Interviews

Alexis Caporale: “I left some life on each entrepreneurial milestone”

Alexis is 25 years old. Together with his sister, he founded Bixti in 2010, the first trading platform of handicrafts for the Spanish-speaking market, which was sold to Elo in 2012. In 2013 he co-founded Trimaker, company that develops 3D printers. Besides, he is a teacher at EmprendING (Faculty of Engineering), and wrote a book about the Future of Energy.

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Crisis? What Crisis?

After the first SABF lunch, it was time to listen to Juan Carlos de Pablo, who is Director at Contexto. He was interviewed by Enrique Diaz Leimbacher, Associate Professor at ITBA. The interview was developed in very dynamic way by both the interviewee and the interviewer.

The first issue discussed was what is happening in the Argentinian economy. Juan Carlos de Pablo commented that, in order to understand Argentinian crisis, you must talk about the objective problems and those created by a government that nobody believes in. He also added that when policies are temporary, the effect obtained is not the desired one.

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On Motivation, Opportunity Cost and Ideas

This article is part of a series about going from “I’d like to start a business” to having a small start-up running, and beyond. If you haven’t read the previous articles, I recommend you do so by going to the first one, which includes a small table of contents.

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Guatemala wants to take part in the SABF 2012!

Every year, the South American Business Forum (SABF) becomes more important in America and all around the world, and during 2012 Guatemala does not want to be the exception. That is why on Tuesday, February 28 the SABF Delegate in Guatemala, Luisa María Fajardo, gave a lecture which was heard by more than 35 university students who were interested in learning and knowing what the SABF is. Gathered in the auditorium I-100 of the “Universidad del Valle de Guatemala” from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., young people did not need much to be interested and to want to participate in an international conference for current and future leaders. Apart from having the presence of students from the “Universidad del Valle de Guatemala” we also had the opportunity to be with representatives from the “Universidad San Carlos de Guatemala”, “Universidad Rafael Landívar” and “Universidad del ISTMO”.

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FAES: Latin America goes social.

In this opportunity, we introduce you FAES, Fundación Argentina de las Empresas Sociales (Argentinean Foundation of Social Enterprises), whose objective is to promote and to develop social entreprises in Argentina and Latinamerica. This organisation came up from the concern of Daniela Kreimer, a young Business Manager who, looking for her thesis topic, found the chance to work in microfinance and closely to th father of this discipline, Professor Muhammad Yunus, in Bangladesh.

Through this experience, and her next work in Colombia based on the founding principles of Grameen Bank, Daniela came back to Argentina and decided to found FAES, after pointing out the lack of Argentinean institutions related to social business.

Based on disclosure, training and research and development, FAES works with every social actor that wants to have a positive impact in his society: from high school students to business and social entrepreneurs.

Then, we present you a brief interview we had with Daniela Kreimer, in which we talk about FAES and its current work:

SABF BLOG: Which are the pros/cons of bringing the Social Business model to our country?

Daniela Kreimer: There many challenges. Today, it is all about proving that this model works and that can be successful in the fight against poverty and inequality. The pros of applying this model in Argentina are: the extensive third sector, which makes it easier as it has been worked before; the entrepreneurial spirit of Argentinean and Latin American people, and human and natural resources avalable. On the other hand, th cons that I find are the lack of commitment of the private sector in the social environment (besides the growing importance of SRE), political welfarism, which I think that it destroys the work culture that was essential for our country during the last century, and the lack of legislation related to the topic.

SABF BLOG: Which is the direct impact of your project in our society?

DK: Each volunteer of FAES can become an agent of change because the project looks for a different way to introduce a new model of economy in our country and region, a new approach that represents the combination between the business world and the social sector. Volunteers can, for example, multipliers of ideas, developers of social businesses or researchers on social topics that could be involved in the creation of social businesses. Students can inspire social business when writing their thesis. I believe that the social business model presents an opportunity to commune among all actors involved: from the ones that need it the most, to those who work on it, or even the ones that invest, as social investors. It creates an environment in which all human beings become more human.

We thank Daniela and FAES team for their time and willingness to contribute, and we invite you all to get involved in FAES. You can ask for more information via email at gosocialargentina@gmail.com.

Streema: Undertaking after being part of SABF organizing team

Martin Siniawski and Juan Trouilh were two SABF organizers in 2006/7/8 y 2005/6 respectively.

After working for the forum, they decided to undertake something together with Richard Monte (jury member for SABF since 2006). The company name is Streema, a social network for radio listeners. In this interview, they tell us the whole experience…

1)  What is Streema and how was it born?

J: Streema is a social network for radio listeners where anyone can listen, share and discover new radios from all around the world. It came up as a necessity that one of the partners had, who was looking for listening to his favorite radios in just one place and in a simple and fast way.

M: The really big problem we first dreamed to tackle down was to gather all radios in one place, without having to go to every single radio website to listen to them, and so to experience listening to the radio in a much more interactive way.

2)  Which were the difficulties that you had from the very first moment?

J: A lot… to begin with, we had to learn “how” internet works. It’s a whole different thing to be a user of a product than to be a developer and, at the same time, generate a business. In the specific case of this industry, it is a particular one, because there are no written rules and, if they do exist, the ones that rule today are bound to stop existing tomorrow.

Second, to learn to build a company starting from zero, which means that you have to solve everything by your own: product, business plans, capital investment… there are a lot of specialties that normally correspond to one per person.

Third and most important, to develop personal qualities like: tolerance, patience, perseverance. Those are some of the must-have characteristics that one could have, but in a venture, you experience them 100%.

M: I agree. More deeply, in particular moments we suffered something like a change of paradigm related to the way we should face the whole project. Firstly, we were completely focused on the product; we were truly believers of “build it and they will come”, until we realized that is not always true.

We started to focus more in distribution, and at that point we figured out that finally we did it perfectly! This remain the same for a period of time until the simple fact of people using our product does not mean that it is a sustainable business, that’s why we began to focus on monetizing the product also. Today, we firmly believe that these three products are somehow like the three fundamental pillars in a company creation of a company that aspires to be successful.

3) What did your experience in SABF bring to the project and your personal lives?

J: A lot! We both think that it was the most responsible job that we had in our life before Streema so, it was fundamental to learn how to work in a team, be a Project leader and be completely auto responsible.

M: At personal level, as a participant and organizer, it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. It really gave me so many things that if I start mentioning them in this interview it will not end. Regarding something so hard and risky like undertaking I think that puts you on a most favorable situation to do it, from what Juan just mentioned to the people you meet, the ideas you are exposed to and the change of mind that happens inside of you.

4)  What do you recommend to those who are starting their first own venture?

J: The truth is that it’s not easy at all, we won’t say that it is when it’s not, but when one is young you have the opportunity to take that risk because in general terms, there’s no other moment in your life where you are going to have such a great independence. We all think that is not true, then you have a lot of restrictions that you’ve never imagined that existed and if there’s a characteristic to do undertake, is that you need plenty of time, all you’ve got.

M: I have always defend the idea of undertake as soon as possible, if there’s a moment to do it, it’s now, because of the reasons Juan has just mentioned. There’s another reason that is related to something I’ve Heard once in a conference and that we use to tell the people who join for the first time the SABF organizing team.

At the moment of closing a conference, a speaker was giving the congratulations to the organizing team (also students, like in SABF) y made us meditate about something like: “When you finish university and look backwards, what are you going to remember? The way you present yourselves at exams on time and quietly or the fact of having built something like this?” I think that in the case of undertaking a company like Streema it’s the same but extended to reality, not only university life. What kind of memories do we want to have? A reflection like this, I think, it’s the best recommendation we can share to them.

STS Rosario Project

For over a year, Nurit Weitz and Rámiro Picó, two ex-participants from SABF founded the STS Rosario Project, in order to contribute to the sustainable development of their native city. We invite you to know more about this project in this interview.

Why STS Rosario?

Nurit: STS Rosario is a NGO (ongoing legal proceedings) which objective is to contribute to the sustainable development of Rosario and the region through the development and implementation of Sustainable Technological Solutions, with the participation of professionals and students from a wide array of academicals formations.

Rámiro: We started in June 2009, in a group of 11 students and graduates from different engineering careers, gathered by the will of returning the society the education received in the public university.Logo STS Rosario

Nurit: We proposed ourselves to detect issues and to realize projects in the city that end in an improvement of the life quality of the people who live here, providing a professional outlook, innovative solutions and encouraging the use of new technologies.

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Interview to Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber

The SABF had the honour of having Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber answer some questions regarding schellnhuber_okt2007_dbu_portraitclimate change. Professor Schellnhuber is the Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and is a reknown specialist in his field. On behalf of the SABF team, we thank Professor Schellnhuber for taking his time to adress our inquiries.

SABF: How do you rebut those who claim that Climate Change is an issue which is exaggerated many a time, and that global warming is at times another form of Yellow Journalism?

HJS: Simply because climate change has become a popular issue on the political agenda, I consider it totally wrong to write it off as just another form of
Yellow Press. Climate change is an extremely serious matter which increasingly concerns me and which needs to be taken very seriously around the globe. Latest scientific findings show that business as usual could cause a 5 degree warming by the end of the century, with sea-level rise of more than one meter in the same period and of tens-of-meters in the long run. You can imagine that the world would look totally different then. Looking back on the development of the climate debate, I rather think that we have underestimated the issue.

SABF: Developing countries are the most vulnerable to climate changes, and of course, to the phenomena associated with global warming. Which are the measures that such countries could take to minimize their risks to the greatest
extent possible? What about cost-effective measures that such countries can indeed afford?

HJS: That is indeed a difficult question. The impacts of climate change do have different effects on different countries. Some might be affected by floods, others by the shortage of drinking water, others again by the increasing
frequency of hurricanes. Hence the various forms of adaptation such as disaster control, malaria prevention or sustained management of the water resources have to be different according to the different forms of impact. Seen
globally the impacts of climate change are unfortunately distributed very unfairly. Industrialized countries, which cause most of the worldwide emissions, are able to protect themselves more effectively than developing countries. But we have to keep the following in mind: the most cost-effective measures against all risks of global warming are substantial steps to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

SABF: How can youth the world over get involved in understanding this complex issue, because it is of utmost criticality that the young leaders learn about climate change, its effects and start spreading the awareness on a local level and global level?

HJS: The younger generation must develop an awareness of not only being able to influence its own future but the future of our planet as well. The key to understanding lies in generating and disseminating profound knowledge about
climate change. Education is a crucial instrument on the local as well as on the global level. If you, the young people, do not care about the future, who else will?

Interview to César Pelli

The SABF had the honour of having worldwide recognized architect Cesar Pelli answer some questions for the SABF Blog readers. Mr. Pelli has done a lot of renown designs, including the Petronas Twin Towers.

SABF: By means of Architecture, how can the Latin American identity be rescued and turned into a globally recognized icon?


C.P.: I don’t relieve that today’s architecture can give identity to a region. For better or worse, global architecture moves at pretty much the same rhythm. Something we can do is to respect the traditional existing identities, and support them with our new disgns. Something that is globally respected is the quality of design.

SABF: How can a balance between the cities’ architectonic tradition and postmodern architecture be achieved?

C.P.: One of postmodern architecture attitudes is to respect and sometimes emulate the existing traditions of the region in which construction will take place. The conflict lies between modernism and the current trend to “overesteem” originality and a personal architect’s signature design.

SABF: How is sustainability incorporated into architectonic design?

C.P: Sustainability is the Basic component of everything we design. We try to take it the furthest our budgent and client allows us to.

SABF: Globalization has diminished the size boundaries in the World. Do you relieve the same is happenning in the field of architecture?

C.P.: I relieve it has already happened.

SABF: What do you believe are the keys for making full use of your capacities as a professional and what advice would you give to university students who aspire to one day do the same thing in their respective careers and environments?

C.P.: I think it is essential to discover if one really has talent for design, and tol ove what you do. If it’s not the case, then find another profession or look for other aspects of architecture (technical details, construction supervision, management, client courting, etc.) in which you feel more comfortable. They are all essential elements of a good professional practice.

Get to know what the CEO of American Airlines thinks

The SABF had the pleasure of asking some questions to Mr. Gerard Arpey, Chairman of AMR Corporation and American Airlines, Inc. We would like to thank Mr. Arpey for sharing with us his invaluable experience and thoughts.

Gerard ArpeySABF: Only 3% of the population worldwide makes decisions that directly or indirectly have impact on others. Considering the great responsibility this process implies, what factors affect your decision making process most?

G. A.: In a public company, our obligation is to our shareholders, but we understand that other stakeholder groups – customers, employees, and the communities we serve – have important interests. We try to account for these, as best we can, in decision making. This is, of course, challenging, because stakeholder interests often conflict – for example, our employees want to be paid more, but our customers are accustomed to the selling prices set by the new, low-cost carriers.

SABF: Which are the critical factors that have allowed you to reach success in your professional life? E.g. University studies, intelligence, emotional intelligence, intuition…

G. A.: Education, especially university training, was important. Early work experience teaches you a lot. For example, I had a summer job loading bags for Delta Airlines; it was tough and hot and physically demanding, and I learned many lessons there. Curiosity is an often overlooked characteristic. And I must emphasize the importance of having a strong ethical compass.

SABF: How did you and American Airlines cope with the aftermath of 9/11? How were employees and consumers reassured?

G. A.: We would fill up the blog with all the detail. This was at once a huge national tragedy and an enormous company tragedy. Fortunately, all of us in the airline industry have some experience with crisis management, though on a smaller scale, and we set to work using many crisis-management principles.

Customer reassurance was important. We sent e-mail and paper mail to our customers, outlining all the steps we had taken and would take to increase security (e.g., new cockpit doors, linkage to databases of known dangerous persons). We worked closely with the media, to correct exaggeration and provide facts. We did a lot of the same with employees, and added things like counseling and group sessions so that people were more open about their feelings. Looking back, we did reasonably well, but it was an enormous challenge and a painful time.

SABF: What are your views on South America as a developing region and what do you think are its crucial needs, in order to develop successfully and sustainably?

G. A.: As you know, the region forms an important part of our network, as we link not only South America, but also Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean with North America and on to Asia and Europe. We have consistently expanded our business in South America as opportunities have arisen. We are proud of our teams in Argentina and the other countries of your continent, especially the fact that our leaders tend to be nationals from each country, not expatriates.

If you look at the work of economists and the experience of business leaders, several development “must haves” emerge, which are common across the world. These are largely the responsibility of national governments: rule of law and transparency in government process; sensible tax and investment rules; financial and budget discipline; investment in infrastructure (transport, utilities, etc.); access to education; and common respect for people, especially their differences.