Global Startup Workshop Wrap-up


I just got back from the MIT Global Startup workshop and I thought I would share my thoughts about some of the speakers and people that I had a chance to meet there.

Firstly, as far as I could tell the majority of the attendees were students from all over the world. There were many people that were in the process of starting businesses but most were still in the learning stages.

This event was an incredible experience for not only those who were still learning about entrepreneurship but also those in the advanced stages of growing their companies.

The subject of the event was providing inspiration and tools to those with the ambition and ideas to change the world for the better through entrepreneurship. To get a better idea about the event you can check out this video which I appear in for a split second at the two minute mark.

There were countless keynotes, panels and booths but I will just go over a few the speakers that I stood out to me.


Luis von Ahn

Do you know who Luis von Ahn is? Despite being a huge fan of his website Duolingo for years, I was not familiar with him until he was introduced. He is a Guatemalan entrepreneur who now teaches at Carnegie Mellon University.

In his twenties he founded reCAPTCHA, which he sold to google when he was thirty for an undisclosed amount (von Ahn says somewhere between $10 million and $100 million).

After that he decided that he wanted to concentrate on closing the educational gap between the rich and the poor. The way he came up with to do that was Duoingo. It is a 100% free language learning service that is still profitable.

How did he manage to do that?

He has made the website feel like a game where the users have fun while translating documents. He sells this translation service to all kinds of publications.

He said that one of the things that bothered him was that despite the app being free to use you still had to have a data plan. Well, during the conference he announced that he has come to an agreement with Tigo, the Guatemalan telecommunication company, to offer accessibility to the Duolingo app on smartphones without a data plan throughout much of Latin America.

It is an incredible announcement that is a great example of how ideas and technology can work together to solve social problems while still being a profitable business.

11082658_10206146427969541_2927096721281291796_nMagatte Wade: Poverty, inc.

Magatte Wade was definitely also one of the stars of the show. She started off the conference with her keynote speech about addressing poverty in developing countries by creating the environment necessary to create jobs.

She was also one of the main contributors to the documentary Poverty, inc which had it’s Latin American debut at the conference. I thought that the message was incredibly important and I hope this documentary get spread far and wide.

I am planning on screening the Poverty, inc in San Miguel de Allende and the producers are looking for others that would like to do the same in their cities. If you would be interested in helping out with this you can contact Lorena Palmieri de Morales at if you are in Latin America or Mark Weber at if you are anywhere else. 

Slava Rubin

The last keynote was by Slava Rubin who is the founder and CEO of Indiegogo the online crowdfunding platform. In his speech he spoke about the huge changes in the way that business is being done through crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is growing rapidly. This year crowdfunding platforms are projected to raise over $5 billion. At this rate, in the year 2025 there will be over 100 billion dollars raised in crowdfunding. That is almost double the entire venture capital market today.

Slava Rubin says that today business plans are things of the past, good for decorating your office but that is it. If you have an idea and want to test it in the market you don’t need to guess anymore, just simply start a crowdfunding campaign to see if the market wants it before you even begin.

Just last week the SEC lifted restrictions on non-accredited investors to invest in equity-based crowdfunding campaigns. This is monumental and will bring about changes in funding all kinds of things in society in ways that we can’t even imagine.

Rubin has already set me up with someone from Indiegogo to come on the Borderless Podcast soon to explain what all of this means for the future.

Until next year……

All in all it was a great success thanks to Rocio Pinto from Borderless Podcast episode 21 and everyone else from Universidad Francisco Marroquin for inviting me. The university has an exceptional business program that is truly one of a kind.

If you are at all interested in tech entrepreneurship this is an event that is not to be missed. I will definitely be attending next years Global Startup Workshop.

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