Meet Viviana Angulo

30 May, 2020 | BX Crew

Social issues and Enterprise & Industry

Founder of Pista 8, the first business accelerator in Bolivia

Photo: Courtesy of Viviana Angulo

Viviana Angulo is the Director for Latin America of Valhalla Private Capital, a Canadian corporate finance company dedicated to startups and education on venture capital in the region. Angulo led several business development initiatives, for instance, the first accelerator programme in the Caribbean-Guayacan Venture Accelerator. In Peru, she collaborated in the creation of the first angel investing network and is currently leading the first business accelerator in Bolivia called Pista 8.

Pista 8 is the first collaborative business accelerator in Bolivia that works with entrepreneurs exposing them to international expertise.

The interview was translated from the Spanish and has been edited for clarity.

How did Pista 8 start?

Pista 8 was born during a trip I made in 2017 to learn about the Santa Cruz entrepreneurship environment. I drew three conclusions:

1) Entrepreneurial talent lacked international perspective and the confidence to create its own growth plans. 

2) Egos and logos were one of the factors limiting the growth of this sector. 

3) Investment in venture capital was unknown. 

I returned to Lima [where I lived] and it took me six months to design the programme that would become Pista 8. Then I convinced my husband to return to [Bolivia]. After a 10-year career as manager and director of projects related to entrepreneurship and system development, I could not miss the tremendous opportunity to align my experience and international network. I wanted to empower my country. I wanted my work to have an impact in my country. My dream was to create a world-class programme for Bolivian entrepreneurs. After presenting the project in 66 meetings and receiving feedback, I obtained the support of companies from different sectors and individuals who shared a common vision: to create a  network of Bolivian entrepreneurial talent.

Why is Pista 8 described as a collaborative format?

From the moment I designed the project, I envisioned it as an initiative in which many could contribute and feel part of a movement that would promote entrepreneurial talent in the country. This is how Pista 8 was born as the first collaborative business accelerator in Bolivia. It became a common project among leading companies from diverse industries such as: Grupo Venado, Grupo La Papelera, Grupo Granier, Grupo Etienne, the Law Firm Moreno Baldivieso and Inaheartbeat. Pista 8 focuses on refining knowledge through educational activities that help acquire international experience and expose local entrepreneurial talent to the best practices and opportunities in the region. In 2019, Pista 8 worked with 23 entrepreneurs and international experts to fine-tune a methodology that benefited from the feedback of both groups. This led to the launch, in 2020, to a fully refined programme to help unleash the Bolivian entrepreneurial potential.

What is Pista 8’s vision and mission?

We have no mission and vision, we have an objective to put Bolivia on the world entrepreneurial map by helping Bolivian talent to take off. Thus, Pista 8 is the first non-profit accelerator founded by leading companies and experienced venture capital individuals residing in Bolivia. The accelerator is focused on creating a learning space for startups and entrepreneurs in order to expose them to content, access to networks and mentors of international renown. The desired impact is to accelerate the development of ventures that have dynamic business models and that provide social and business solutions, through a collaborative format and with world-class knowledge. 

We also want to encourage an entrepreneurial vision and are inclined towards innovation within private companies. We work with groups of entrepreneurs who are developing internal innovation projects and/or spin-offs. We provide them with a space – which is now virtual – where they can develop projects in a collaborative, dynamic environment, with access to professionals from various specialties and the guidance of international experts, as well as the support and motivation of fellow entrepreneurs.

Why does Bolivia have to develop a setting that generates scalable ventures?

Bolivia today has the opportunity to start supporting an environment that generates a sustained and attractive ventures’ ‘pipeline’ which can help develop innovative solutions at all levels (business and social). This way, the country can be more active in the region, as a pool of attractive entrepreneurial talent for investment and with models developed in a unique environment. Until 2019, Latin America was one of the most interesting regions for venture capital. According to the 2019 LAVCA report, venture capital investment in the region more than doubled to a record US$ 4.6 billion in 2019 compared to nearly US$ 2 billion in 2018. Last year's number was more than 900 percent higher than the US$ 500 million invested in 2016.

With the arrival of COVID, developing digital solutions made in Bolivia is no longer an option; on the contrary, it is the only way we now have to solve daily challenges and continue business and social life. It is a fact that large and small companies have to resort to the intensive use of digital tools to implement telecommuting, make purchases and sales online, as well as manage production and distribution processes remotely. This new reality becomes an opportunity for entrepreneurs!


What are the challenges that face Bolivia? 

Despite the fact that we are surrounded by dynamic environments, which report local and international investment in ventures, Bolivia still cannot take off. In fact, Bolivia in the 2019 World Innovation Index (WIPO), ranked 110 out of 129 countries. It is the least innovative country in Latin America, along with Nicaragua. The Digital Technology Ecosystem Report in Bolivia, developed by Funda-Pró, presented in July 2019, accounts for the existence in Bolivia of 152 startups. By comparison, in a 2016 OECD report, there were more than 500 startups in Peru. More than 1,000 in Chile and more than 2,000 startups in Brazil. According to the ICSEd-Prodem Latin America 2018 Report that measures the systemic conditions for entrepreneurship in each country, Bolivia ranks 48th out of 54 countries in the region.

What happens to the entrepreneurial talent in Bolivia? 

Most startups in Bolivia have to face the challenge of finding the right information and support to grow their business models. The current environment is not sufficiently integrated, sophisticated and organised to offer a diversity of alternatives to catapult entrepreneurial talent. In addition to this, unfavorable experiences working with local mentors and investors unfamiliar with best practices have caused entrepreneurs to take a position of extreme distrust. On the other hand, the absence of experienced investors and VC funds is also a factor delaying the injection of capital into startups.

Can experiences in the region help to develop this environment more rapidly?

Today more than ever, the virtual exchange of knowledge has unleashed a genuine intention to support one another. It is necessary to open various channels that can lead to sharing experiences in Bolivia and thus generate a range of accelerated training alternatives, with ethical frameworks and content of high quality that support the strengthening of local startups so that they inject innovation into the country. 

However, the greatest boost comes from Bolivia along the following lines of action:

    The government needs to promote innovation through legislation.

    Private companies should encourage internal innovation processes that translate into mechanisms of venture capital and exchange with accelerators and incubators.

    All those involved should work in coordination, without duplication and with greater transparency.

    Entrepreneurs should unite and have a voice, formalised in the Association of Entrepreneurs of Bolivia in a democratic and inclusive way. 

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What group of entrepreneurs are you working with this year?

This year we pre-selected 12 operational ventures to support and who will work with international mentors. Since April, in response to COVID, this group of entrepreneurs has been working with mentors and are very active developing their own projects and creating others collaboratively.

There is:

    Applikate is a platform that supports the growth of microenterprises through a mobile application that records and manages business transactions in a simple and friendly way.

    2- toc is a digital platform that connects the client with qualified cleaning service providers in a fast, safe and effective way.

    Eventrid Bolivia is a company that offers technological solutions in registration/ enrollment and online payment processing for all types of events.

    Lensight proposes creative sales mechanisms through augmented reality.

    Service Web is the first company in Bolivia that, through a mobile application, unites service providers with clients who need them.

    Shopster is a platform that allows a bride and groom to put together their gift registry.

    Diabla is a brand that designs Bolivian clothing, accessories and art.

    Calorias are nutritional products for a balanced diet.

    Arreglos Express is a space where you can find experts in creative couture.

    Conde is a designated chauffeur service.

How do you select the companies you work with?

Applicant ventures may belong to various industries, they must have some traction, that is, exposure to their potential market, a minimum viable business proposal and ideally have one woman on the team and be committed to collaborate with others.

What is planned for 2020?

International alliances that allow knowledge transfer and relationships. This year we will place more emphasis on international alliances and on the exposure of our entrepreneurs to regional know-how. Thus, we have made strategic alliances with the following accelerators and businesses: Impaqto (Ecuador), Startcups (Mexico), Rokk3r (United States).


09 Jun, 2020 | 21:13
Interesting information. How can I become a participant? Cheers! Louis

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