Startup Ecosystems Are Bridging the World
By Kevin Vela
The pitch deck was gorgeous. It was clean, simple, and functional. No fancy colors; there was no need. Just black and white. Everything in the deck was exactly where you thought it should be. A great pitch deck during a live presentation ensures that the audience is focusing on the speaker. And the entrepreneur had our attention.
In fact, the pitch deck was so stunning that it temporarily distracted me from the fact that this entrepreneur in Rio de Janeiro was presenting his pitch on capturing royalty payments using blockchain, in English: his second language.
The pitch was presented during the second installment of Pitch Americas, a Latin America focused pitch competition born out of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) that Vela Wood co-founded with Aristides Rubio, the first attorney we hosted through YLAI in 2017. VW has been fortunate enough to participate in the YLAI program twice over the past three years. Each time we have hosted a startup attorney from a city abroad in our office for a month. First, Aristides from Santo Domingo, and last fall, Fabio Cendao from Rio de Janeiro. After the completion of each YLAI program, we have participated in a reverse exchange program where we travel to the home city of our fellow to meet startups, discuss entrepreneurship, and host a pitch competition.
Having been fortunate enough to participate in pitch competitions in three countries – the U.S., Dominican Republic, and Brazil – I have learned that startups are a great equalizer. They transcend borders, disregard the walls we build, and do not prejudice against any one culture, creed, gender, or race. While I believe that the resources and regime in the U.S. currently provide the best startup breeding ground, I have discovered that the entrepreneurial spirit is innate to the human experience – regardless of country of origin. And even in the U.S., with all of its benefits for startups, becoming an entrepreneur and founding and growing a successful startup is damn near impossible. It takes risk and hard work no matter where you are. The grit, determination, and almost irrational enthusiasm that is required of any founder is shared across countries and cultures.
Perhaps even more fascinating, however, is how complementary the support structures around startups in each city are. Even though they are constructed under vastly different circumstances – different languages, different governmental influences, different socioeconomic factors, the tangible ecosystem looks and feels similar, regardless of the location.
Startups and startup pitch competitions don’t exist without a startup ecosystem, a network of unrelated actors working selflessly to engender bold new ideas and world-changers. The ecosystems provide support, resources, structure, and advice, all without any expectations. The actors in Rio – including Fabrica Startups, initially from Portugal; WeWork; and FCM, a startup focused law firm (and our partner for the week) – work in-sync to support startups in Rio in an almost identical fashion to the way the different pillars work in concert (sometimes coordinated, sometimes not) in Dallas, or Austin, or any other startup city.
Simply put, startup ecosystems (not just startups) are bridging the world. People aspire to build something great in every corner of the earth. The fact that startup ecosystems are so similar provides reassurance (maybe even proof) that those things we share in common are greater than those that separate us.