“You’ve been with all the Professors, and they’ve all liked your looks”

Posted on October 15, 2008


Tonight we had the pleasure of attending a lecture at the Universidad ORT in Montevideo by Dr. Harry Yuklea. Dr. Yuklea is the Director of the Center of Entrepreneurship at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His passion, career, and area of research are in fostering entrepreneurship. He usually works in the US or Israel, two countries with rich, lively entrepreneurial instincts. He focuses much of his effort in lower socio-economic communities that often need encouragement to unleash the entrepreneurship that often is most vibrant in people with no other attractive options. His lecture was great, and it made me feel good about the work that I am doing here.

He flew 28 hours because he is working with some local academics on fostering entrepreneurship here in Uruguay. Uruguayans are naturally risk averse and the economy suffers from a lack of innovation and new business. There were about 50 people in attendance, and I got the feeling that they were the who’s who of the effort to bring a culture change in Montevideo. You can feel and see the potential.

Dr. Yuklea talked quite a bit about the experiences of Finland and Ireland. They were both countries that were not entrepreneurial but that made major changes in the support and resources provided. In ten years their economies have been completely overhauled and they are a model for the world. Dr. Yuklea spoke of Uruguay having that potential. In ten years…that is all it took in Ireland.

He spoke of three components increasing the number of entrepreneurs by supporting them. They are research, teaching, and outreach. I found outreach really interesting as it is focused on reaching out to the young people and those in lower socio-economic groups. Suddenly it occurred to me that the poor in Uruguay could be the source of the flood of entrepreneurs that will transform the country. The poor are one natural resource this country is far from being short of.

After the lecture there was a cocktail hour and suddenly I was connected to the social pipeline of the Montevideo entrepreneurial support community. There were people from Endeavor, a venture capital group looking to invest money from a large US firm, and students interested in taking a turn in starting something of their own. We spoke with Dr. Yuklea for quite a while and he was gracious, interesting, and very supportive of the work we are doing. The Dean of the school and the Director of the MBA program asked us Fellows to present our projects to their MBA entrepreneurship class. I am going to work to set something up later in our visit so we have more material to go over.

It is easy in a country like this to be pessimistic. There is hope though and a thriving group of people working very hard towards what looks like a far away dream right now.

Posted in: Uruguay