Tag: innovation

Gonzalo Galindo, Cemex Ventures: Bringing Innovation and Strategic Investments to the Construction Industry, Ep 113

You can now find the full show notes of the Crossing Borders podcast on LatamList.com’s new podcast section. I’ll still post the audio of the podcast on my blog and I’m planning to start writing more again on my blog, like I used to.

Subscribe to the LatamList Weekly newsletter to get updated on the week’s top tech news and stories from the region.

Thanks for listening to Crossing Borders all these years! If you have any feedback or questions, please feel free to reach out here, or contact me on social media.

Outline of this episode:

  • [1:32] – About Cemex Ventures
  • [3:30] – Gonzalo’s tech trajectory
  • [5:10] – From tradition to disruption
  • [7:00] – Advice for working with corporations
  • [9:45] – Lessons learned from working with startups
  • [11:26] – Cemex Ventures vision
  • [16:05] – The importance of investing
  • [17:31] – Cemex Ventures investments
  • [19:48] – On stages and check sizes
  • [21:01] – Next trends in construction
  • [23:11] – Advice to Gonzalo’s younger self
  • [24:40] – What’s next for Cemex Ventures?

Show notes on Latamlist.com.

The Investment and Startup Community in Peru

Many travelers visit Peru to experience Machu Picchu, and though incredible, there is much more to this country than its wonder of the world. Known for its gastronomic sector, Peru has some of the most diverse (and delicious) food in the world. Through its long history of eating seafood, mixed with Spanish, Japanese and Chinese immigration, it’s always a pleasure to go to Peru, even if it’s only to eat, and entrepreneurial Peruvians have taken advantage.

Peru has diverse terrain, from the steeply sloping Andes and dense jungles to the cerulean coastline. About one-third of Peruvian residents live near or close to the ocean. The population is just shy of 32 million, surpassing Chile but falling below Colombia. Monthly wages are on the upswing at 1680.67 Peruvian Sol (roughly US$519), with a minimum wage of 850 Peruvian Sol.

The capital city, Lima, is experiencing rapid growth and the government is allocating investment towards more infrastructure and improving public transportation. Foreign investors are paying close attention to the new Cuzco airport which offers easier access to Machu Picchu, though has caught some local scrutiny. Peru offers multiple visas for foreigners interested in the business sector, but these visas can come with an unwanted amount of red tape. (more…)

Introducing Entrepreneur 101

A few different people have asked me “what sorts of things should be taught in a college level beginning entrepreneurship class?”  I always had a few answers, but never came up with a comprehensive syllabus.  After speaking in a class earlier this week at the UW Business School, I decided to write up a basic syllabus for a 16 week college course that I’d call Entrepreneur 101: A Practical Guide to Starting A Business and added it as a page to my site.  I would love to teach a class like this on the college level for interested entrepreneurs.

Introduction to the Course

Too many classes focus on theory and large, overarching issues instead of practical things that you will need to know to start a business.  Hopefully this class will prepare you to actually start your business by giving you the tools to do all of the nitty gritty work that is necessary to get started.  At the end of the semester, students will compete in a business plan competition in front of a panel of judges.

Week 1 – Introduction to Entrepreneurship

Class: There are many types of entrepreneurship, not just high tech.  It’s easier than you think and college is the best time to start. How to Live Before You Die.

Required reading: How to Start a Startup, What Startups are Really Like, The 3 Advantages of a Startup, Entrepreneurs Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Week 2 – Idea Generation and Business Plans

Class: How do you take an idea to a business plan?  How do you write a business plan? Malcolm Gladwell on Spaghetti Sauce

Required reading: The World is Flat, 9 Business Selection Criteria, 13 Sentences, College is the Best Time to Start a Business

Homework: Start thinking about a business to start for the business plan competition.

Week 3 – Types of Businesses Organization

Class: What type of entity should I use? LLC, Corporation, Non profit?  Learn how how to sign up for LLC.

Required Reading: 18 Mistakes that Kill Startups , The Top Ten Lies of Entrepreneurs

Homework: Sign up for an LLC, but don’t pay for it.  Start working on your business plan.

Week 4 – What are the Necessary Legal Docs Required?

Class: Operating agreements, partnership agreement and their  importance.  Guest speaker: A lawyer familiar with these issues.

Required Reading: Top 10 Geek Business Myths, The PayPal Wars

Week 5 – Taxes, Banking, Accounting

Class: How to setup a FEIN, get a free business bank account and start learning about Quickbooks.

Homework: Go to a bank and get a free business bank account set up (you don’t actually have to sign up), start exploring Quickbooks.

Week 6 – Quickbooks

Class: How to use Quickbooks in a small business or startup

Homework: Create a Quickbooks file for a hypothetical startup.

Required Reading: How to Get Taken Seriously Running A Startup Under 25

Week 7 – Credit Card Processing

Class: Teach how credit card processing system works, fill out forms

Homework: Call multiple resellers and see who can get the best rate.

Week 8 – Servers and SSL

Class: Overview of types of servers, server companies.   What is an ssl? Overview of ssl companies.  Test on first half of class.

Required Reading: Don’t Be Afraid of the Competition, My Rules for Startups

Homework: First draft of business plan due

Week 9 – Overview of Programming

Class: Types of programming languages, how programming works works, explanation of databases, what to look for when hiring a programmer.  How to register a domain name.

Required Reading: The Tipping Point

Homework: Register a domain for under $8.

Week 10 – Legal

Class: What to look for in a lawyer, what you need from them and the importance of a legal advisor.

Week 11 – Mentors

Class: Overview of why you need a mentor, who is willing to help, how you should look for a mentor.

Required Reading: Every Startup Needs a Mentor Team, The Entrepreneurial Push

Homework: Connect with a potential mentor on Linkedin, Twitter, email or phone.

Week 12 – Networking

Class: Why you need to network, strategies for successful networking, how to stay in contact with people.

Required Reading: The Business of Meeting People, Freakonomics

Homework: Get business cards for yourself, check out Brazen Careerist.

Week 13 – Blogging and Online Stores

Class: How to set up a blog, overview of WordPress, Blogger etc.  Overview of online shops.  Intro to Shopify.

Homework: Set up free wordpress blog.

Week 14 – Online Advertising, Social Media, Analytics, Document Sharing

Class: Overview of online advertising, CPM, CPC, Twitter, Facebook.  Intro to Google Adwords, Analytics, Docs and Calendar.

Required Reading: Made to Stick

Homework: sign up for Google docs, share a document with me.

Week 15 – Guide to Raising Money, Office Space

Class: How to value your business? Overview of friends & family, angel investors, VCs.  When is the right time to get an office?  How do you get the best deals?  Where should you look?

Required Reading: The Top Ten Lies of Venture Capitalists, To Office or Not to Office

Week 16 – Business Plan Competition

Final Exam – Business Plan Competition with panel of judges, based on Burrill Business Plan Competition.

I really think that this sort of course would be incredibly beneficial to a student who is thinking about starting a business or even thinking about working for a startup.  These types of skills will give students a nice foundation so that they can start their own business.  Check out my full list of resources on my Entrepreneur 101 page for links to all of the companies I would use for each of these lessons.

So help me out: What am I missing?  Would you take a class like this?  Do you think universities would be willing to offer a class like this?

More Practice, Less Theory

“What do we need to know this for?” I asked as my K5 teacher tried to tell me how to write more clearly.

My penmanship was pretty bad and the teacher realized that I was writing my letters backward.  Instead of writing some of my letters from bottom to top, I wrote from bottom to top.  I remember being annoyed and asking “what do we need to know this for?”  I could read my writing and so could the teacher, but I wasn’t following the rules.  In 3rd grade, I pretty much refused to learn cursive because I could print really fast and hated the new rules, again asking “what do we need to know this for?”  I continued this (probably incredibly annoying) refrain all the way through middle school: manually calculating slope instead of using a graphic calculator, diagramming sentences, specific types of bibliographies.  Even gym class wasn’t safe from my middle school ire.

Somewhere along the line, probably around freshman year of high school, I kept the questions to myself, but decided to tune out anything that I thought wasn’t going to help me later in life.  I loved reading about interesting things that had happened in real life and writing about current events, but hated theoretical or outdated lessons.  My favorite class in high school was consumer economics, an entire class devoted to balancing your checkbook, investing in stocks and personal economics.  It was real and I still use many of those skills I learned sophomore year.

I hated geometry because of the rigidity of proofs, hated calculus because I couldn’t understand why we had to do it by hand when we had graphing calculators to do it for us.  I hated memorizing the parts of a cell in freshman biology and reading about the Greek Gods.  It was boring and I couldn’t see the benefit later in life.  I haven’t used any of those “skills” since. This choice was the main reason why I got waitlisted at UW and almost didn’t get in, but I don’t regret it one bit.

When I got to college, I was expecting a change.  I thought we would learn how to succeed in the real world, but I quickly realized it was going to be more of the same inside the classroom.  I realized that if I was going to learn, I would have to do it myself.  After I bought ExchangeHut, I thought I’d try the business school.

After about half of a semester, I realized it wasn’t right for me.  Accounting 100 was rule driven and required you to do problems by hand.  After managing ExchangeHut’s accounting in Quickbooks for a few months, I couldn’t understand why we would figure out any of that stuff by hand.  Why not just use Quickbooks and save all of the trouble?  After the first four weeks, we started to learn about how Wal-Mart manages its inventory and how other large corporations prepare financial statements.  While I understand accountants need to know this stuff, I realized it was worthless to me.  I could use quickbooks for my accounting and if I ever got really successful, I’d hire an accountant.  Why bother?  I found the over reliance on theory to be extremely prevalent in business school classes.

I had a simple accounting question for ExchangeHut and asked four different friends who were Accounting majors with good GPAs.  None of them knew the answer, but they could sure solve the question on the exam about WalMart’s inventory system.  It happened again this year with an intern for Entrustet.  We have a finance major who earned a 4.0 from UW and is graduating in the spring.  He is clearly smart and learns quickly.  We have him doing some balance sheet work and other finance related tasks and he’s good at it.  He was working on our balance sheet and ran into a somewhat complex issue, so he went to his finance professor and asked for help.  The professor said “just use quickbooks, it’ll know where to put everything in the right place.”

At first I just laughed, but then I realized this was a microcosm of why students are having trouble adjusting the the real world.  I don’t think its our intern’s fault.  He just was never taught how to use quickbooks and as soon as he got to the real world, his professor says “use quickbooks.”  That’s what happens to graduates all over the country.  Rebecca Thorman’s post addresses how colleges are failing students, but I really think the over reliance on theory in the place of practice is what is hurting students.  Ellen Nordahl looks at the problem from the other side in her post about how students are unengaged.  Universities need to teach students more skills they will use in the workplace or they will not be prepared.  I bet if students weren’t asking themselves “what do we need to know this for” in their heads, they would be more engaged in their school work.

I am not saying that we should throw out all theory.  It is clear that you need to understand the basic theory in order to implement them in practice, but universities have swung way to far to toward the theory end of the continuum.

Schools are not the only place where the balance is out of whack. I ref a bunch of soccer each year and see the same basic problem.  I ref everything from U-11 to high school to semi-pro adults and I really enjoy it.  Each year, all refs have to take a recertification course that is supposed to refresh refs on the laws of the game and let us know about any rule changes.  It also gives instructors a chance to stress certain aspects of the game and teach better game management.  At the end of the class, everyone has to take a 100 question test and get at least a 75% in order to retain their badge. All USSF refs have to take this class each year, so attendees range from 12 year old first year refs to 70 year old guys who have been reffing for 35 years.  Sounds like a good system, right?

Wrong.  The test focuses on incredibly abstract game situations that would never happen, even to a World Cup level referee.  Here’s some actual questions from the test:

Q: An offensive player is dribbling toward goal, standing outside the penalty area.  A defender who is standing in the penalty area takes off his shoe and throws it at the ball, knocking it away.

Q: A player takes his shin guard off and slaps the ball with the shin guard in his hand.

There are a ton more, but you get the idea.  You have to know the rules to get these questions right, but they cause everyone’s eyes to glaze over.  It would be a test that would be great to do as trivia, but doesn’t really help a 12 year old new referee manage a game.

Because the test is so skewed toward situations that will never happen to you, the instructors have to teach to the test, just like teachers in middle and high schools do for state tests.  To make matter worse, the instructors use jargon heavy language instead of using concrete examples.  For example, at my most recent clinic, a kid of about 13 was confused about offside.  The instructor had said “as the assistant referee, make sure you stay with the second to last defender.”  The kid raised his hand and said “I thought it was the last defender.”  It was clear that the kid forgot that the goalkeeper counts as a defender, but instead of explaining it with an example, the instructor just repeated his sentence again, but more slowly and with more emphasis.  The kid didn’t understand until another ref at my table explained it to him with a diagram and an example.  There were so many other examples like this during the 8 hour course, my head started to hurt.

A huge percentage of kids quit refereeing each year because they get screamed at by coaches and parents.  The recertification classes should teach foul recognition (ie, when to blow the whistle and when not to), how to kick a coach out, how to deal with parents and the basic rules of the game, not what to do if someone throws a shoe at the ball or whether the correct restart after a chicken walks onto the field and knocks the ball over the end-line is a drop ball or a goal kick.  They should be showing videos of fouls from youth and adult games to keep people engaged.  A quick search of YouTube for “soccer violence” or “youth soccer red cards” brings up tons of teaching moments.  Additionally, FIFA makes rule changes each year, usually as a result of something that happened in an important game.  We could have watched videos of each situation to explain why FIFA decided to make the change, but instead we just read it from the book. Just like you learn how to succeed in the real world by doing things and learning practical things like Quickbooks, soccer referees learn from watching other successful referees work and learning from real life situations.

It is harder to come up with engaging, real life lesson plans than it is to teach theory.  Its also riskier.  I think educators are less likely to try to teach real life situations because it takes time to come up with more in depth lesson plans and it’s not the safe choice.  In The Wire (my favorite tv show ever), a teacher realizes that he can teach probability to his inner city students via dice.  The kids love it and learn because they can see how they will use this skill in real life.  I think everyone agrees that the US has to do a better job of preparing students for the future.  The first step is to stop teaching so much theory and start teaching things that students will use in real life.