On May 15th, Idea Foundry left the Summer weather of Pittsburgh and jumped into crisp mornings and falling leaves of Fall in Santiago. Idea Foundry was selected to participate in this 9-day trip sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Reverse Exchange Program, from May 15th through 24th.
Idea Foundry met with key organizations in Chile’s entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem,including the U.S. Embassy, the Chilean government, accelerators, universities, and entrepreneurs themselves. The objective for this Reverse Exchange trip was to explore opportunities for partnerships to foster the transfer of innovation, business, and talent between Pittsburgh and Chile, and vice versa.
“We know that entrepreneurship and innovation are universal and that global collaboration and the transfer of ideas and innovation allows for wider impact and stronger solutions to local and global challenges,” said Lindsey Matesic, Idea Foundry’s Manager for Global Engagement. “We found time and again during our meetings that these sentiments were echoed in Chile and that Chile is striving to be the innovation gateway in Latin America.”
The Idea Foundry team worked with Tomás Prado, CEO of Mapeko, a Chilean recycling and upcycling startup, to arrange this trip. Tomás was one of two YLAI Fellows placed in Idea Foundry’s office by GlobalPittsburgh, which organizes the local programming for the YLAI program as well as other State Department programs. During Tomás's month-long Fellowship, he gained an understanding of Idea Foundry’s experience in science and technology innovation, social entrepreneurship, and global efforts. He also shared information regarding Chile’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, which helped to shape the structure of this trip.
“As an entrepreneur focused on environmental impact, the capacity of entrepreneurship to create positive impact on a global scale is very important to me,” said Tomás. “This Reverse Exchange and our continued work with Idea Foundry allow me to be part of the process connecting problems with solutions through entrepreneurship beyond my own company.”
Culminating the trip was an event hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Chile, where U.S. State Department-sponsored exchange program alumni, entrepreneurs, and others met the Idea Foundry team and learned about opportunities in Pittsburgh. “We were happy to welcome Idea Foundry into the newly renovated American Space at the Instituto Chileno-Norteamericano and to be able to share in a successful YLAI program relationship supporting them as they continue to work together,” said David Fogelson, Cultural Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Santiago.
“The YLAI Program is designed to bring leaders and changemakers from Latin America and the Caribbean to the U.S. and to place them with hosts who will enable them to exchange ideas and develop new skills, but it is also designed to be mutually beneficial for the hosts. It is through Reverse Exchanges like this that we can see the benefit of these ongoing relationships between Fellows and Hosts,” added Erin Koepke, YLAI Project Director at Meridian International Center, which oversees the implementation of the YLAI Program on behalf of the U.S. Department of State.
This Reverse Exchange trip is only the beginning of Idea Foundry’s efforts to strengthen entrepreneurial ties between Chile and Pittsburgh. This complements their ongoing efforts to draw connections between Pittsburgh and the rest of the world on innovation and talent transfer, with an emphasis on Asia and Latin America.