Thursday, April 10, 2008

Reflexiones sobre la Conferencia Latinoamericana

La Latin Conference 2008 fue exito. No vino tanta gente al auditorio (hay que mejorar el marketing para el año que viene, aunque tambien es cierto que nos tocaron unos dias pesimos, lluviosos y frios) pero mucha mas lo siguio via el webcasting en internet. Si te interesa, podes ver aqui el video on demand.

Ser el presidente del comite organizador fue un gran desafio y mucho trabajo. Estoy contento y satisfecho con el resultado, y al respecto escribi un articulo para la revista semanal de MIT Sloan que copio a continuacion. Tiene un tono que quizas es mas optimista que mi pensamiento real sobre la region, pero me sentia con ganas de dar una vision esperanzadora. Esta en ingles y aca va:

Latin America: Think Again.

Our Brand is Crisis. Such is the name of a very interesting documentary about political campaigning in Bolivia. But it can also very well describe the way Latin America is usually portrayed at Sloan the few times it appears in our macroeconomic classes: linked with crises, missed opportunities, corruption and similar perils.

The last edition of the traditional MIT Sloan Latin Conference, held at Wong auditorium on April 4th and 5th, showed a different face of the region. Jose Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Organization for American States and keynote speaker, pointed out that the cycle of five years between 2002 and 2007 has been the period of largest growth in Latin America in the last 25 years, with poverty declining by about 7 to 8 points. He said that the countries in the region seem to have learned from previous crises. Mr. Insulza mentioned another good news: never before has democracy been so prevalent in the region, with all of its countries except Cuba having clean and contested elections.

In the Entrepreneurship panel Santiago Bilinkis told us what is good about building companies in Latin America: you don’t need to come up with the next Facebook to be successful. Just efficiently solving consumer’s everyday problems can take you a long way. He did just that with Officenet, the office supply company he founded and later sold to Staples for more that $40 million. The catch is, as he put it, ‘that Latin Americans must learn to think big’.

This balanced view was the common denominator of the more that 25 presentations we had in both days of the Conference. There are many challenges, but also innovative and driven people that are able to find opportunities. Such as Pablo Brenner, an Uruguayan that against all odds managed to locally raise $10 million for his small VC fund and has just closed his third startup investment.

Organizing the conference proved a big challenge for the organizing committee. Unlike other conferences at Sloan, in our case the organizers could be counted with the fingers of the hands. But it was definitely worth it. The Conference not only attracted more that 200 people to Wong Auditorium but also this 11th edition was the first to be webcasted live on the internet, with our home page getting more that 2000 hits during those days. It also received extensive press coverage: Jornal do Brasil and Gazeta Mercantil from Brazil, La Tercera from Chile and ON24 from Argentina run big articles on the conference.

Our brand is still Crisis? Yes, some remain pessimists and mention that Latin America’s economy is well known for its peaks and valleys. But I, as part of a new generation of Latin Americans decided to go back and think big, prefer the view of Igor Barenboim, founder of and speaker at the conference. ‘We are creating a new Operating System for the Internet”, he said confidently about his venture. ‘You should check it out. In Brazil? Yes. Yes, We Can!’

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