The 20th Latin America Conference at Harvard Business School took place on November 4th and brought more than 400 students, professionals and speakers from all over the US and Latin America. With the title “A brighter future together” this year’s conference focused on the role of leadership and collaboration in achieving a positive transformation of the region.
Professor Bob White, Senior Lecturer of Entrepreneurial Finance and one of the founders of Bain Capital, kick started the conference as moderator of the Entrepreneurship Panel. Five co-founders from Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile and Brazil who together have raised more than $100 M in venture capital (VC) had one main piece of advice for the audience: “just go do it.” There are plenty of VC firms interested in the region. The only missing ingredient is more entrepreneurs.
The panel was followed by Damian Scokin, CEO of Despegar.com (which recently IPOed), who discussed the future of the travel industry. Luis Silberwasser, President of Telemundo Networks, talked about how Telemundo is now the number 1 player in Latino television by creating content catering to the Hispanic population in the US instead of importing telenovelas from Mexico. Afterwards, Laxman Narasimhan, CEO of Pepsico Latin America & Europe Sub-Saharan Africa, shared his personal learnings from leading in emerging markets: be unrelentingly curious, be humble, surround yourself with diverse people, be an excellent communicator, achieve balance, and dig deep into important topics.
The investing in LatAm section of the conference was opened with Professor Michael Chu, founder of Ignia (a VC firm in Mexico) who interviewed Patrice Etlin, Managing Partner in Latin America of Advent International. The interview was followed by a panel with partners from major funds investing in Latin America, including Warbug Pincus, the Carlyle Group and Temasek.
After lunch, Rosario Marin, 41st Treasurer of the US, shared her story about overcoming great adversity to become the first in her family to graduate from college, have her signature appear on the U.S. dollar bill as the treasurer of the United States, and be the first Latina in California to run for the U.S. Senate. The audience praised her with a long, standing ovation.
The Tech Talks panel featured Adriana Noreña, Vicepresident of Google Spanish Speaking LatAm; Diego Dzoan, Vicepresident of Facebook and Instagram Latin America; and Cesar Cernuda, President of Microsoft Latin America. The main topic was how technology is helping solve difficult problems in the region. For instance, it was remarked how Google quickly developed a person finder after the recent earthquake in Mexico City.
Xavier Lopez, Founder & CEO of Kidzania, began the last segment of the conference by describing how he built a child-size replica of a real city as an educational and fun experience for kids in Mexico and then how he grew this business to 20 countries. The final event of the conference was the Business of Football (Soccer) Panel, which featured Javier Perez, President of Club America (one of the most popular teams in Mexico) and Jorge Perdomo, President of Colombia´s Professional Football League. They ended the conference with an interesting conversation about the inner workings of the business side of the sport.
The conference was led by a team with members from the HBS LatAm Club and other Latin American students, namely co-chairs Sebastian Monroy, Andres Ramirez and Edmundo Montaño.
Edmundo Montaño (HBS ’18) is a Tapatío born and raised in Jalisco, the land of tequila. He enjoys wakeboarding, playing the guitar and short walks on the beach.