There are many roads to Silicon Valley, but you’ll likely not hear one as unusual as the one my guest today took. Jonathan Nelson started out as the son of missionaries in Honduras and Costa Rica and learned the role of a serving leader by watching his Dad lead a mission organization. But he left Central America for nursing school, a computer science education, and finally headed to Silicon Valley.
Today, Jonathan runs Hackers and Founders, the largest network of entrepreneurs in the world. In this conversation we walk through the steps that led him from nursing school to startup founder, how he created an entrepreneurial meetup in a bar that led to an acceleration co-op, and the ways he’s iterating to bring more funding and more improvement to the cultures of Latin America through his company, Hackers and Founders.
Investing in Latin American startups is not the first thing that was on Santiago Zavala’s radar growing up. Even though he grew up in a home where his father was working in tech from the early days of the internet, Santiago wasn’t drawn to the finance side of business at that point. He was totally into programming. He’d have been the last person to anticipate what would happen in his life.
This conversation tells of the unexpected path of a man who’s become intricately involved in the VC scene for startups in Latin America. His involvement in his own Mexico-based startup accelerator and then transitioning into running 500 Startups in Mexico has given him a wealth of experience and insight into what it takes for a startup in Latin America to be successful. It’s an intriguing conversation you won’t want to miss.
Mexico’s business opportunities rival those of any other emerging economy in the world. Despite a complicated history with violence and corruption, the country is starting to transform its negative reputation into new opportunities. New initiatives, especially to boost Mexican innovation, and an ever-expanding middle class with disposable income have given way to a new era of business opportunities for residents and foreigners alike.