been an important part of Belatrix since our foundation. Indeed, my co-founder, Alex Robbio, has written about the importance of social responsibility for startups. Part of the mission of UNAJE is to help promote a new business culture for organizations, based on honesty, professionalism, global vision, and having a positive social impact.
The importance of education
We also talked about education during the event. One of the aspects I mentioned was that there is a lack of coordination between academies, companies, and the government in Argentina. I mentioned that in our sector last year there was demand for 12,000 positions, but only half of them were filled due to the scarcity of talent. I recognize the government is working to improve the situation – for example, the “111K plan”, which in 5 years aims to create 100,000 IT professionals, 10,000 engineers, and 1,000 entrepreneurs. This is a great example of concrete actions that we can take to change the future. This plan also involves bringing in people currently working in other sectors, or training individuals with a high school degree, to help overcome the scarcity of talent.
Building a great company culture
Finally I spoke about the Great Place to Work award, which has recognized Belatrix as having a top working environment. I explained that this is an assessment to quantify your culture, and benchmark yourself against the world’s most successful companies. I emphasized the Belatrix culture, and how we first worked to build this culture, and are now trying to scale it. For example, early on, due to the scarcity of talent in the region we developed industry leading training practices, involving investing nearly 100 hours of training per year per person. This, combined with other practices such as designing our offices to help foster innovation and create an enjoyable environment, means we have an attrition rate of 12% which is less than half that of the media sector (at 25%).
I’d like to express my thanks to UNAJE for organizing the event, and I look forward to seeing the next generation of entrepreneurs emerge from Mendoza.