Acabo de leer un artículo en The New York Times, que me confirma y consolida argumentos en lo que conversaba hace pocos días, sobre los nuevos emprendimientos en la industria del software en Argentina. En esta nota de Vinod Sreeharsha (25 de diciembre, NYT) se observa otra faceta de estas nuevas empresas: su modelo de financiamiento, y el perfil de los inversores que les dan futuro.
En un país devastado por la peor crisis de su historia, crisis no superada, con la que se convive como con el eco del Big Bang, la financiación de largo plazo, y más aún para nuevos e intangibles proyectos, no existe: ni es posible casi obtener financiación externa (¿quién prestaría en un país donde no se cumplen los compromisos?), ni existen bancos locales que estén dispuestos a prestar a plazos prolongados (y menos a tasas promocionales), ni existen planes estatales que los suplanten (para qué hablar de lo que un autónomo en España puede solicitar para iniciarse -préstamos a bajo interés o a "fondo perdido"). Este cuadro no es único de la industria del software, pero ese es otro problema...¿Cómo han iniciado sus operaciones muchas de las nuevas empresas surgidas en estas calamitosas circunstancias?
Qué nos cuenta Sreeharsha:
Sreeharsha describe las características de los inversores, o clubes de inversores, que apuestan por la creación de estas nuevas empresas innovadoras:
After the government’s 2001 default, lack of access to credit became a way of life here. The country remained largely cut off from global capital markets and foreign investment.
As a result, Argentine entrepreneurs started looking inward, and over time created a nascent start-up ecosystem with local venture capital funds and angel investors.
According to the 2008 Venture Capital Observatory Report, $25 million is available this year from those funds and investors. Gabriel Jacobsohn, the report’s author and a business professor at the University of Buenos Aires, expects that figure to hold steady next year despite current economic uncertainty.The volume is small, much less than 1 percent of Argentina’s gross domestic product, but it represents a sharp cultural shift. In the past, family inheritance and government contacts often determined who started a business. Now, slowly, Argentines are beginning to trust and invest in each other.
Sobre este último aspecto, la aparición de inversores locales originarios de la clase media nacional, dice:
The IAE Angels Club is an example. Its October meeting took place on the day when the Brazilian and Russian stock exchanges had to suspend operations in response to collapsing stocks. But the club’s middle-aged members attentively listened to two business pitches by complete strangers in their 20s and 30s. Several new angels attended, one announcing he was starting a sister group in Córdoba province, in the center of Argentina, about 400 miles northwest of Buenos Aires.
The Angels Club has grown to 100 members, from six, in three years and has invested $3 million in 17 projects. Silvia de Torres Carbonell, the group’s founder, said that without the club, “their money would go elsewhere, and most likely out of Argentina.” Investments are usually not recovered for eight to 10 years.
Argentina’s new financiers are also providing expertise. Several began their own start-ups during past crises and not only survived but thrived, with little support.Mr. Racca is one such veteran. He and his partner, Emilio Lopez-Gabeiras, founded Intersoft, Argentina’s most successful software company, in the early 1990s, surviving hyperinflation, stagnation and multiple currencies.
Other pioneers include Emiliano Kargieman and Jony Altszul, who started Core Security Technologies, a software company, in Buenos Aires in the mid-1990s. They succeeded in the United States, landing customers from NASA to the United States Army.
Today they run a venture capital fund back home, Aconcagua Ventures. Their first investment, Popego, was founded by a 24-year-old college dropout, Santiago Siri, who has since become the only Latin American selected to participate in both Le Web, one of Europe’s most elite technology conferences, and Silicon Valley’s TechCrunch50. A catalyst for the evolving start-up culture here was Endeavor, the United States nonprofit that fosters entrepreneurial networking in the developing world. Endeavor’s first success was in Argentina 10 years ago, just before the country’s last financial collapse.Today it remains a strong presence here. But the entrepreneurial ecosystem here is now entirely locally run, mostly by people with middle-class backgrounds.
For instance, Santiago Bilinkis and his partner, Andy Freire, founded Officenet, an office supply catalog service in Argentina, before the last crisis. Staples acquired it in 2004. Mr. Bilinkis has since invested in three start-ups. He said that what he called serial entrepreneurship was “the only way to change the country.”Sobre las empresas que obtuvieron algún tipo de apoyo financiero por este medio, dice:
Finalmente, quisiera rescatar tres párrafos mencionados en la nota, que deben ser atendidos:
- Mr. Racca had provided the seed capital for Mr. Caselles’s brainchild, AuthenWare, a company that makes biometrics software with security applications for banks and insurance companies.
- Popego, was founded by a 24-year-old college dropout, Santiago Siri, who has since become the only Latin American selected to participate in both Le Web, one of Europe’s most elite technology conferences, and Silicon Valley’s TechCrunch50
- The founders of Globant, an information technology services company based in Buenos Aires, concur. They estimate they will take in $40 million in revenue this year, and last week completed their second acquisition.
An Argentine, Mr. Arebalos listed some of the tumult that Argentine business has endured in the last decades: “We have had at least five or six different economic plans, with completely different politics, a closed economy, an open economy, privatization, nonprivatization, a fixed dollar, a floating dollar, a controlled dollar, an uncontrolled dollar, brutal devaluations, increases in tariffs and frozen tariffs.” The lesson, he said, is “one goes nuts or one becomes a survivor.”El criterio en la búsqueda de inversores:
[la actitud de confianza con el inversor representa ] another break from the past, when Argentines viewed potential financiers with suspicionEl cambio de actitud y la disposición a iniciar proyectos y conseguir inversores:
In the past, family inheritance and government contacts often determined who started a business. Now, slowly, Argentines are beginning to trust and invest in each otherNuevamente, ¿no es posible extraer conclusiones generalizables para otros casos?
La Fotografía: Daniel Caselles y Felix Racca, fotografiados por Joao Pina, para New York Times