Back to Colombia: Vive La Revolución Emprendedora!

My co-author and business Partner Bob Dorf spends much of his time traveling the world teaching countries and companies how to run the Lean LaunchPad program. He’s back to Bogota, Colombia this week for round two.


Back to Colombia: Vive La Revolución Emprendedora!

Lean LaunchPad Colombia starts again today in Bogota with 25 more teams of tech entrepreneurs and at 25 mentors from the country’s universities, incubators, and chambers of commerce.  The program is funded by the Colombian government and modeled after the NSF Innovation-Corps program created and built by my partner and co-author Steve Blank.

In this second cohort, Startup teams were selected from over 100 applicants in Colombia by SENA, a quasi-government organization that provides tech support, prototype labs, and mentoring to Colombian entrepreneurs.  SENA and the Colombian Ministry of IT and Innovation both invest heavily to create jobs for the many skilled, educated and underemployed citizens.   Other than the NSF Innovation-Corps program in the U.S., this may well be the most ambitious government-sponsored startup catalyst effort on the globe.

SENA and the Colombian Ministry of IT: targeting 15,000 young entrepreneurs
The Ministry hopes to supports to more than 15,000 entrepreneurs who have applied for help thus far, and to do it in varying levels of on- and off-line intensity.  The hands-on Lean LaunchPad program offers the most intense support of all.  In cohort one, 25 teams chosen from a field of 100+, worked fulltime for eight weeks to take their ideas from a “cocktail napkin” business idea to a viable, scalable business model.

While the Ministry would be glad to help develop the next Facebook or Google, the initial first step  is more reasonable — get startups to breakeven or better while employing 15, 20, or more Colombians .  Those who don’t make it into the class are offered a variety of on- and off-line tools, including government-funded translations of Steve’s nine-part Customer Development lectures, excerpts from the Startup Owner’s Manual in Spanish, and they’ve translated a long list of Code Academy courses and other tools as well.  The goal is simple:  to extend the reach of Customer Development and tech training far beyond those whose teams and business models earn them seats in the classroom.

Colombia needs to be ambitious to succeed in this effort, and I’m honored and pleased to be helping to drive it.  The emerging economy faces three critical entrepreneurial challenges.  First, there’s virtually no seed or angel investment capital, since affluent Colombian investors are highly risk-averse and put their money into real estate and established companies as a rule.  Second, technology education is more skill-based, graduating lots of smart coders and IT managers, but not a lot of true development visionaries. And the academic community, while strong, still teaches traditional the business plan approach to startups, rather than Customer Development, so ideas have typically evolved far more slowly. 

The first 8-week Lean LaunchPad Colombia program
We held the first cohort of 25 teams in Oct 2012.  Amazingly by the end of the program’s eighth week, 8 of the 25 teams had customer revenue.  One startup, Vanitech, generated revenue from more than 315 consumers in eight weeks, while a software prototyping startup called EZ DEV closed its first deal and had contracts out for two more.  And while the startup ideas ranged from the pedestrian to the very brave (digital preventive healthcare, for example), the common thread was an intense passion for creating a business that would create lucrative jobs for the founders and their fellow Colombians.

This LeanLaunchPad simultaneously trains entrepreneurs and coaches to guide them.  Each cohort started with a day of coach training. Then the coaches joined their teams for three days of business model development, feedback, and training.  When I headed home, teams fanned out across Colombia to “get out of the building” to validate their ideas. They meet at least weekly with their coaches to process their learning and iterate their business models.

I returned twice more to Colombia for this first cohort:  at the midpoint of the 8-week class to work with the coaches and teams, and at the end for the “Lessons Learned day.”  At the Lessons Learned day, the ten teams pitched to an audience of 650, including investors and the Minister and Vice-Minister of IT. The presentations were a real eye-opener to Colombian investors. The hundreds of customer interactions made each team made their presentations credible.  The difference between startups powered by Customer Development and those built the “old way” was on full display. Another unintended consequence of the class is that, we’re effecting a “technology transfer” by training the coaches, who are starting to run Lean LaunchPad programs for additional teams in smaller cities in Colombia.  Overall, it’s one heck of an ambitious program and it’s starting to catch fire.

Three incredibly entrepreneurial government employees (usually quite an oxymoron in any country) conceived and drive this program, working nearly 7×24 and as hard as any Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, in their eight month old “startup,” the program.  Program leader Claudia Obando and her two star lieutenants—Nayib Abdala and Camilo Zamora—have worked with us to lay every building block in the solid foundation Lean LaunchPad is providing for Colombia.

And so here I am back in Colombia as we launch this next, more cohort on its eight-week sprint, join in saying Viva Colombia!”
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9 Responses

  1. Hello,

    I think you wanted to say “Emprendedor” instead of “emprenador.”


    Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________

  2. Hi Steve,
    I think you are talking about Easy Dev. One of the selected teams by the Mintic In Colombia for funding.

    I am Colombian, living in Bulgaria from where I am offering to my friends and Colombian fellows the opportunity to access the EU markets (And others). I worked for more than 10 years with the Mintic Project from the private side of the fence, with the Compartel initiatives. I am close to some of the people working there.

    Nowadays there are 2 startup funds running in Bulgaria – and – which are taking the initiatives of the young companies and funding them with the usual startup process.

    I would be glad if we can have a talk about this, since initiatives similar to the Colombian one are happening in this emergent BG economy and it may be interesting for you, the startup companies and the Funds to have a touch of refinement in what they are doing. This is just a first thought about this, as mentor of one of those funds.

    I am using your book and Udacity lecture as guideline for the teams over here, recommending them to follow it. This is the thing: it is difficult for these teams to talk to others about their ideas, but if they don’t, how on earth they are going to know what they have to? there are a lot more to say, but I don’t want to keep you reading.

    I hope you get in touch with me.

    my email:
    MY skype: zergio (early adopter huh!?)

    Thanks for your time, and congratulations for such excellent compilation you have done in your book and in your lecture.


    Sergio e.

  3. To good to be true !!! Many people at many levels are still hesitant to understand the foundations of these deals with the Colombian government. Furthermore, only 2 out of 1,000 initiatives is a very poor ratio.

    Something smells bad, very bad. !!!

  4. Thanks @bobdorf @sgblank for this great and successful method to create new IT businesses. We are changing the way entrepreneurs understand entrepreneurship and start up in Colombia! from the IT Ministry.

    Bloggers and entrepreneurship passionate people, I would like to invite you to visit the biggest IT entrepreneurs’ community in Colombia working with the customer development methodology.

    Thanks to Diego Molano Vega – ICT Minister of Colombia – to boost the ICT entrepreneurship ecosystem in Colombia!


    • Thanks to the Customer Development Methodology and the support and mentorship from the IT Ministry of Colombia, SquadrApp will participate in the Demo Day in Bogotá by mid-february! Start ups rock!

  5. Sounds great, but better get the word right in spanish or stick w/”entrepreneurism” . . . The correct word is “emprendedorismo”, the entrepreneur being an “emprendedor”. . . Otherwise kind of sounds like getting pregnant . . !

    Cheers! 😀
    Sent from my fabulous BB office-on-the-go. Hope & trust you are having a wonderful day. Cheers! Alina 😀

  6. Jjeje, the right form is “emprenderismo”.

  7. Steve and Bob,

    First of all congratulations for your initiative in Colombia. It’s great to see you’re expanding your methodology on spanish spoken countries.

    I’ve read in your post that some pieces of the Startup owner’s manual have been translated to spanish. I would be glad if I could got them. Do you know how should I talk to?

    Best regards from Spain.

  8. Thank you for your trailblazing work. So are the videos and the Startup Owner’s Manual available in Spanish outside of this program? My organization, Green Worker Cooperatives (, runs a 5-month boot camp for startup worker-owned businesses (aka worker cooperatives). Our program has been business plan oriented but we recently have chosen to switch to using the business model canvas and lean launchpad approaches.

    Our one problem is language access. We’re in NYC (specifically the South Bronx) and make it a point to provide interpretation and ensure that all materials are available in english and spanish. In a 2012 blog post on this site you mentioned that a spanish translation of the video was in the works. We’d love to get our hands on everything you’ve got in spanish. What do you have available?

    Also, given the size of the Colombian program,are they running a spanish version of Launchpad Central to manage communication between entrepreneurs and mentors? The folks at Launcpad Central say their platform isn’t available in spanish. If there’s a version available in Colombia, how can I get it?

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