We never thought we would have programs for international startups, or, to have an incubator/accelerator in the of the most amazing startup ecosystem in the world. Back in 2014, we put an event together to connect the Latin American and Canadian startup ecosystem, and it was the first tech event with a focus on Latin America with a Canada. It was also an event that I would like to call ‘The Disaster Conference, because it was a disaster in many ways. This event is a typical example of how a failure can drive you to success – This failure resulted in LatAm Startups, and I consider the organization as a success.
Due to the disaster conference, we were able to meet with the Former Governor General of Canada, His Excellency David Johnston, to pitch the idea to have a second version of the conference in Toronto. This would have not happened if was not because of Victoria Lennox, who is the CEO of Startup Canada and keynote in our LatAm Conference 2014 in Chile. After the horrible conference, she actually travelled back to Chile to be a part of the delegation that the Governor General of Canada was bringing to Latin America.
After that chaos, I promised myself to not to do any other event ever again! However, here I am, with over 100 events done since 2014. We have improved since then but certainly we need to, and we can do more to bridge the Latin American and Canadian startup ecosystem.
In 2015, the Governor open the second conference in Toronto which opened doors to launch LatAm Hub and bring startups from Latin America to Canada. Was not ease, the first year we spent a lot of time trying to figure out where to locate the startups.
The Centre For Social Innovation was the first one in giving us an opportunity to rent an office. Even though it was a small, we got furniture and most of the things we need to start the program. The first group of startups arrived in April 2017, and spent 4 months of training in that small office. We learnt so much from that experience, from what the startups really needed and to how we can improve the program for the next generation. We became very close to the first group of startups; We were together in the good and bad moments of the companies and we support each other as we were all newcomers. In addition, we were facing something different as the other startups in the city – It was not just the challenge of growing a company but to adapt to a new country with new rules, new system and a completely different environment. A very difficult transition from both personal and business perspectives.
Each generation has brought something new. New friends, new experiences, new amazing companies. We have always believed in each of the companies we have brought to Toronto, that they have the potential excel and grow in the ecosystem.
That is why in this third anniversary, on behalf of LatAm Startups, I would like to thank eachperson and institution that has helped us to grow and be part of the community. Thank you to our directors: Rafael Pinto, Valerie Fox, Markus Schereyer, Katherine Roos, Peter Elkins. To our partners City of Toronto and Startup Here Toronto. To our sponsors, over the time and the new ones that are coming for the next LatAm Conference (Stay tuned! We are launching it soon!). To our startups, that have believed in the program and have invested not just money, but also time. They have taken a huge step and dreamt big in order to grow their companies in Canada. To our volunteers, we could not have done it without them. They are amazing people with outstanding backgrounds from different countries, they have dedicated their time and efforts to create a wonderful community. To our staff, we are a little team, but this could not have happened without the support of Perla Campos, our community manager, she has seen all the good the bad and the ugly, and our marketing assistant Gabriela Latief, that has joined us recently and has been so supportive over the whole process with the startups. To our mentors, who took time to come and provide training sessions and go beyond by meeting our startups individually to help them even more!
Soon, we are going to make a huge announcement soon regarding the transition to Global Hub Innovation Centre, which is an innovation centre in Toronto, created for corporations and startups from emerging markets. We will share more details in the short future, but we think that it is going to be an exciting opportunity for you!
All that I can say at this point is that I am so thankful to be surrounded of all these extraordinary people, to have been able to share with them our experience, to be able to help each other and create this amazing international community in this incredible city.
Finally, I would like to thank my family, the last and the most important part of my life. They have believed in me and the idea to put all of this together, even when they were not sure this would work, but they still supported me nevertheless. Without my husband, partners and other relatives, I would not have initiated this adventure.
Happy Third Birthday LatAm Startups!