Funded and initiated by the United States Department of State, the La Idea Incubator Program is a powerful initiative focused on strengthening entrepreneurship and job creation across the Western Hemisphere. La Idea especially encourages trade and commerce between Central America and the United States. The program is a collaboration between the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) and the Regional Center for the Promotion of MSMEs (CENPROMYPE).
The La Idea Incubator Program provides a framework that allows entrepreneurs in Central America to directly connect with U.S.-based InBIA Soft Landings designees. These designees provide advanced incubation services to guide their entrepreneurs' businesses towards revenue generation, investment successes, and capital-efficient operations. InBIA's Soft Landings designees have been validated through a rigorous application and peer-review processes to ultimately serve foreign companies interested in expanding out their domestic markets. The Soft Landing sites selected for La Idea should be ideal matches for these Central American entrepreneur program applicants who are interested in expanding their businesses to the United States.
Incubators, SBDCs or other entrepreneurial support organizations (ESOs) with brick and mortar facility are invited to host a cohort of up to 10 Central American entrepreneurs to a boot camp as part of the La Idea Incubator Project. Each boot camp will consist of a virtual program lasting up to 12 months and include a 3-day in person immersion program.
La Idea is currently seeking Soft Landing sites to aid in facilitation of program requirements for the following sectors:
- Tourism and Culture (planned cohort timeframe: 2021) Includes small businesses involved in the sale of goods and services focused on a local/regional tourism market with export potential or goods and services that emphasize the local culture.
- Retail and Sales (planned cohort timeframe: 2021) Includes small business involved in the sale of goods and services directly to final consumers; as well as those that are exporting goods or services.
- Health/Medical Technology (planned cohort timeframe: 2021) Includes small business that develops or sell medicines, medical and/or surgical devices, medical-grade equipment and supplies, as well as those that provide services within the organizations to which such care is provided.
- Textiles (planned cohort timeframe: 2021) Includes small business dedicated to the production of fibers (natural and synthetic), fabrics, yarns and other products related to clothing.
Soft Landing site will provide the following items during and after the boot camp:
- An in-person immersion program consisting of three days of extensive, industry-themed curriculum that includes lectures, workshops, and tours of specialized facilities relevant to each cohort including translation services.
- Live mentoring on business as well as industry-specific matters during the program.
- Networking opportunities both live and virtual throughout the entire program with potential customers, investors, and other strategic partners.
- Overview of facilities/resources (virtual or in-person) of Soft Landing facility for entrepreneur US expansion in the future.
- Monthly sessions with entrepreneur cohort (a mixture of introductory sessions, educational focused sessions, ecosystem overviews/introductions, entrepreneur practice pitch sessions, and others as proposed).
La Idea Soft Landing Sites are expected to provide necessary ground transportation and coursework supplies. Breakfast and lunch will also be provided by the Soft Landing sites for all three days.
Soft Landings designees interested in any cohort may apply as soon as they wish. Applications for the above cohorts are due by March 12, 2021.
Please note: Prospective ESOs must have access to a proficient Spanish speaker to apply for this grant.
Incentives for applying to host a La Idea Incubator Soft Landings cohort:
Each participating La Idea Incubator Soft Landings recipient will receive $15,000 in funding* to cover costs associated with hosting the Central American entrepreneurs. (* - See the budget section of this proposal for complete details on how to complete your budget form as some portion of the budget is to be spent on pre-selected vendors).
Additionally, La Idea Incubator Soft Landings recipients will have the exclusive opportunity to build relationships with high-potential Soft Landing clients - founders/CEOs from throughout Central America seeking to expand their business into the United States. A highly competitive vetting process will ensure high-quality candidates are selected to participate in the La Idea Soft Landings cohorts. Selected participant entrepreneurs from Central America will be vetted on the commercial viability of their products/services, demonstrated tangible assets (IP, inventory, equipment, etc.), market opportunities for their products/services in U.S. markets, the strength of their management teams, etc.
Overall Program Metrics Monitored and to be Gathered
The U.S. Department of State has requested the following metrics be gathered across all programmatic aspects of La Idea. Selected Soft Landings will be required to track and report to InBIA the metrics listed below, at the conclusion of the boot camp and, where relevant, up to three months after the boot camp.
- Survey evaluations by cohort participants regarding experience in the USA
- Attendance participation in U.S.-based cohort activities
- Number of virtual mentoring connections/sessions with U.S.-based mentors, business contacts
- Number of employees hired by participating in small businesses after return from cohort
- The total amount of loans issued or capital raised by cohort participants
- Revenue growth of participating small businesses for the duration of the project
Expectations of the La Idea Soft Landings Incubator Program:
- InBIA Soft Landing certified or in the process of certification.
- Host cohort for all three days of the La Idea boot camp – provide workspace, training venue, refreshments, transportation, etc.
- Organization of monthly sessions with the selected cohort of entrepreneurs.
- Provide specific content in the sector-specific topic for which you are applying. This content should be a mix of lecture-style, workshop-style, and/or visits to specialized facilities based on the cohort industry theme. (InBIA can assist with finding topic presenters but the strongest RFPs will be considered from organizations who lead the program development and instruction in the specific industry vertical the cohort is focused on. Furthermore, InBIA will provide the first two days of the curriculum to include topics focused on conducting business in the U.S. such as corporate laws/regulations, immigration, intellectual property protection, U.S. corporate and taxes, and import/export legal matters.)
- Arrange for participants to utilize and facilitate their access/bookings to local resources, hotels, transportation, and other amenities available nearby their facility when not in the boot camp.
- Provide breakfast and lunch for participants during the 3-day in-person program.
- Create, deploy and collect the evaluations at the conclusion of each workshop/session/tour/etc. offered throughout the boot camp.
- Monitoring and compliance with U.S. laws on the whereabouts of participants over the course of the boot camp to ensure their safety and security.
- Provide at least one Spanish translator to be available onsite at the selected Soft Landings facilities during all program elements, including transportation and meals.
- In collaboration with InBIA and CENPROMYPE, develop and deploy a volunteer mentor program to enable participants to tap into the La Idea mentor network (including the use of InBIA’s Exchange and CENPROMYPE’s in-person mentor network throughout Central America) during the boot camp and for the ensuing three months after the boot camp is completed. Each participant can expect a minimum of four hours per month of mentoring (InBIA and CENPROMYPE will support the development of the program and/or help seed the program with pertinent mentors; however, the strongest proposals will showcase appropriate mentors/subject matter experts within each industry theme).
- Track and report metrics predetermined (please see description above and on website) by the U.S. Department of State and La Idea partners while participants are engaged in the La Idea Soft Landing Boot Camp and after the conclusion of the boot camp; metrics may be reported in two PDF documents that provide quantitative data as asked above, as well as qualitative anecdotes and short summaries of each participant’s progress.
- Provide a media strategy plan to highlight the La Idea boot camp across various social media platforms for the duration of the five-day training. Soft Landing sites with a detailed media strategy plan to showcase the La Idea boot camps will be viewed favorably. Social media plans can include the usage of Facebook, Instagram, Soft Landing site website, blog posts, Twitter, and others.
- Introduce participants to Soft Landing networking resources, including mentors, potential clients and/or investors or any other relevant contacts/resources.
Cohort-Specific Expertise Details
Each selected Soft Landing site should be able to host informational sessions and/or provide coaching to participants in the following general topic areas:
- U.S. business, manufacturing and/or product deployment laws and regulations
- U.S. subsidiary formation and taxation
- How to become a part of the value chain in each industry
- U.S. import and export requirements
- Immigration laws for founders and hiring
- Labor regulations
- Intellectual property protection
- Business Intelligence resources
- Benefits from free trade agreements (CAFTA-DR)