Last March, I was glad to be announced as one of the participants for the 2018 cohort of La Idea incubator program for my entrepreneurship that I recently co-founded in Guatemala.
Funded and initiated by the United States Department of State, the La Idea Incubator Program is a powerful initiative focused on strengthening entrepreneurship and job creation across the Western Hemisphere. La Idea especially encourages trade and commerce between Central America and the United States. The program is a collaboration between InBIA, the Small Business Network of the Americas (SBNA), CENPROMYPE, University Texas San Antonio and America's Small Business Development Center.
My startup Gradient, was one of the ten entrepreneurship selected to participate for a week of full training and workshops in Philadelphia, Pensylvania from among more than 100 applications from all over Central America.
La Idea is a one-week full-paid program that focuses on three industry-specific business types: Services, Manufacturing, and Food & Farm. I was selected to participate in the Services sector.
We were hosted in the Sheraton University City hotel, located right in the university area of West Philadelphia. The program started on Monday 19 and finished on Friday 23. I’ll try to condense these five days of intense workshops and meetings in one single blog post.
We were introduced to representatives of multiple universities, public and governmental organizations that work closely with facilitating the landing of foreign entrepreneurs to open their business in the U.S.
Then we were conducted to a presentation from Eastern University about the history and culture of Philadelphia, and why is the best place to open your business.
The second half of the day was fulfilled with key information about the different business entities in the U.S., taxes and legal issues in Pensylvania and the rest of the states.
We continued the workshop with information about the regulatory laws for employment and branding. We also received a detailed explanation of different types of funding and a complete list of supporting programs.
We visited the offices of Azavea inc, a GIS company based in Philadelphia. The CEO and founder, Robert Cheetham, gave us a warm welcome and explained what does the company do.
Besides of the weather (we were hit by a strong snowing), we continued the agenda with an online meeting with David Simons, CEO of Kingdom Social Media, a successful digital marketing agency, and a meeting with representatives of Temple University, who explained us the different programs they run to promote the soft landing of business into the U.S. market.
Some colleagues were arranged special meetings with key business owners for possible partnerships, while others attended a talk with Tulio Albuquerque, CEO of Initbridge how specialized in bringing companies into the United States. We also had a meeting with Mollie Elkman, CEO of GroupTwo Advertising, a marketing agency for home builders.
At the afternoon, we attended the annual meeting of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Central Philadelphia, where we had the chance to meet Latino entrepreneurs in the area.
We visited the main facilities of NextFab, a makerspace that provides cutting-edge machinery and professional services to a network of creators. Then we arrived at the Pennovation Center, a coworking space funding by the University of Pensylvania where we were introduced to the work of innovative science-focused startups.
By the afternoon we were given a tour to the One Liberty Observation Deck, an observatory on top of an iconic 57 stories skyscraper, where we could contemplate the best views of the beautiful Philadelphia.
Later on, we took a ride on a bus tour to the city, where we could see the most famous tourist attractions of Philly, and even got a shot at the famous Rocky Steps!
We closed the night with a farewell dinner, where we talked about how to extend our relationships among our businesses and the immersion in the U.S. market.
There were a lot more activities than the ones I described here. Having attended to La Idea Incubator was one of the most rewarding experiences that I’ve lived so far.
All the information presented to us were valuable to our businesses as well as the networking activities, which, I must say, helped to initiate a business relationship for a couple of my colleagues (good for them!)
La Idea doesn’t end there, we will continue to working together up to six months, receiving mentoring and business advice from all the people that made this possible.
I am so glad to be considered for this opportunity, and I have to say that it exceeded all my expectations. I am so thankful for all the organizations and people that continue to reunite efforts to make this program a success.
For all the interested to apply for this program, you can check the timeline and eligibility criteria on the official website: