The Growth Talent Awards initiative
As a proactive builder and collaborator of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Latin America, Bridge for Billions is excited to announce that a year after expanding to the continent, we are now providing financial support to entrepreneurs in Latin America for the first time, focusing mainly on entrepreneurs in Central America.
Traditionally, Bridge for Billions has supported entrepreneurs in Latin America through entrepreneurship programs focused on training and support at the early-stages. However, to help entrepreneurs overcome challenges and barriers the current ecosystem presents, we’ve recently awarded $15,000 USD in seed capital through our Growth Talent Awards initiative.
The capital was split across 6 entrepreneurs in 5 different countries in Latin America including Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru and Honduras. This was made possible through the collaboration with ecosystem partners like The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the PES LATAM consortium and Argidius Foundation.
How can we strengthen the ecosystem?
Whilst each country in Latin America faces its own set of challenges, by working as a collective ecosystem, we can create a space for entrepreneurship to truly thrive. For that to happen, the ecosystem needs to be fully equipped to support entrepreneurial talent which, in turn, acts as a catalyst for job creation and economic growth.
Whilst the region has incredibly high potential for a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, to reach its full potential, entrepreneurs in the region are in need of two things: high quality entrepreneurship training and access to capital.
Using a holistic approach headed up by our entrepreneurship programs as well as events, training and community building initiatives, Bridge for Billions brings together agents of change in the local innovation and entrepreneurship spaces to strengthen the ecosystem with the goal of nurturing an inclusive, efficient and sustainable entrepreneurship ecosystem in Latin America.
Access to funding in the region
Historically, financial support is extremely difficult to access for entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean, many of whom face a barrier due to economic restraints. This is especially true for early-stage entrepreneurs who tend to lose out to those at more advanced stages.
Research has also repeatedly shown that female entrepreneurs in particular struggle to access the resources and funding necessary to develop their businesses. According to data from Crunchbase, of the $4.4 billion in funding (including seed, venture, and corporate venture) that went to entrepreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2020, none went to female-only founded startups.
To encourage “Innovation for All” and equal access to opportunity, of the 6 entrepreneurs supported by the Growth Talent Awards Initiative, 4 of those were female founded or co-founded startups.
The goal behind the Growth Talent Awards
What do we hope to achieve by providing this financial support? First of all, with these awards we hope to play our part in increasing access to funding in the Latin American ecosystem with a focus on inclusivity as well as continuing to offer high quality entrepreneurship training through our programs.
The awarded recipients will be able to use the capital to further develop their ventures in the way they choose, for example, entering an acceleration program, growing their team, buying inventory, or collaborating with other partners in the region.
Meet the winners of the Growth Talent Awards
Winners from the “Reactivamos Centroamérica” program: Roberval Almeida and Valeria Rubio
We met Roberval and Valeria through “Reactivamos Centroamérica”, an initiative by Bridge for Billions to connect entrepreneurship support organizations in the region. Strengthening the local ecosystem in this way is key to creating job opportunities and driving social innovation to tackle the problems that truly matter. For the initiative, we offered four Central American organizations (Ashoka, TEC Emprende, Ciudad del Saber and Honduras Digital Challenge) our incubation program and proprietary technology with the objective to support 80 entrepreneurs locally together.
The first winner from “Reactivamos” is Roberval Almeida, a biological conservationist based in Costa Rica and Founder of “Consorcio de Turismo Inclusivo de las Américas”. After developing a disability due to his work with big cats, he decided to create a company focused on inclusive tourism for individuals with disabilities.
Although he’d been working longterm to promote inclusive tourism, he was hesitant when it came to turning the project into a social enterprise saying:
“Even after having worked for 10 years in activism of the rights for people living with disabilities and inclusive tourism, I didn’t dare to build a social enterprise. Thanks to the guidance of the Bridge for Billions program, I took this important step in my life.”
Having completed the program and been selected for the Growth Talent Award, Roverval has devised a 3 step plan for how he’ll use the funds, including systemizing his learnings and processes from the past 12 years, promoting the business and coordinating an international event for the promotion of inclusive tourism.
Also from “Reactivamos” is Valeria Rubio, participant of the Honduras Digital Challenge, an initiative that aims to boost the development of new technology-based ventures in order to drive the local and national economy. Valeria is Founder of WETEC, a project which is developing an accounting software with tools for digital marketing aimed at micro, small and medium enterprises. Having used the Bridge for Billions programs to work on creating concrete next steps for the business, she and the team will be using the funding to finalize the development of the accounting software and its launch.
Winners from our partners CEMEX and KOMU: Natalia Bendek and Adriana Vasquez
Our second set of winners are entrepreneurs who joined Bridge for Billions thanks to our partnerships with CEMEX and Bridge for Billions incubated, sustainable tourism startup KOMU, both of which opted to sponsor entrepreneurs through Bridge for Billions own flagship program, The Leap.
One of these winners is Founder of Esariri, Natalia Bendek, a project to empower rural and indigenous communities. The project equipes communities with the tools to create tourism projects and digital businesses, aiming to bring visibility to their culture and ancestral knowledge.
Natalia believes “When undertaking a social project, we tend to put the social problem we want to solve in front of us and forget to make the project self-sustainable and profitable and ensure that there is a need in the market that will allow us to solve this problem.
With The Leap program we not only learned to balance that and adjust our business model to build on solid foundations, but it also helped us to enter the entrepreneurship ecosystem, which has allowed us to win 2 more contests besides this one and make alliances that will be very beneficial for the future of Esariri.”
CEMEX winner, Adriana Vasquez, is Country Manager at Bean Voyage, a non-profit organization that provides training to women coffee producers to ensure their participation and access to the coffee market in Costa Rica. The young venture has a powerful purpose which targets the eradication of gender inequality in the coffee sector.
Having used the Bridge for Billions program to develop the Care Training side of her project, Adriana and the team will use the funding from Growth Talent to invest in making improvements to the company strategy by improving the website, redesigning the marketing strategy, moving from a point-of-sale model to a subscription model, and investing in more sustainable inputs for our product like biodegradable packaging.
Winners from Bridge for Billion’s flagship program “The Leap”: Gabriel Anzueto and Iveneth Silva
Our final two winners are Gabriel Anzueto and Iventh Silva, also participants from The Leap program. First up, Gabriel’s venture The Fetch Co is on a mission to do good. After his two dogs supported him in his recovery to mental wellness, he decided to build a business connecting stray dogs with people suffering with mental health challenges via a clothing brrand.
Gabriel says: “Going into Bridge For Billions I thought I knew a lot about my business and that it was going to make the process easier for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I have learned more about my business in these 3 months than I have in the last year.
The most important thing about the incubation program for The Fetch Co was how it opened our vision and made clear to us the importance of the social impact we want to generate. Bridge for Billions definitely gave us a much needed path for a company with such a strong mission.”
With the funds from the Growth Talent awards, Gabriel will be generating the best UX and website to give that emotional connection to his new clients and loyal customers as well as generating valuable content about the real life experiences of users. He’ll also work on the development of the Fetch marketplace and The Fetch Box, two new business models he hopes to test.
On the other hand, Ivaneth, CEO of Peru based “Agua + Luz = Vida + Salud”, has developed a venture to decrease the spread of diseases amongst crops in an economic, fast and natural way. The project deals with the fact that the way we obtain food from both plants and animals has a significant impact on the environment and our health. With all the types of pesticides, antibiotics and fertilizers we use, coupled with a growing global population that will reach 10 billion by 2050, the world faces challenges such as: loss of agro-biodiversity, climate change and freshwater scarcity amongst many others.
The company’s vision is to play a key role in generating safe water, nutritious food and comprehensive chemical-free health with an approach that targets sustainability via food supply, hygiene, food safety and affordability whilst targeting both the agricultural and health and nutrition value chains.
Knowing how fundamental capital is to early-stage entrepreneurs, we have plans to continue to offer funding to entrepreneurs in Latin America through our partnerships with leading organizations in the region.
Over the past year, these partnerships have enabled us to launch initiatives such as Growth Talent and The Bridge for Billions Fellowship. The latter, an initiative driven by Bridge for Billions and the PES Latam Alliance to support 11 social entrepreneurs and accelerate their impact in the region with winners receiving up to 50.000 USD in seed capital.
If you’re an organization looking to support entrepreneurs in Latin America to promote an inclusive, efficient and sustainable ecosystem, based locally or elsewhere, get in touch with the Bridge for Billions team to see how we can collaborate by creating impactful programs together.