Last month, 3 Day Startup (3DS) partnered with REUNE – ASCUNE to host the first 3DS Bogota program in Colombia. REUNE – ASCUNE, a consortium of universities across the city of Bogota, promotes entrepreneurship education at the university level through collaborative initiatives. The 3DS Bogota program provided 56 student entrepreneurs from 14 universities with the additional tools and resources found beyond the classroom to help spur the budding university startup scene as well as the larger startup ecosystem.

The entrepreneurial spirit is particularly dynamic among university students in Bogota. Students are extremely passionate about building and creating new and interesting products. In fact, many participants already had experience building extensive prototypes prior to the program. Some of these impressive prototypes range from safer cars to new formulas for hand sanitizer. Educators say the problem is not getting students to build things, but rather the insufficient outlets available for students to validate and turn their ideas into viable startups. “The university is really good at pushing out traditional research, but there is very little opportunity for students to partake in hands-on learning,” says Julian Gutierrez, Coordinator at REUNE – ASCUNE.

Students from Cine 4D developed a working prototype of their glasses.
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Students from Cine 4D developed a working prototype of their glasses.

“Students from different disciplines are also not used to working with each other,” says Gutierrez. The insular nature of the university and the current entrepreneurship curriculum does not allow for regular interaction with mentors and the larger startup community. For these reasons, starting a venture as a student at the university is challenging. “Without a strong support system, students still have a fear of failure,” adds Gutierrez.

With the 3DS Bogota program, 3 Day Startup bridges the gap between the classroom and the workplace by providing an experiential platform for Colombian students to execute their ideas among a expansive peer group and a community of mentors. One of the key components of a 3DS is the interdisciplinary nature of the program. In this instance, 56 students from a dozen majors worked together to generate business ideas, build business models, conduct market validation, and develop prototypes and investor pitches.

Ideation and Team Formation

The business ideas that emerged from the brainstorming session ranged from a public transportation app to a wearable device for a personalized movie watching experience. Students pitched a total of 15 ideas to each other and chose seven to pursue during the course of the program. Some of these ideas include:

  • Gelisa, a gel antiseptic formulated to sanitize hands as well as provide temporary relief from pain or swelling.
  • Handy Car, a mobile app that monitors a user’s vehicle and notifies the user when general maintenance is required.
  • Promo Finder, an accessible mobile app that aggregates all of a user’s loyalty and discount programs. In Colombia, almost all businesses offer loyalty and discount programs but customers are often confused or unaware of which services they qualify for.
  • Bolmar, artisan purses and accessories made from recyclable materials.
  • Air Public, a nontraditional advertising platform for public spaces and high-traffic areas.
  • Enrutate, a comprehensive public transportation app.
  • Cine 4D, a wearable device that gives each user a personalized cinema experience based on a user’s movie preference.
  • Okasa Studios, an interactive cultural and history game for young teens.

Customer Discovery and Mentorship

Sprinting through the rest of the workshop, students cross-collaborated with their teams and among themselves. Some students worked to refine prototypes, while others developed business models. Most importantly, all students engaged in customer discovery on day two.

Participants hit the streets to talk to customers.
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Participants hit the streets to talk to customers.

Aided by mentors, students took customer feedback and began to iterate and further improve upon the viability of their startup ideas. For example, after market validation and mentor feedback, Enrutate realized they had to change some of the functionality and features of their mobile app to reflect real time data to meet the needs of their core customer. Through 3 Day Startup’s lean experiential approach, students are “learning by doing model”, and utilizing intelligent trial and error to launch their ventures.

Final Pitches and Beyond

On day three, students presented compelling business pitches and working prototypes to a distinguished panel of judges. This panel gave insightful feedback and advice for the road ahead.

Enrutate receives feedback from the panel of judges.
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Enrutate receives feedback from the panel of judges.

Day three may seem like the conclusion of the 3DS Bogota program, but it surely does not mean the end of an entrepreneurial journey. Many students connected to potential cofounders and mentors to continue working on their idea beyond the program. For example, Enrutate was connected to a panelist who expressed interest in seed funding the startup.

Universities in Bogota already have extensive classroom curriculum rooted in academic theory and with the inclusion of hands-on 3DS Bogota programs, REUNE – ASCUNE will provide students with a more complete entrepreneurship education experience. The more outlets students have to express their interests in entrepreneurship, the more support university students will have to launch their ventures. By empowering students with the appropriate tools and capabilities, the university is also helping to build the larger startup ecosystem as students explore career opportunities outside of more traditional options, such as working for a large company or doing academic research.

Bogota is well on its way to developing a burgeoning ecosystem. As universities continue to build well-rounded entrepreneurship platforms for students to launch ventures from, more infrastructure such as active incubators and accelerators will develop to provide further sustainable support. 3 Day Startup is looking forward to supporting this budding community as it continues to grow and develop.

3DS Bogota participants after final pitches.
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3DS Bogota participants after final pitches.

3 Day Startup has been successful in building strong startup ecosystems along with the next generation of student entrepreneurs through hands-on entrepreneurship programs and connections to a powerful network of mentors, investors, and talent. 41 companies have come out of 3DS to raise $14.5 million in capital and more than a dozen have been accepted to prestigious incubators and accelerators, such as Y Combinator and TechStars.

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