Medellin, Colombia is a city of opportunity, change, and a willingness to experiment. As the second largest city in Colombia, Medellin is catching the attention of investors and entrepreneurs from around the world, while Colombia as a whole has proven itself to be a leader in 21st century science and technology innovation. Colombia is the third largest economy in South America, and in 2013 the Wall Street Journal and Citibank named Medellin the world's most innovative city in the world, over cities like New York and Tel Aviv. Some tech trend analysts have even stated that Medellin can become the “Silicon Valley of South America.”
The Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative, which is the U.S. government’s flagship science and tech entrepreneurship program, has been working with Colombian innovators since 2014. In Colombia and throughout 136 emerging economies around the world, GIST empowers young innovators through networking, skills building, mentoring, and access to financing to develop startup solutions that address economic and development challenges.
Next week, Medellin will be the site of the very first “GIST Investors” training program, conducted in partnership with local incubator and innovation power house, Ruta N. GIST Investors are year-long programs that work with potential angel or early stage investors to educate them about the opportunities of investing in science and technology startups. Throughout the year, the program will have multiple in-country workshops and seminars culminating in a closing reception for participants next fall.
The State Department launched GIST Investors to fill a gap often seen in startup ecosystems. While many emerging economies are doing an increasingly effective job of promoting science and entrepreneurship, oftentimes there is a gap when it is time to mobilize and secure local capital. Both the State Department and Ruta N are excited to pioneer this program that will help to unleash local capital and promote an innovative culture, create jobs, strengthen linkages between our two countries, and bolster the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Colombia.
“The United States is proud to continue its multifaceted support for Colombia, and the selection of Colombia as the first country to launch the GIST Investor program is a testament to both our bilateral commitment to Colombia and to the progress Colombia has made in nurturing a strong and growing entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said United States Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker.
In addition to GIST Investors, other GIST programs include monthly TechConnect webinars that bring expert panelists to share tips on varying entrepreneurship topics; Boot Camps that are multi-day on-the-ground training with U.S. business leaders that promote in-country entrepreneurship networks, strengthen economic ties, and develop innovation ecosystems; Catalyst and Tech-I pitch competitions that attract the most promising entrepreneurs from emerging economies, culminating at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit where innovators pitch for seed capital and startup resources from the private sector; and Innovation Hubs that are meetup groups designed to build strong and vibrant networks of young science and technology entrepreneurs around the world. To learn more about GIST, visit www.GISTNetwork.org.
About the Authors: Spencer Harrison serves as the Events and Communications Specialist for the Office of Science and Technology Cooperation, which manages the GIST initiative. Sarah Staton, Ph.D. serves as the State Department’s Senior Coordinator for GIST and Partnerships.
Editor’s Note: This entry is also published in the U.S. Department of State’s publication on Medium.com.