From April 6th - 19th, Idea Foundry hosted 11 entrepreneurs and professionals from throughout Chile in our first Innovation Bridge Program, supported by the U.S. Embassy in Chile. The program entailed a two week trip to Pittsburgh to understand our ecosystem, meet with relevant stakeholders here, and support innovation collaboration between Chile and Pittsburgh. For more information about the development of the program and the selection of participants, check out our other blog articles: This Week @ IF: Building Bridges in Chile and Meet the Innovation Bridge Program Chile Participants.
The program opened with a reception held at K&L Gates Center in downtown Pittsburgh featuring a welcome address by Lance Chimka, Director of Economic Development for Allegheny County, a great sunset view of the city and Pittsburgh-themed snacks. Throughout the two weeks, the group got a comprehensive view of the entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as the challenges and opportunities of doing business in the U.S. through individual and group meetings with Pittsburgh-based companies, entrepreneurs, attorneys, investors, and representatives from the City of Pittsburgh, universities, SBDCs, as well as the Idea Foundry team. Cristobal Allel, founder of Nodos Campesinos, described Pittsburgh as “a place where one can be an entrepreneur and learn a lot, together with the collaboration of organizations like Idea Foundry.” At the end of the program, the group gathered at the Babst Calland offices, where four of the participants pitched their companies to several local investors. These companies were supported by many of Chile’s prestigious entrepreneurial programs and it was a great experience for both the participants and the investors.
Many of the participants have plans to continue exploring collaboration based off of the introductions and network that they made in Pittsburgh during the program. One connection to highlight was between Lucas Espinoza, co-founder of Kimche - a platform which uses AI to help teachers identify and anticipate risks to student performance, and Todd Hoffman, founder of Mend the Gap - a Pittsburgh-based startup dedicated to using technology to minimize the achievement gap in schools. After selecting Lucas as a participant and identifying that Lucas’s and Todd’s missions were very similar, we connected the two and we all saw much opportunity for collaboration. We worked closely with Lucas and Todd to help them understand and navigate partnership structures. Lucas’s participation in the program allowed him to garner interest from school districts in-person alongside Todd, which was very helpful in establishing trust between themselves and the representatives they met with. Lucas wrote about his experience with the program “I would not have been able to achieve this if I had gone alone to Pittsburgh, [Idea Foundry’s] support and connections were fundamental.”
Business aside - no trip would be complete without getting a taste for Pittsburgh’s unique culture as well. The participants stayed with local Pittsburgh families and experienced some of Pittsburgh’s sightseeing highlights including Point State Park, the Duquesne Incline, and the Strip District. Our love for Pittsburgh must have been contagious because all of the participants loved the city and many expressed interest in coming back, either to work, study, be a tourist or anything in between. Even in two short weeks they recognized some of the aspects that make Pittsburgh unique, like the “complement between tranquility and fast-paced city life” as one of our participants, Camilo Naranjo, founder of Limpio Total, put it. We were happy to see them engaging in local events and exploring the city together.
While the two weeks seemed to fly by, we are excited to see how each of these passionate individuals grows their work and implements what they have learned and the connections they have made here. We are also looking forward to continuing to support them in whatever ways we can.