Hola Medellín

By Alejandro Lucero – – 

The next series of blog posts are going to cover the day-to-day experiences of both seed teams in the Summer 2012 fellowship term through the different stages of the Polymath Methodology. Our two teams are: Financial Services and Transportation. You might also bump into some interesting insights about locals, their needs and emerging economies.

Born and raised in Cali (third-largest city in Colombia), and now living in Bogota, I was finding it hard to answer the following question: Why should Polymath’s Colombia incubator be based in Medillin?

As I was stepping off the plane, after arriving in Medellin, I could breathe a new air of progress. Just by driving around town, I could sense a great commitment to innovation.

The truth is that the city has undergone a deep transformation. A rapidly growing economy has created a strong and rising ecosystem, making Medellin the perfect starting point for companies targeting the broader Latin American market.

Not your traditional incubator

Let me just start by explaining that Polymath Ventures is bringing a whole new dimension to incubation like nothing I’ve seen before. It is about putting together the right group of people and changing the world. I know that sounds cheesy, but when you work everyday with really talented people, using the right tools, facing the challenge of creating something awesome for the developing Latin American countries, it’s hard not to think we’re capable of anything.

Last year I had the chance to be part of a startup incubator, it was a great experience and taught me a lot of things. Just by being in Polymath for a week and a half I can already notice great differences. On one hand you have the traditional startup accelerator – Y-Combinator, Founder Institute, 500 Startups, etc. –they pick teams with an idea/early-stage product, mentor them for a few months and then raise money for the best performing ones. That’s pretty much it, and that’s great. I’m not saying it doesn’t fit the needs of those startups, on the contrary, I think they’re doing a good job.

Polymath Ventures is different – the vision is bigger, more challenging and riskier. The team and I are faced with the challenge of building something totally new in the Mobility and Financial Services sectors, to look deeply into people lives and find real needs and thereby real solutions. I’m really looking forward to pushing myself to the limits and adding my skills to a project that day to day builds higher expectations in myself and that is hopefully headed to great success.

Talent First

For the past couple of years I’ve been struggling to develop not only a successful start-up but a game-changing one; I’d keep knocking my head looking for the perfect idea or the right financing. When I started working with Polymath one of the things I quickly realized is that having people from various backgrounds, a goal-oriented mindset, hunger for challenges and a great willingness to have an impact on society are the keys to building something awesome. Might not guarantee immediate success but it’s definitely a head start.

It’s been great to spend the last couple of days with the whole team and getting to know them better; it’s amazing how much I’ve learned in such a short time, improving my knowledge on research, ethnographic studies and human-centered design. The team has been working hard and putting their best effort into the project.

At the end of the day I’m just excited to be around, not only really smart people, but great human beings. I must say they all are really cool people to hang out with; working hard and having a laugh. That’s the best working environment for me.

Research before MVP

By the end of this first week we learned that research is priority number one before jumping into conclusions or even building an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). All assumptions are left behind (Beginner’s Mind) and our job is to find new insights in people lives by conducting interviews and putting ourselves into the shoes of the potential user.

This stage has allowed the team to have a broader view of the problem, centering our efforts in finding a real need instead of jumping straight into solutions that could be really expensive to develop and could lead nowhere.

Personally, it’s the first time as an Internet business entrepreneur that I have stepped aside from my computer for such a long time. I’m just used to pivoting around an MVP, keeping a close look at indicators and having short interviews on the phone with users. However, I’ve realized that whether it’s an early-stage or ground-zero startup, deep research through interviews is critical to finding insights that could add real value to any kind of solutions. That’s something I will never get by just sitting in from of my laptop.

Coming next

This post has served as an introduction to all the really exciting things coming along the summer. Stay tuned for the next post from a different member of the Polymath Team.

We’ll be updating the blog in a weekly basis.

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