Open Innovation From A Practitioner's Perspective


Innovation is Alive and Well in Colombia

I’m a native of Bogota, Colombia but have spent the vast majority of my life in the US.  I always thank my mom and dad for keeping the culture (and language) alive while growing up in Baltimore, Maryland. I owe so much to them!

I’ve always bragged about Colombia’s excellent exports (coffee, flowers, music, dancing) while constantly enduring the still-lingering negative image that Colombia has in the states (I’m sick of the Pablo Escobar and cocaine jokes – no mas!!).

During my time spent in Boston (2001- 2006) I came across many talented, well-educated Colombians who were living there and pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees at what it seemed like every university in the area. These new friendships gave me a great opportunity to visit my home country and I was able to do so several times. I hadn’t been there since the early ’80s and it was a great experience to reacquaint myself with that great country and it’s people.

And I saw many excellent examples of innovation in the civic and social sectors. The two that come to mind are the Transmillenio (here and here) and Ciclovia. I currently live in San Francisco and the SF Sunday Streets Program was directly inspired by Colombia. I can think of a few US cities (Houston, LA) that should adopt the Transmillenio model for public transportation.

Fast forward to August of this year and I found myself again in Colombia, this time in Medellin (for the first time) and as a member of the University of San Francisco School of Business – Silicon Valley Immersion Program. We were conducting a series of workshops with CREAME, a Medellin-based organization that is nurturing the entrepreneur and investor community in Medellin.

In our workshop we ran a series of lectures (and one class project) focused on growing your startup, business model innovation, open innovation and managing confidentiality / IP. I can’t put into words how impressed I was with the quality of entrepreneurs, consultants and investors that I met. I learned as much from them as they (hopefully) learned from us. We gave them almost three days of intense lectures culminating in a project where groups of 6-7 students worked with real entrepreneurs with real startups and were asked to provide them with strategies on open innovation, confidentiality / IP, marketing your startup (Crossing the Chasm) and we even had them propose a new business model for each startup! The entrepreneurs were very appreciative of the quality of advice they received and the students really demonstrated a strong understanding of what was taught. I also came across a great blog written by one of the students.

I also met several people working at EAFIT University, a major university in Medellin which has a great innovation program led by Jorge Mesa.

One tip should you ever visit Colombia: be sure to enjoy the wonderful food, the great people and the incredible Juan Valdez Coffee (just remember – they don’t do coffee to go in Colombia, you need to sit down and enjoy it on the spot!):

Thank you to everyone I met and I look forward to my return trip!


Filed under: general, leaders, Uncategorized

2 Responses

  1. Pedro Medina says:

    Cesar…When Clinton visited Colombia, he said…watch the trendlines and not the headlines…

    You do a nice job showing those early stage trends!

    Pedro Medina

  2. Jaime Ospina says:

    Hi Cesar. I saw you post, thanks for the reference of my Blog.

    I hope you can come back to Medellín and speend a good time here.

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