Nothing enhances or modifies your view of things like getting out of the United States and rubbing elbows with entrepreneurs in a total different environment. That is what I did over the last few weeks. I have been collecting information about entrepreneurism in Colombia, South America, a place my wife and I visit as often as we can.
Here is a list of some of the difference points of entrepreneurism viewed through the offshore filter.
1. In Colombia, your idea has to succeed BEFORE you get any real funding. So there has been an uptick in the number of accelerators and incubators in recent years.
2. Venture capital is virtually non-existent in Colombia, so you have to do everything you can to make your idea work to get noticed by the accelerators and incubators instead of spending time obsessing about sources of funding. It changes your work ethic considerably.
3. Internet based companies in South America are struggling to make money because electronic transactions are hard if the potential customers do not have credit cards, and those that do are very cautious about buying anything online. It changes your perspective of value too.
4. Success seems not to be measured in the same ways as in the US. Entrepreneurs here in Colombia get recognition for their accomplishments, and the social community assists with spreading the word, but not using Facebook or Twitter. The main media choice is Whatsapp. Entrepreneurs self-promote to a point until they amass enough interested followers to do the job for them.
5. Nobody makes money in the traditional Internet advertising ways. Why? Refer back to the credit card and cautious nature of the financial ecosystem in Colombia. Entrepreneurs in the US have it relatively easy compared to the folks launching, running, and growing a company here.
6. Although most of the entrepreneurial ideas are copies, or mimicry of some things already found on the web, the local entrepreneurs add some local flavor to it, promote it, and because of the interests, language and culture, satisfy markets that US entrepreneurs cannot reach, at least not without partnering with their South American counterparts. Then there is that how do you make money thing all over again.
So the bottom line is, count your lucky stars that you do not have to follow the in-country different model for entrepreneurism, especially if Internet-based. For those in the US looking to start a business, be better prepared, do it yourself where you can, and seek out the guidance and environment of an accelerator to get you pointed in the right direction.