Ep 43 Lisa Besserman: Startup Buenos Aires & Building Argentina’s Startup Community

Lisa Besserman escaped the New York winter in 2012 to work remotely from Buenos Aires, and never came back. She fell in love with the city’s entrepreneurial culture and began to build Startup Buenos Aires (SUBA), an organization that helps represent the startup, tech, and entrepreneurial community in Buenos Aires. With SUBA reaching its five-year anniversary this year, I sat down with Lisa Besserman to learn how Argentina’s startup ecosystem has grown and changed since she moved to Buenos Aires.

In this episode, we talk about what it’s like doing business in Argentina, new opportunities for venture capital investment, the changes she’s seen in the ecosystem over the past five years, and where Argentina’s ecosystem is headed next.

Technology is helping people work across borders

Lisa is passionate about connecting Argentina’s tech talent to the world. Based on her own time as a remote worker in 2012, Lisa realized technology and the Internet make it possible to leverage resources from the global economy, and not just within one’s home country. She wants companies to realize that remote work and outsourcing can be good for their employees and for their bottom line. Find out how Lisa Besserman is helping turn Argentina into a global tech outsourcing hub in this episode of Crossing Borders.

Why Lisa considers herself an ‘accidental entrepreneur’

Lisa did not set out to become a business founder. She saw there was an urgent problem where entrepreneurs and startups had little support, few resources, and little access to entrepreneurial education in Buenos Aires. Instead of heading back to the US, Lisa decided she was the person who would help build that community, eventually even recruiting the help of the government to support entrepreneurship and starting SUBA. Learn about Lisa’s first steps to founding a business in Argentina in this week’s podcast.

Argentina’s startup unicorns and the future of Argentine entrepreneurship

Lisa says, “necessity breeds innovation.” It’s no secret that Argentina has a challenging business environment, mired in regulation and financial instability. These factors have pushed Argentine entrepreneurs to be resilient and creative while quickly adapting to new technologies, such as cryptocurrencies. While previously, Argentinian success stories like MercadoLibre and OLX pursued the international market on their own, the local government along with foreign and local investors are now seeing Argentina’s potential as a global tech hub. Lisa explains how Startup Buenos Aires is inspiring other entrepreneurial initiatives in Argentina, and where the Argentine market might go next.

With the help of the business-friendly Macri administration, Argentina is beginning to position itself as a part of the global conversation on startups, tech, and entrepreneurship. While financial instability and government regulations still pose challenges to today’s founders, Lisa is confident that programs like SUBA, IncuBAte, and others will help Argentinian entrepreneurs succeed. Learn why Lisa thinks now is the time to invest in Argentina, the birthplace of four of Latin America’s unicorns, on this episode of Crossing Borders.

Show Notes:

[1:14] – Nathan introduces Lisa

[3:08] – Lisa’s journey to Argentina

[5:05] – Lisa’s advice to people looking to move to Latin America

[7:23] – What do you think of the remote work trend?

[11:04] – Working with a US team from Buenos Aires

[13:50] – Lisa’s culture shock when arriving in Buenos Aires

[17:32] – The American way of doing business vs. doing business in LatAm

[20:50] – Finding the sweet spot between US efficiency and LatAm relationship-building

[22:30] – Why Lisa calls herself an “accidental entrepreneur”

[25:11] – From coffee meetings to building Startup Buenos Aires

[30:31] – Argentine government programs that are shaping the startup ecosystem

[33:45] – Organizations that are building Buenos Aires’ startup ecosystem

[35:15] – Why does Argentina have most of LatAm’s success stories?

[37:56] – What problems are Argentine entrepreneurs solving with their businesses?

[39:15] – Necessity breeds innovation: the future of the Argentinian ecosystem

[41:25] – What’s next for SUBA

[43:00] – Lisa’s advice to herself before moving to Buenos Aires