A chat with Lisa Besserman, Founder & CEO of Startup Buenos Aires

How did Startup Buenos Aires begin and what is its mission?

When I arrived to Buenos Aires at the end of 2012, the plan was to only be in the city a few months, while working remotely for a tech company in the U.S. Being new to the city and without any contacts, I assumed the best way to meet people would be to get involved in the local startup community.

However, I was surprised to see that at the time there was no real startup community. I thought this was strange, given that there was an incredible amount of entrepreneurs and startups in the city. All of the elements of a startup community existed, but the space was extremely fragmented, difficult to navigate and lacked resources.

I began connecting people through my limited network, and realized there was potential to build a strong startup ecosystem in the city, by providing support, community, education and resources. This is how the idea of Startup Buenos Aires was born, it was meant to be a place where people could go to connect with fellow entrepreneurs and receive the support they needed to scale their startups globally.

The mission has been the same since day one- to build a strong and sustainable startup ecosystem in Buenos Aires, while providing opportunities to the city and building bridges between startup communities around the world.

At the time, I never imagined the organization would become as large as it has become today. However, the city really banned together and worked as a team to build a major startup hub within the organization. I am eternally grateful for everyone’s participation and the dedicated team that allowed the organization to scale.

How does SUBA execute it?

We operate on 3 major platforms- Education, Community and Resources. We recognized these were the three pillars most needed to build a strong tech ecosystem in Buenos Aires.

For our education platform, we host classes and workshops “for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs”. The classes range from technical to general. Some examples of classes we’ve hosted are: learning how to code, designing video games, pitching to investors, receiving press for your startup, startup law workshop, etc.

Our community platform has a global and local segmentation. On a local level we host and curate events, as well as operate the city’s startup calendar, so people know what’s happening in the tech world and can get involved seamlessly. On a global level, we frequently partner with organizations and corporations to bring international initiatives and opportunities to the city. Some of our partnerships include Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Forbes, Visa, etc. Our organization serves as a conduit, bringing global initiatives, events and programs to Buenos Aires. We do this as a way to connect our community with other startup ecosystems, as well as bring opportunities to our city that they wouldn’t have necessarily had access to.

Our resource platform serves as an incubator, advisor and consultant for a myriad of issues our members may be facing. We’ve provided technical support, funding assistance, access to mentors, business model development, etc. Each day we receive new resource requests and do our best to fulfill these needs within our network, while providing a strong support system to the community.

According to your experience, what are the particular challenges for start-ups working in tech? How does SUBA support them?

I believe funding is a big issue for all startups, especially in Latin America. Historically it’s been a challenging place to invest in, given its political and economic volatility. That being said, some of the most talented and resilient entrepreneurs I’ve met have come from Latin America, and I truly believe it will be the next globally recognized hub for innovation and technology.

SUBA works closely with accelerator programs around the world to provide access to funding for our member startups. We frequently promote new funding programs, and work closely with our members to help them gain access to these capital opportunities. We also host and judge various startup competitions, which have provided our members with excellent funding opportunities over the years.

Recently the city government of Buenos Aires has launched applications for their incubator program, IncuBAte.  The program will provide up to $30,000 equity free funding, as well as a year of office space, access to mentors, investors and government resources. We’re working closely with the government to promote this program around the world, and assist in the evolution of Buenos Aires into a true international startup hub for innovation and startups.

In your opinion, how does the Start Up Energy Transition contribute to the global startup community?

I believe Energy focused startups is one of the most necessary and relevant sectors at the moment. Given the magnitude of impact, as well as the costs associated with research, development and execution, it’s vital to have initiatives such as the Start up Energy Transition paving the way for successful energy sector startups. The scope is global and the Start Up Energy Transition initiative provides incredible opportunities to startups and entrepreneurs who truly have the ability to change the world.

You were a jury member of the Start Up Energy Transition Award 2017. How was your experience evaluating the submissions and attending the Tech Festival?

Serving as a judge for the Start Up Energy Transition awards was a true honor. The judge’s panel was comprised of some of the most impressive people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. It was one of the most difficult competitions I’ve ever had to judge, because the competing startups were all making monumental impacts in their areas of energy transition. I feel lucky to have been a part of such a fantastic initiative, shedding light on one of the most important sectors of our time. The best measure of a competition, especially as a judge, is walking away with a deeper insight and understanding of the world. Participating in this event has inspired me greatly, and has taught me an incredible amount in various sectors of energy and technology. I will continue to work with energy companies in Latin America and do my best to provide them with access to resources, support and opportunities.

More information on the SUBA: http://www.startupbuenosaires.com/en/

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