The vibrant entrepreneurial scene of Silicon Valley is full of opportunities for Latin American startups. How is a promising startup to make the necessary connections to access those opportunities?
There are always two sides to every story. Over in San Francisco, a large assemblage of experienced and well-connected entrepreneurs, investors and advisors were looking for ways to identify, invest and accelerate innovative tech startups in the southern continent. In 2014, a few of them set out to seize this market and voilá, PuenteLabs was born.
Self-described as a “hybrid network comprised of corporations, investors, non-profits, sponsors, founders, mentors, VCs, and governments” this San Francisco-based accelerator provides their Latin American startups with the connections and the know-how they need to grow fast.
They offer three programs, or tracks, to participants, depending on their specific needs. For those looking to get into entrepreneurship, they offer quality entrepreneurship-specific education to get started. For those who already have a solid plan, there is Silicon Valley networking at events hosted by PuenteLabs, with hand-picked guest lists. For select and promising endeavors the accelerator offers unmatched support during launch, even up to the first funding round.
Their goal is to develop startups to a global scale—not necessarily to relocate them to the US. Budding companies involved with PuenteLabs are small businesses that need to easily scale up as they access to venture capital in the US. They also need to make arrangements on equity, intellectual property and, liability. All of these are possible via incorporation as a Delaware C-corporation in the US, keeping a strong and continuous presence in their home countries.
With the help of no less than 80 experienced mentorsentrepreneurs and investors themselves, currently involved in the accelerator. Their extensive network has led to the support of sponsors such as Samsung Next and Latin America’s own NXTP Labs, among others. In addition, PuenteLabs itself runs a syndicate of investors that are very motivated to invest in their top picks.
With recent funding from the Multilateral Investment Fund, the accelerator is undergoing internal changes as it prepares to expand their services. A free-for-all educational program for entrepreneurship, among other initiatives, is in the works.
“We acknowledge not every Latin American startup will be able to come to Silicon Valley, so we want to share ‘Silicon Valley know-how’ with them. Therefore we will be developing open online educational content so that everyone can have access”, said Fernando Franco, Executive Director.
Franco has been onboard since May after years directing LatinSF, an impactful organization that promotes Latin American entrepreneurship in San Francisco. With his experience in US joint public-private initiatives, PuenteLabs is aiming to close the gap between the Americas and pave the way for the next generation of emprendedores. “We are open to any industry and country from Latin America. Our focus is more towards the stage of the startup: if they are on their way to a Series A and their product or service is a good fit for the US market, then PuenteLabs is better positioned to support them”, stated Franco.
One of PuenteLabs’ protegés is Colombian startup Torre Technologies, which has strong links to the accelerator. “They have been very supportive of us for over five years”, stated Torre CEO Alexander Torrenegra. “[They] have been especially helpful extending their knowledge and networks as successful investors to our startup. Their support made it possible for us to set one foot on Silicon Valley, to make long-term plans—and to dream big”, he concluded.
A welcome addition to the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Latin America, PuenteLabs has a unique approach to fostering early-stage startups that can easily turn a rough diamond into a one-of-a-kind jewel.