Barranquilla is betting on university entrepreneurship as a development option

Friday, May 23, 2014

Liyis Gómez, director of the Entrepreneurship Center at Universidad del Norte, Barranquilla. Photographer: Leonardo Muñoz.

Laura Barrios

Barranquilla (Colombia), Mar. 6 (Colombia.inn). A generation of young people who contribute to employment and wealth generation established the Entrepreneurship Center at Universidad del Norte, Barranquilla, a school in the Colombian Caribbean Coast known for its classroom promoted entrepreneurship.

Founded in 2008 after a curriculum revision process that included entrepreneurship as a skill required in all majors, this Center specializes in research and business awareness, incubation and acceleration, conscious about the role of academia as a regional growth promoter.

“The University is betting on a generation of entrepreneurs that does things correctly and generates continuous employment and wealth for themselves and others”, said Liyis Gómez, director of the Center, during an interview with Colombia.inn, an Efe partnered news agency.

The goal is clear: to educate “leading entrepreneurs and businesses with high potential for economic and social impact”, added Gómez, an Industrial Engineer from Universidad de La Guajira, with a Master’s degree in Business Administration and a Ph.D. in Strategy Creation and Business Management from Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona.

This center conducted all early stages of the process, including research, drafting the GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor) report done by a group of universities, and collaboration in the execution of the Doing Business in Colombia 2013 study, published along with the World Bank and the International Financial Corporation (IFC).

Yet her true passion is student and community advice, having assisted 11.203 people between 2008 and 2013.

Gómez explained that they work on business incubation by supporting people who “know about market needs” that can be satisfied with a product or service.

They also work on business acceleration in companies that have already been established but “are not taking advantage of market opportunities due to a lack of preparation” or financial resources, she said.

27 established companies, 14 entrepreneurial ideas at an incubation stage and 7 at an acceleration process are among this Center’s achievements.

Moreover, the Center created the Caribbean Angel Investors Club, associated to the National Angel Investors Network, sponsored by iNNpulsa, the Government’s high-impact entrepreneurship support unit, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Bavaria Foundation.

These investors, who are mostly successful businesspeople eager to help entrepreneurs make their ideas more profitable, provide resources to emerging companies hoping to get a higher return on investment than that offered by other traditional businesses.

For the past three years, this Club, leveraged by a series of agreements, has allowed the Center to give out “more than 4 billion pesos (1.9 million dollars)” for entrepreneurs through seed and growth capital.

Regarding growth throughout the Caribbean, Gómez stated that although Barranquilla is a “cradle of entrepreneurs” that saw the rise of companies such as Avianca, more things are “still missing” in order to have an “ecosystem”.

“Medellín offers a good context for entrepreneurship, that is, they have formal supporting agencies, while Barranquilla doesn’t”, said Gómez, who welcomed local agencies to join for a collaborative work. COLOMBIA.INN

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