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 facilities are invited to host a cohort of up to 10 Central American entrepreneurs for a five-day training boot camp. ESOs that have earned InBIA’s Soft Landings designation and that can demonstrate domain expertise in one or more of the following focus industries are sought:
- Creative Services (planned cohort timeframe: spring/summer 2020) Includes small businesses that either provide business to business solution services or business to consumer services in creative fields such as art, graphic design, writing, fintech, advertising/PR, digital media, IT, etc.
- Advanced Manufacturing (planned cohort timeframe: spring/summer 2020) Includes Central American small businesses that commercialize innovative technologies to improve manufacturing processes and/or systems OR small business that utilize advanced manufacturing techniques in the processing, fabricating, assembly, or disassembly of items for commercial or consumer use.
- Tourism & Culture (planned cohort timeframe: spring/summer 2020) 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.
- Farming & Agriculture Technology (planned cohort timeframe: spring/summer 2020) Includes small businesses that develop innovative technologies and products that improve the production capabilities or quality of products in the farming, agricultural and food production industries.
Soft Landings designees interested in any cohort may apply as soon as they wish. Applications for the above cohorts are due by December 6, 2019.
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.
- Host cohort for all five days of the La Idea boot camp – provide workspace, training venue, refreshments, transportation, etc.
- Provide three days of content (at least 6 hours of content per day) 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.)
- Provide Central American entrepreneurs with a comprehensive basic plan that allows them to prepare and project their business to access the U.S. market up to three months after the boot camp is completed.
- 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.
- 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)
Sample topics of interest to deliver for each sector-specific cohort (applicants may determine their own relevant topics and schedule to deliver the content):
- Invoicing/financial management for creative services/independent contractors
- Identifying customer pipelines and industries
- Innovative production process
- Using advanced materials in manufacturing
- IP protection in manufacturing
Tourism & Culture
- Understanding the US Tourism market
- Trends in the US tourism market
- Supply chain management
Farming & Agriculture Technology
- Food safety standards in the US
- Innovations in farming and agriculture
- Agriculture distribution channels in the US
Para ver la información en español, acceda al siguiente enlace: https://inbia.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/La-Idea-Entrepreneur-RFP_Spanish_Updated-11-8-19.docx
Please submit all answers in English.
If you have questions, please contact InBIA staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funded and initiated by the United States Department of State, the La Idea Incubator Project is a powerful initiative focused on strengthening entrepreneurship and job creation across the Western Hemisphere. The La Idea Project especially encourages trade and commerce between Central America and the United States. The project is a collaboration between the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) and the Regional Center for the Promotion of MSMEs (CENPROMYPE).
The La Idea Incubator Project 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 Central American 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 project applicants who are interested in expanding their businesses to the United States.
Call to Apply to the La Idea Incubator Project
If you are an entrepreneur residing in Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, or Panama, and you are developing innovative solutions in one of the upcoming cohorts, the U.S. Department of State and its partners encourage you to apply for the La Idea Incubator Project. La Idea recipients will have the unprecedented opportunity to connect with peer innovators, create lasting relationships with entrepreneurship centers in the U.S., learn to navigate the complexities of international trade, and explore best practices in sales and operations. Upon selection for La Idea, you will be sent an invitation letter to support your Visa application, should you not have one at the time you submit your application. Due to any rejected Visa applicants/other issues, La Idea Project staff have the right to select alternate applicants for the project.
La Idea is currently seeking entrepreneurs who own or operate small businesses in the following sectors to apply (additional sectors will be added at later dates):
- Creative Services (planned cohort timeframe: spring/summer 2020)
Includes small businesses that either provide business to business solution services or business to consumer services in creative fields such as art, graphic design, writing, fintech, advertising/PR, digital media, IT etc.
- Advanced Manufacturing (planned cohort timeframe: spring/summer 2020)
Includes Central American small businesses that commercialize innovative technologies to improve manufacturing processes and/or systems OR small business that utilize advanced manufacturing techniques in the processing, fabricating, assembly, or disassembly of items for commercial or consumer use.
- Tourism & Culture (planned cohort timeframe: spring/summer 2020)
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.
- Farming & Agriculture Technology (planned cohort timeframe: spring/summer 2020)
Includes small businesses that develop innovative technologies and products that improve the production capabilities or quality of products in the farming, agricultural and food production industries.
Please submit all answers in English.
Application Call Deadline
Having an active Visa is not mandatory and will not impact the success of an application, but it will expedite the process. (Please see full selection criteria instructions and expectations of participants below.)
Applicants for all cohorts must submit complete applications by December 16, 2019. Selected participants will be notified by email of their acceptance by February 2020, enabling them to have time to complete and fulfill necessary Visa and/or passport processing prior to attending their relevant boot camp in the US.
Benefits of Participating in the La Idea Incubator Project
Up to 100 participants (a maximum of ten per industry cohort) will each receive a $2,800 USD stipend to cover travel to the United States to participate in a boot camp as part of the La Idea Incubator Project. Each five-day boot camp will be hosted at a U.S.-based InBIA Soft Landings Incubator designee that specializes in that cohort's industry and offers unprecedented customer networking opportunities, mentors who are subject matter experts, useful market trend analysis, and additional relevant resources. Additionally, once participants return to their home countries after completing the boot camp, they will receive more mentoring (especially from their local/national SBDC/CAM) and other follow-up resources for the next twelve months. Participants will have access to the following resources during and after the boot camp:
- Two days of training from industry experts and legal counsel in general topics of conducting business in the U.S., such as the incorporation of subsidiaries, import/export regulations, immigration laws, taxation, U.S. business cultures, federal and other resources to non-U.S. businesses, etc. (translation services will be available at all times)
- Three days of extensive, industry-themed curriculum that includes lectures, workshops, and tours of specialized facilities relevant to each cohort (translation services will be available at all times)
- Access to live mentoring on business as well as industry-specific matters during and post-boot camp, including assigned mentors from your nation after you return from the boot camp
- Access to virtual business mentors through CENPROMYPE/InBIA partners around the world and the use of InBIA's Exchange online social networking platform
- Both live and virtual networking opportunities throughout the entire project with potential customers, investors, and other strategic partners
- An opportunity to try out the facilities/resources of a Soft Landing facility that could support U.S. expansion in the future
- Access to extensive translation services and/or support to assist with the communication and marketing of your product/service in the U.S.
La Idea Soft Landing Sites will provide necessary ground transportation and coursework supplies. The travel stipend will cover the following:
- Airfare up to $1,500
- Lodging up to a total of $750 over five days
- Per diem (for dinner and snacks) up to $100 per day over five days (total of $500)
- Breakfast and lunch will be provided by the Soft Landing sites for all five days
Participant Selection Criteria and Process
Participants of the La Idea Incubator Project are expected to comply with U.S. federal policies regarding foreign visitors. In addition to these important eligibility requirements, these entrepreneurs must meet all of the following criteria to apply for the project:
- A current, active tourist Visa is strongly encouraged, but not required for application; however, you MUST have a tourist Visa by the time you arrive for the boot camp
- Be a citizen of a Central American country (not eligible if a citizen or permanent resident of the United States or other countries outside of the eligible Central American countries)
- Be either a founder or majority owner of the small business
- Be legally registered to conduct business in your native country
- Be able to speak, read, and write in English semi-fluently (translation services will be available at all Soft Landing sites)
- Have a company that offers a product or service that fits the description of one of the cohort industries outlined above
- Be able to produce and work through exercises to refine your sales plan, manufacturing, and/or scale-up plan, and other critical business model elements by the time you participate in the boot camp (translation service at the Soft Landing site will assist with these documents)
Applicants with all of the above criteria, who also articulate a clear business proposition and can best use the proejct to pursue U.S. market opportunities, will be the strongest candidates. A selection committee of several U.S. Department of State, InBIA, and CENPROMYPE staff, as well as Soft Landing site operations staff with expertise in the cohort industries, will review the applications submitted and select participants.
Participant Commitment Expectations
- Be willing to attend the entire five days of the boot camp while giving all attention and focus to the curriculum
- Follow your Visa stipulations and return immediately to your home country after the boot camp has concluded
- Be willing to fulfill short evaluations after each workshop/lecture/other programming elements for the entire boot camp
- Be willing to provide the following information to Soft Landing site staff at the conclusion of the boot camp and up to twelve months after the boot camp (by submitting this application, you agree to provide this information):
- Connections to customers, investors, or other partners as a result of the bootcamp
- Mentors obtained and the connections they broker
- Loans, grants, or capital obtained
- Revenue growth
- Number of employees hired
- Cost reductions in operations and/or manufacturing as a result of training
- Other success metrics and/or anecdotes about how the project has
assisted your company
- Be willing to work with your assigned mentors (either U.S.-based or local SBDC/incubator) up to twelve months after the boot camp to continue to receive guidance and assistance for your business
- Be willing to be an ambassador of the La Idea Incubator project to promote the project and assist other entrepreneurs in your home country if possible
- Be willing to join and to actively collaborate in an existing regional network of Central American entrepreneurs (CENPROMYPE)
Please submit all answers in English.
Para ver la información en español, acceda al siguiente enlace: https://inbia.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/La-Idea-Entrepreneur-RFP_Spanish-1.docx