Interview: Luis Fernando Castro

What progress has been made in the promotion of entrepreneurship and businesses in Colombia?

LUIS FERNANDO CASTRO: One of the government’s most important achievements was the creation three years ago of iNNpulsa Colombia, a programme designed to promote business growth driven by innovation. This programme consists of three main goals: to foster cultural changes that help overcome obstacles hindering growth; to correct market failures with the injection of financial resources; and to strengthen regional actors. Thanks to the commitment and effort of various players, we are able to work in an entrepreneurship and innovation environment that has been recognised by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Latin American Development Bank. The WEF identified Colombia as a Latin American country leading entrepreneurship at a global level. Similarly, the Andean Development Corporation selected iNNpulsa Colombia as a case study in supporting companies aspiring towards innovation. There has been further progress with the transformation of Bancóldex as a catalytic agent of business growth. The development of this country is leveraged by firms that have critical mass and are able to grow at double-digit rates. This generates significant value for society, creating more and better jobs, and acting as a greater source of income for Colombians.

How is Colombia attracting investments that target the promotion of value-added industries?

CASTRO: Since 2009 we have promoted the development of private equity funds and venture capital funds through the Bancóldex Capital Programme. By investing in these funds, companies have access to fresh and intelligent capital. These firms also benefit financially and operationally from business networks and corporate governance services. This programme is composed of two components. The first is the financial support invested in private equity and venture capital funds. To date Bancóldex has invested $39m in more than eight investment funds. This has helped mobilise $404m in capital available for investment, about 10.5 times the value of the original resources Bancóldex pledged. Of these resources, $268m have been invested in 41 firms. The second component involves non-financial support by developing activities that boost Colombian industry, attract investors and strengthen fund managers’ capabilities.

What programmes help local firms find financing?

CASTRO: With the transformation of Bancóldex, we are creating a vehicle that will foster business growth. Colombian companies face obstacles related to more than just financing, so the bank organised itself to respond to the domestic market through platforms targeting business growth, international expansion, global flows, business scaling, smart capital and investment banking, extraordinary growth and dynamic ecosystems. We first need to identify the elements that make companies unique and relevant in their fields, as this enables us to serve these businesses more efficiently to accelerate their growth.

What is the role of youth in fostering innovation?

CASTRO: Colombia is raising a generation with a new mindset. This generation must seek out opportunities and be resilient and ambitious. Youth are spearheading the adoption of a new business mindset, one that incorporates innovation, global opportunities and connectivity with Colombians abroad. Socially, this has translated into an emerging middle class employing modern business models. According to the WEF, Colombia has the highest number of people willing to be entrepreneurs, with two specific features. First, ambition has increased; entrepreneurs want to grow their companies. Second, these entrepreneurs want their firms to have a high degree of innovation. In this regard Colombia is a leader in driving entrepreneurship.