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From issue: Voices from the New Generation (Winter 2010)

AQ Feature

The New Entrepreneurs

Norberto Loizeau and Alejandro Mashad (Argentina)

Illustration by Shane Harrison.

"Our coalition is still in its infancy, but we have already fostered the creation of over 100 businesses throughout the region."

Our parents often complain that there’s more violence, more social inequality and more hunger than when they were young. This may be true. But our generation takes an optimistic view. Despite its problems, Latin America has become an entrepreneurial region. Young people, in particular, have the energy and the independence of spirit to try out new ideas and new approaches to solving problems.

And, more often than not, young business entrepreneurs are leading the way toward change.

It hasn’t been easy. In my country, Argentina, the business community had a bad reputation for much of the 1990s. Bribery scandals and other unethical practices colored popular perceptions of the business community. This began to change at the turn of the century. Like their counterparts elsewhere, inventive young Argentines saw the potential for Internet technology to change the way information was transmitted and were quick to translate their ideas into commercial enterprises. Many of the initial start-ups failed, but they taught us an important lesson: business could be both creative and socially beneficial. Just as important, you could play by the rules and still make money.

As they moved into other emerging areas of the economy, young entrepreneurs consciously avoided the label “businesspeople” to escape the word’s previous, unfortunate connotations. Defining themselves instead as “entrepreneurs” was a way of telling the world that they were ready to challenge old ways of doing things.

But calling yourself an entrepreneur is one thing. Learning how to act like one is another. There are few resources in Latin America or Argentina that provide training in areas such as how to obtain seed capital for ideas or how to develop a business plan. That’s why we started Endeavor (www.endeavor.org.ar), the first nongovernmental organization dedicated to developing high-impact entrepreneurial projects...

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