Entrepreneurs Gather in Guatemala, Sow Seeds of Disruption

Innovate Summit Attracts 300 Central Americans for "New Business Culture"

Innovate Summit: "You are a part of a new business culture in Central America." (Fergus Hodgson)

More than 300 young entrepreneurs gathered in Guatemala City this weekend to challenge the status quo and alcanzar sueños (reach their dreams). Aptly named the Innovate Summit, they conspired to brainstorm and share alternatives in marketing, finance, and management strategies.

The Innovate Summit, which featured 30 speakers, is an initiative that aims to promote creative destruction, entrepreneurship, and productivity, with the goal of boosting Central American economies. The creator and director of the initiative, Diego de León, explains that they are “creating a new business culture so that people can achieve their medium and long-term dreams.”

This project serves as a stepping stone for emerging entrepreneurs’ projects, particularly those that will change the dynamics and open up new market opportunities. According to Asdrúbal Vargas, a Costa Rican entrepreneur and one of the speakers, the summit “is a bridge to connect soft skills and techniques that many times entrepreneurs in Central America do not have the chance to learn.”

The chief organizer and sponsor of the summit, held at the Cayalá Convention Center, was the Friederich Naumann Foundation for Freedom of Germany. They have activities in more than 60 countries and are very active throughout Latin America, hosting many events and sponsoring the publication of books.

The summit included a contest for entrepreneurs between 20 and 30 years old, in which they pitched their business ideas and explained how they offered innovation. One contestant was Guatemalan Suzelly Cabrera, with her Developing Talents project, which offers support for children that struggle with conventional education. She provides tools through games and art and focuses on developing fitting skills so each individual can be productive and integrate into society.

This year’s winner, also a Guatemalan, created a software program for schools to facilitate security. Schoolbuzz, created by Luis Fernando Sierra, offers alerts for parents to track their children’s transport, and it informs them when they are nearing their stops to be picked up.

Luis Fernando Sierra (center) takes first place for innovation at this weekend’s gathering of Central American entrepreneurs. (Innovate Summit)

Marissa Krienert, a speaker who traveled from Panama, says the new generation of entrepreneurs in attendance are inclined to take more risks than their predecessors. They “are passionate about innovation, while the older entrepreneurs have the experience but do not have the creativity to innovate,” and she wants them to mentor the rising generation in leadership of projects.

In the case of Guatemala, there are more than 2.4 million entrepreneurs, in a population of approximately 17 million residents. The country has achieved high rankings for entrepreneurial habits, in spite of a difficult legal environment and economic conditions.

These entrepreneurs tend to be self-employed, with the vast majority having fewer than five workers, and 77 percent are dedicated to food consumption. Most operate their small businesses out of economic necessity on the side of other jobs.

Fergus Hodgson contributed to this article.

Patricia Areano
Patricia Areano is the Antigua Report executive assistant. Born in Guatemala, she achieved certification with QA101 Consulting as a software test engineer in Kirkland, Washington. She is in her third year as a law student at Rafael Landívar University in Guatemala City and is working toward certification as a Spanish-English translator. She is passionate about horse riding, and she was a member of the Guatemalan under-20 handball team. Follow @pareanogt.

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