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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 January 31, 2020. 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)