Climbing the stairs from station at Tribunales I stepped out of the subterranean world, into the sunlight and almost into the arms of masked, armed revolutionaries.
Tribunales, the Argentine version of the US Supreme Court, sees protests, demonstrations and rallies on a weekly basis. Seeing signs and flags waved, isn’t anything unusual. Seeing masked, armed protesters is different.
Tired of corruption and inefficiency at national government levels, people are marching and revolution is fomenting.
Ever since the founding of Argentina in 1810 the country has rocked and rolled to the sound of one revolution after another. Military juntas, dictatorships and corrupt politicians have all done their part to create an environment ripe for rebellion.
With Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner wobbling unsteadily on her heels following a resonating defeat of her Front for Victory Party, provincial governors, union and labor leaders as well as the average person in the street are all bracing for what may be another demonstration to rival those of 2001.
Above the fray is another type of revolutionary. The same amoral and inefficient government that is leading increasing numbers of people into the streets daily is the same mechanism that is driving these new revolutionaries. It’s the new revolutionaries that are poised to change Argentina by seeking to create cost-effective and socially responsible companies.
A new business startup in Argentina is a venture whose odds of success are less than America winning the World Cup. With a maze of bureaucratic land mines that make no sense combined with political corruption, a strictly capitalistic approach is already hindered and hobbled right from the starting gate.
Add the desire to build a socially responsible and sustainable company and the odds are even worse.
Recent years have seen entrepreneurs driven by social concerns who are overcoming the duality of corruption and inefficiency and successfully moving between the three goals of independence, sustainability and profitability.
Coming from a background rich with experienced engineers and economists all the way to social workers in remote rural areas, sustainable entrepreneurs are combining the vision and management skills of the entrepreneur with the virtues of socially responsible actions.
One such revolutionary is Ignacio Dodero. With a background at McKinsey & Co., Dodero and his partners are ringing the bells of change throughout Latin America and beyond.
McKinsey & Co
Founded in 1926 Chicago by James McKinsey, McKinsey & Company has grown to be an American global management consulting firm that focuses on issues that concern senior management levels. Serving as an adviser to businesses and governments around the world, McKinsey is one of the most prestigious management consulting firms in the world today.
The management principles that the firm teaches to its public and private clients is lacking in its treatment of its most valuable resource — humans. Operating under a regimen of “up or out”, a consultant must either advance their career within a pre-defined timeframe or leave the firm. This attitude results in a 25% turnover every year and half of the roughly 9,000 consultants have less than 24 to 36 months tenure with the firm. The value of people at McKinsey is minimized rather than maximized.
The corporate, cutthroat culture pushes a “me-first” agenda where every consultant operates and makes decisions based on their own welfare instead of that of co-workers.
“Suits” go to power lunches where they try to impress other “suits” resulting in an empty, soulless human, always looking over their shoulder to see who might be gaining on them.
Pinstriped, polished and manicured, the accountants, bankers and lawyers that make up the arrogant army of consultants goes out into the world each day; not to make it a better place but to enrich themselves.
A very selfish way to live; a corporate culture populated by ego-centric, money driven suits can be draining, demanding, leaving a person dead and dying spiritually and emotionally.
Suits filled with their own importance comprise what the world has come to know as “the 1%”. Running from one adrenalin rush to another as they chase and land the next big deal, suits can go home at night wondering if that is all life is.
McKenzie & Companies continued focus on the bottom line at the cost of everything else has been noticed by Greenpeace and the UK’s Rainforest Foundation.
A study showed that McKinsey’s advice to corporations failed to address some of the main drivers of deforestation such as logging and mining and that the company’s proposals would actually reward those industries at a severe cost to the environment.
One doesn’t have to look any further than the Enron debacle to see samples of the banker/accountant/attorney mentality and their effect on hard working people.
Headed by McKinsey alumni, Enron was one of the firm’s biggest clients before its thunderous collapse wiped out the life savings and retirement funds of hundreds of thousands of people. The Human Resource program at Enron that was implemented with McKinsey’s knowledge resulted in a workplace culture that was full of prima donnas and “…substituted self-nomination over disciplined management…” as reported in the January 17, 2002 edition of The Wall Street Journal.
Jeff Skilling, who served Enron as CEO was sentenced to 24 years in federal prison, was a product of the McKenzie culture as a former parter and “loyal alum” at the firm.
It takes a special person; a renegade, a revolutionary to break out of that environment.
Enter Ignacio Dodero
Ignacio Dodero is a serial entrepreneur who has gone through life’s challenges to find a way to combine his business acumen with a strong bend towards social justice.
Dodero’s role in life will be successful if he can create thriving enterprises that create social enterprises that shackle individuals.
Dodero’s professional goal is to contribute “…to my country’s development through the creation of successful companies and empowering social enterprises.”
A graduate of ITB, Ignacio is an Industrial Engineer and has an earned Master’s Degree in Finance from UCEMA).
The next step on his career path was McKinsey & Co as a strategy consultant serving leading companies in Latin America.
With the drone of the television in the background, Dodero tossed and turned upset by the psychological pushing and shoving that had become his life at the firm. Unsteadied by numerous events over the past weeks, he couldn’t sleep and wandered the world in his mind. Seeking gold mines of thought and caring yet undiscovered, Dodero stared at the white ceiling until the only thing he could see were the stars on the other side.
Reaching over, the grabbed the heavy quilted bedspread and pulled it over him. Maybe somehow he could wrap his self in the warmth of the comforter and drown out the cares, concerns and honking noise of the corporate world.
“Is this all there is?” he asked himself repeatedly. “Is this all that I have to look forward to in life? Getting material possessions, money, prestige and being sought after by other people that were feeling trapped and wrapped in their insular cocoons of quilts and bedspreads?”
An empty Coke bottle set on the nightstand as Dodero stared at it. His life he felt was like this Coke bottle. Once full and fresh, slowly it had become drained, empty and void of anything life sustaining.
Walking to the sink to splash cold water on his face, he dried his reflection in the mirror with the soft, plush white thick towel that was the hotel’s trademark for their guests.
Staring at his image, he knew that something must change; he knew that he must change. He didn’t know how and when and where, but he knew that when the morning sun peeked through the curtains of this hotel room, he would set out on a journey to find the answer and become the change that he wanted to see in the rest of the world.
A Trip to Kenya
Packing up his pillow sized gear bag, Doredo headed off to Kenya. With no immediate plan in place Doredo wanted to experience life at the opposite extreme from which he had come.
Located on the equator and bounded by the Indian Ocean, Kenya is among the poorest of the poor. With suits and power lunches long disappeared over the horizon, Doredo was determined to find some way to put meaning back into his life.
Spending time in Awasi — a shanty town -- in Nairobi and home to 1 million locals, reminded Doredo of the barrios in his hometown of Buenos Aires.
Nepal and India were next on his physical journey which mirrored the inner journey on which he had found himself.
His days were interspersed with meeting people, watching life in this teeming mass of humanity and observing the youth. His next step in life started to take shape in his mind and by the time he returned to Argentina two months later a new enterprise saw its genesis.
Returning home Dodero looked around and saw that there were 1 million young people between the ages of 17 and 25; a group that experiences unemployment at the rate of 30% - 40% while tech firms were desperately desperately seeking to fill 10,000 vacancies annually.
"We had to break the paradigm that [it] was impossible to train kids [in]…the villas. When we investigated, we had a very negative feedback, but we kept the faith and did benchmarking in Brazil with NGOs,” Dodero says.
ProgramaR started with a group of 50 students and by the end of 2011, approximately 1500 youth had gone through the training centers located in Buenos Aires, Salta and Cordoba with 75% of the students eventually getting jobs in the technology industry.
"Córdoba is [the] home of large national and multinational companies [which]…need human resources with high training and specialization in technology, “said Doredo.
Funded publicly by the Governors of Cordoba, Salta, Buenos Aires as well as the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor of the Nation and privately by Microsoft, Accenture, Mercado Libre and Banco Indusrial, the moral support of people in Cordoba was significant and a requirement also.
Through a stringent admission process which includes psychological as well as aptitude testing, numerous screening interviews and background checks, looks for the best of the best to enroll.
“For every 10,000 potential students that applied, we would accept only 60-100 in any given school year,” says Doredo.
When public officials began holding out their hands expecting payment for making the foundation dollars happen, Doredo balked. In retaliation, the government bureaucrats responsible for funding ProgramaR started to delay the contracted payments for weeks and months, forcing Doredo to fund much of the program out of pocket until the expected funding was received.
Seeing that they would not be able to force Doredo’s hands, some contracts were cut in half by bureaucrats that were upset when they didn’t get their slice of the pie.
The combination of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats combined with the overall inefficiency of the Argentine government in working with an NGO eventually forced Doredo to close the doors.
Doredo and two friends, Diego Hernayes and Juan Martin, had worked together on a variety of projects over the years. Keeping each other apprised with the developments in their lives, they found that each of them were driven by the same sense of social responsibility.
Diego had founded — and sold — Neopackaging, a factory for blister packaging machines for the pharmaceutical industry. Juan had joined Sonico as a backend developer whose primary responsibility was scaling friendship infrastructure and overseeing the integration of Google’s OpenSocial platform.
In 2010, they put their heads together and the result was Monits.
Monits was founded in 2010 with the goal of combining the business acumen sharpened by his days with Mckenzie and Company with the social responsibility nurtured by ProgramaR.
Monits develops multi-platform applications for the mobile market, solves numerous backend server challenges and produces graphic design for the applications resulting in shaping the users’ experience as well as creating the code and focuses on mobile devices and high throughput communication systems.
Clients get a one stop shop approach which is customer-service driven. The client, usually an entrepreneur, works with the Monits staff to ensure the viability of their idea in the market place.
Depending on variables such as complexity and number of platforms, the price range of the applications start from about $5,000.00 (US) and run to roughly $15,000.00 (US).
Built from an initial investment of $1,000,000 contributed by the partners, annual revenue is projected to be $7,000,000 by the end of 2013.
Believing that people are more important than profits seems to be Monits guiding philosophy. If given a choice between two equally talented people where the only difference is in education, Monits prefers to hire the individual who fought and clawed to get the knowledge of coding over the person who rode on their parents money into a soft college environment and was handed the skills needed.
Giving employees opportunities each week to work from home instead of commuting as well as 20 paid days annually to advance their training are just two of the several examples in place which show that caring for the human resources is not just lip service.
Monits in the Future
Dodredo has set challenging, but achievable, goals for Monits over the next five years. Besides a target of 500 employees, he also sees Monits as being an incubator for other Argentine startups.
As Monits continues to grow and thrive while setting the bar high for other Latin American companies, Dodredo continues to push for sustainable and socially responsible enterprises.
This new revolution has a good mentor to show the way.