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eMBA field report: breaking down barriers, both physical and psychological, in South Africa

Elizabeth McKenna is an MBA candidate at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. She is interning with Stoned Cherrie in South Africa through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

Arriving in Johannesburg, I was immediately struck by the unrelenting fences and dividers in the city. Gates, walls, electric wiring, and other barriers to entry served as obstacles at every turn and every step. Given this pervasive element, I expected a corresponding wariness from the city’s denizens. My experience could not be more contrary. Nkhensani Nkosi, the Endeavor Entrepreneur for whom I am working, has welcomed me with open arms as have her staff, the local Endeavor team, and even her family and friends. Nkhensani has treated me like an equal in discussing business ventures and like a friend, including me in family activities and weekend events.

Nkhensani’s company, Stoned Cherrie, is a fashion house that embraces an Afro-Urban aesthetic. Nkhensani strives to bring a modern African product to the local and international marketplace. Like many South African entrepreneurs, she faces many barriers to entry in her native country. The predominant marketplace in South Africa is the shopping mall due to its security and its convenience. The owners of this real estate ultimately dictate market access and pricing. Unfortunately, these decision makers cater to large department stores and international brands. My project at Stoned Cherrie is to find unique solutions around these barriers to entry. We are looking at innovative retail methods and new ways to market and sell Stoned Cherrie merchandise.

Our primary solution is e-commerce. This has been an intriguing challenge as no other South African fashion designer has yet to establish an e-commerce platform. At first, my project overwhelmed me as we discussed warehousing, courier services, sales forecasting and website design. As I thought about the many components to the project, my anxiety only multiplied. Working directly with Nkhensani has been a remarkable experience. She believes in making the impossible happen. As we have chipped away at all of the project’s variables, our vision is slowly becoming a reality. With its challenges come great rewards. In my mind, e-commerce, m(mobile)-commerce, and s(social)-commerce are not only the most cost-effective and efficient methods of selling but also the future of retail. I believe that the establishment of an online platform for Stoned Cherrie will create global access and ultimately lead to a new set of global customers. I am thrilled to be working with Nkhensani on such a valuable asset to her long-term business development.

Working and living in Johannesburg, I have faced overt barriers to entry. However, in my short time here, I have learned that beyond these barriers lies a wealth of opportunity, creativity, and an incredible future for South Africa.

eMBA field report: courting car dealerships and changing career trajectories in São Paulo

Anthony Muljadi is a recent graduate of Harvard Business School. He is interning with iCarros, founded by Endeavor Entrepreneur Fernando Ortenblad, through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

Oi!

My name is Tony and I recently graduated from Harvard Business School. I grew up in Colorado and worked as a consultant in New York prior to my MBA. During business school, I was actively involved in activities surrounding Social Enterprise, Volunteer Consulting, and International Business. These three passions eventually led me to seek out an internship with Endeavor.

I am currently an eMBA working at iCarros, an internet startup in São Paulo that sells classified ads and online products to car dealers across Brazil. I am working closely with Endeavor Entrepreneur Fernando Ortenblad, the Superintendent of Operations, on a number of marketing and sales initiatives at iCarros. I was initially drawn to working with iCarros because I wanted to gain experience in an entrepreneurial environment, work in an emerging market, and better understand the function of marketing.

My experience at iCarros has far exceeded my expectations. The people here have been incredibly welcoming and helpful. I am constantly learning new things as I gain exposure to diverse projects, ranging from CRM implementation, to new product development, to measuring sales effectiveness. My favorite part of the internship has actually been learning how to work in a different language and culture. Picking up Portuguese has become easier as I attend meetings and go to lunch with my Brazilian coworkers.

A few passions of mine have been solidified during my time here at iCarros. The first is that I want to continue working internationally, regardless of where my career takes me. What I love about international business is that it forces you to adapt to a different environment, understand other people’s perspectives, and find common ground. Entrepreneurship is another passion of mine that has grown here in Brazil. I know that someday I will want to start my own business, because I have realized that when you are your own boss working toward something you believe in, your job becomes infinitely easier. That is not to say that being an entrepreneur is easy in itself, but rather the challenges you face become that much more important to overcome.

I only have three more weeks here at iCarros and I am feeling quite sad about leaving. I have had such a great experience here at the company as well as in Brazil as a whole and I really hope to come back some day. I feel so lucky to have been given this opportunity by Endeavor, and I know that many of the lessons I have learned here will be incredibly valuable later on in my career.

eMBA field report: scaling businesses and mountains in Monterrey

Marjorie Camporini, Maria Fernanda Brockman and Mariya Krasteva at Grutas de García, Mexico

2012 eMBAs Marjorie Camporini and Mariya Krasteva and Rocío Díaz González of Endeavor Mexico at La Bandera in Monterrey

Mariya Krasteva is an MBA and MPA candidate at MIT Sloan and Harvard, concurrently. She is interning with Inmobiliaria Enexa and Vialux through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

My first month in Monterrey, Mexico has given me everything I was hoping for and more!

The Mountain King

Monterrey in Mexico has two r’s and is therefore spelled differently than Monterey, California. While its homophonic, American brother is situated on a waterfront, Monterrey is cuddled amongst the magnificent hills of Sierra Madre. Thus, the city stays very true to its own name – el rey del monte means “the king of the mountain.”

Monterrey is also another type of a king – one that dominates Mexican business. It is the third largest Mexican city and the home of the biggest and most profitable companies in Mexico, such as Pemex, Cemex, OXXO, etc. and the headquarters of many multinational corporations. Entrepreneurship and innovation are the most powerful engines driving the city’s progress.

Helping Build a New Business

This summer I am interning at a startup real estate investment company called Inmobiliaria Enexa, which was founded by a parent company, Endeavor Entrepreneur firm Vialux. Vialux builds cell phone towers and leases them to telephone operators. The land underneath the towers is usually rented, posing large operating expenses. Purchasing and owning certain lands can be financially beneficial in the long run due to minimizing renting expenses.

Which properties should be owned versus rented? What are the additional costs associated with ownership? How profitable will the business be in 10 years? What is its best strategy over the next 5 years? These are all questions that I am helping answer through building complex financial models to understand and project real estate profitability. I quickly realized that sitting in a conference room and challenging various assumptions together with the Enexa team and the CEO himself, Oscar Odriozola, is quite the real world business experience!

The Global Endeavor Family

There are five Endeavor eMBAs here in Monterrey representing four countries – Brazil, Bulgaria, Mexico, and Portugal and five different business schools. In between discussing our internships and how to bring the most value to the entrepreneurs, raving over the delicious Mexican food (La Nacional and La Mejico are excellent traditional restaurants) and sightseeing (Grutas de García is the most amazing cave I have ever seen), we have gotten to know one another and have become friends. The Endeavor staff here has been extremely welcoming and has ensured that we have both productive and fulfilling summer experiences. In addition to helping us with structuring out internships, they have been introducing us to Endeavor mentors and entrepreneurs through one-on-one meetings and social events, such as start-up drink gatherings.

On a personal note, my summer experience so far has helped me grow significantly through getting me out of my comfort zone both intellectually and physically! I have for the first time built a real estate profitability model, led a business meeting solely in Spanish and rock-climbed the tall dry walls of el Cañón de la Huasteca!

Mariya Krasteva rock-climbing at Huasteca

eMBA field report: coffee and creative growth, Chilean-style

2012 eMBAs Gloriann Lopez and Anthony Campbell and Gloriann’s co-worker

Gloriann Lopez is an MBA student at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. She is interning with Endeavor Entrepreneur company Sirve in Chile through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

“Cachai?” he asked me with his eyebrows raised and a twinkle in his eye. I nodded my head in agreement. “Cacho,” I responded affirmatively, somewhat proud of my newfound ability to grasp one of the most integral words in the Chilean dictionary.

There is something about Chile. Maybe it is the people, the beautiful mixture of native and European ancestry who you find surrounding you; the many expats you find who come here to explore the treasures hidden within the borders; the warm, genuine nature of a morning greeting; or the necessity of a morning coffee. Maybe it is the bread: soft, delightful and integral to any good day. Maybe it is the breathtaking scenery: the surrounding mountains that seem to dwarf us and make us seem almost insignificant; the expansive ocean that Neruda once loved so deeply and described with such poetic beauty; the far reaches of the dry north; or the harsh, cold climate of the icy south that holds within it treasures that only mother nature can divulge. Maybe it is the history, one of stark contradictions and struggle, that is often misinterpreted and yet inseparable from the DNA and mindset of every Chilean, regardless of age or affiliation. Maybe it is the deep-rooted appreciation for tradition, for education, for perseverance and excellence. Or maybe it is the food, the sweet richness of a Pastel de Choclo, the ingenuity of hearty humitas, the creamy indulgence of just about anything filled with manjar, or the anticipation as you bite into a fresh-made, warm empanada. Maybe it is a bit of everything.

Over the past four weeks I have had the opportunity, through Endeavor, to work with the top seismic engineering company in Chile as a strategic consultant to develop internal and external strategies. The role has been challenging to say the least, but more rewarding than I ever expected. The people that form this visionary engineering company are incredibly hard-working, bright, and forward-thinking when it comes to developing their business to compete both within Chile and on a global scale. There is a great sense of pride in the engineering and creative excellence that forms the basis of Sirve, and the company’s acceptance of me, of my ideas, and willingness to adapt their processes and push themselves to the next level of growth has impressed and inspired me. I feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by this great team and even luckier to feel like a part of it.

Today, we are in the process of developing and streamlining internal processes through the selection of a new ERP and are working to tighten organizational definitions and operating procedures, as well as analyze and assess external strategies and growth. There is no shortage of work or excitement in any given day and when 6 or 7pm hits, there is no mad rush out of the door. I come home exhausted most nights, but with a sense of achievement and excitement for what tomorrow will bring. Each weekend is filled with a different adventure that renews and refreshes my soul as I meet new people, explore new reaches of the world, and perfect my Spanish, Chilean-style. I wouldn’t wish for it any other way.

Gloriann Lopez, Anthony Campbell & a Sirve co-worker at Isla Negra, Chile

eMBA Anthony Campbell and Gloriann Lopez’s co-worker at Sirve at Valparaiso

Summer blog series: Read 2012 eMBA reports from the field! (updated)

As part of Endeavor’s annual eMBA program, generously supported by Barclays, MBA students from around the country are selected to work on-site with our entrepreneurs for 10 weeks during the summer. This year, 31 eMBAs were placed with 27 Endeavor Entrepreneurs in 10 countries across the world.

The eMBAs create stories chronicling their experiences throughout the summer, contributing to Endeavor’s blog as part of our “eMBA field report” series.

Here are the accounts we have published thus far:

Spreading innovative design from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia

This eMBA has been surrounded by entrepreneurs in colorful Lebanon.  He’s on a mission help furniture designer Nada Debs expand to Saudi Arabia and to solve the unemployment crisis in the region through entrepreneurship.

A fresh approach to fast growth and seaside splendors in Uruguay 

Working alongside the sharp entrepreneurs of Pedidosya.com has been a dream for this eMBA and it’s helped him to re-shape his career goals.  Weekends spent at nearby getaways didn’t hurt, either.

Lights, camera, asado!

This eMBA’s charismatic host entrepreneur welcomed him with a steak dinner and then got right down to business.  Since then, Adrian Garcia has been thrilled to bring a fresh perspective to an already well-positioned and fast-growing media company.

Pushing boundaries for personal growth and professional gain in Monterrey

At the foot of the beautiful Sierra Madre Mountains of Monterrey, this eMBA is plotting her host company’s expansion to Brazil.  She’s already learned a great deal about the Mexican economy and way of doing business and next she’s off to Colombia for a research project.

Taking charge and finding adventure in Santiago

For this eMBA, his summer internship has been the full package: he’s lived in new country, learned a new language, applied his business school knowledge and hit the slopes and the beach in the same weekend.

Research and teamwork in Egypt 

A repeat blogger on Endeavor.org, this eMBA has dusted off his programming knowledge at Hindawi. Along the way, he’s treated his co-workers to a Chinese feast and they, in turn, invited him to an aftar, a traditional Ramadan breakfast.

Rainy weather and fiery ambition near the southernmost point in the world

Working with Innovex has led this eMBA to Puerto Montt, the salmon capital of Chile, where he is working with the advisory board to help chart out the company’s future.

Saving the world one industrial city at a time

Living in Monterrey, Mexico has been rewarding for this eMBA, where he is helping Imagen Dental build a business plan for national expansion and even attended an Endeavor National Selection Panel.

Taking an entrepreneurial risk to keep Mexican companies safe

Interning at ALTO, this eMBA is collaborating with the CEO to research, strategize, and create a plan to expand the company to all of Mexico.

Tea and vision technology in enchanting Istanbul

This self-proclaimed tea addict has been stationed in Turkey, where she has not only analyzed markets to determine the potential for Vistek’s products within them but also found even bigger tea drinkers than herself.

Preserving public transportation at one of Chile’s 2011 “best places to work”

At Grupo Alto, this eMBA is helping one of the leading entrepreneurs in Chile to break into Santiago’s public transportation market to work with bus operators to protect against fare evasion.

Inventive flowers and food in fast-growing Istanbul

As an intern for Ciceksepeti.com, this eMBA is helping expand and develop the e-commerce company’s corporate structure while becoming an expert in modern versions of traditional Turkish cuisine.

Promoting health in the Mexican sun

At Alivio Capital, this eMBA has gained insight into both customer and management goals so that she may help focus the company’s commercial strategy and brand identity on what its consumers want.

Financial savvy and pisco sours in Santiago

After being selected, this eMBA has worked as the Executive Director of International Expansion for ForexChile, where she has designed the business plan for the company’s upcoming entrance into Peru.

Mobile media in Monterrey; the right place at the right time

Working in Mexico for Naranya, this intern has helped develop a new business and marketing strategy for the Latin American ecosystem, fully immersing himself in the entrepreneurial atmosphere of the city.

In Egypt, change is in the air

From his first journey through the now-famous Tahrir Square to his work with Hindawi on a project calculating top bloggers for uFollow, a type of RSS compiler, this intern has had an unforgettable experience in Cairo.

A Brazilian adventure filled with strategy, futebol and broken Portuguese

When he hasn’t been going to futebol games, exploring Brazil, learning Portuguese, or indulging in Brazilian cuisine, this eMBA has worked with the leadership of Arizona to draft long-term strategies for growth.

A test of will power in the struggle to break down barriers in South Africa

Despite a retail market that caters to international behemoths, this eMBA is optimistic about the future of an African fashion brand as she works to develop its first e-commerce platform.

A summer spent selling ads to car dealers and jump-starting a personal journey

Interning in Brazil has allowed this eMBA not only to brush up on his Portuguese, but also to confirm his desire to work abroad and start his own company.

A lesson in scaling businesses and mountains in Monterrey

This eMBA’s internship experience has challenged her mentally and physically, from conducting business meetings in Spanish to climbing el Cañón de la Huasteca.

A taste for coffee and creative growth, Chilean-style

At Sirve, the top seismic engineering company in Chile, this eMBA has savored the local coffee and chocolate and the opportunity to become a part of a talented and open-minded management team.

Explosive IT growth, exuberant dancing and a steak that will make you cry in Bogotá

This eMBA arrived to a brand new office an apartment stocked with food.  Since then, he has worked on an passionately on expansion plan
to Mexico and Brazil while still making time to see the sights and eat some truly amazing steak.

A quest to improving online tourism options in Argentina

This eMBA has learned a great deal about the Latin American tourism industry while strategizing about how to consolidate its offerings online and touring the barrios of Buenos Aires, himself.

Spontaneity and new marketing frontiers in sunny Silicon Valley

This eMBA is putting his marketing knowledge to the test for a South African Endeavor Entrepreneur in the world-renowned, dynamic start-up environment of Silicon Valley.

Leveraging private sector efficiency to improve education for disadvantaged groups in Mexico

Mutu Vengesayi is an MBA candidate at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and is interning with Endeavor Entrepreneur company Enova. Hear about her experiences incorporating technology in the classroom.

Enjoying spontaneity and discovering new marketing frontiers in sunny Silicon Valley

Dhiraj Sehgal is an MBA candidate at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is interning with Endeavor Entrepreneur Vinny Lingham’s new venture, Gyft, located in the heart of the tech industry.

Marcos Galperin and Reid Hoffman speak on CNBC about entrepreneurship, Endeavor

Earlier this year, Endeavor Entrepreneur Marcos Galperin was named the 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year from Argentina, while Endeavor board member Reid Hoffman was the winner from the United States. The following are excerpts from their interviews on CBNC at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Monaco Forum.

Interviewer: How are you helping to make an entrepreneurial spirit in your community?

Marcos Galperin: I’m helping create and foster an entrepreneurial spirit in Latin America by participating in all sorts of activities where we foster entrepreneurship. I’m a board member of Endeavor in Argentina, I’m a big donor of Endeavor, and we support and help high impact entrepreneurs in Argentina and in the region. I’m constantly mentoring and helping entrepreneurs access investors in Latin America and in the United States, and I’m very active in this area.

Reid Hoffman: There have been two themes to how I choose non-profit organizations. One is entrepreneurship, which is entrepreneurship in terms of how do we change societies—this is Endeavor and Kiva and Startup America—and the other one is the use of the consumer internet. So, for example, DoSomething, which enables every teen to be a philanthropic agent. And both of these get to confounding scale and have the same impact on the world, that what I do as an entrepreneur, with LinkedIn, has. The U.S. has a great history of entrepreneurship, but now in kind of the modern, kind of globalized times, it’s more important than ever. So, with the combination of Startup America, which helps entrepreneurs in each of the fifty states; Kiva, which helps micro-entrepreneurs; and Endeavor, which helps high-impact entrepreneurs around the world; each of these organizations helps grow and foster both entrepreneurial culture and the network of essential people that make entrepreneurial companies go. Customers, advisors, investors; all these sorts of things all come down to networks, and so you grow the network.

eMBA field report: a Brazilian adventure filled with strategy, futebol and broken Portuguese

Uday Tumuluri is an eMBA student at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. He is interning with Endeavor Entrepreneur Guilherme Bruno at Arizona through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

As I stepped out of the Guarulhos airport and looked at the surroundings, a thought began to take shape in my mind. When I rode through the infamous Sao Paulo traffic in the taxi it became clearer: on appearance, Sao Paulo is just like Mumbai or New York, a massive city full of traffic; huge, elegant buildings and depleting infrastructure alike; and most importantly, a busy city. On my first day at work, I was overwhelmed by the friendly and welcoming nature of the employees of Arizona and in the next few weeks I realize that this is a trait of all Brazilian people – to be friendly, warm and welcoming. I knew Brazil loved its futebol and on my second day I got a taste of the passion as I watched, amongst fans, two rival teams battle out a cup semi-final and slept to the sound of fireworks across this city.

My project thus far at Arizona has been more than I could have asked for. I am currently working with the company’s leadership to draft a long-term strategy for growth in Brazil’s rapidly growing economy. Arizona is a leader in pre-media services (i.e. finalization and proofing done on advertising media before it is published) and has created technology tools that are being used by top agencies and companies in Brazil to manage their media assets. In the past year, Arizona has taken the shape of a technology company while remaining hungry for growth.

My project took shape in an interesting manner, which indicates the flexibility one can have as an eMBA Summer Associate. It started with a plan to start a new consultancy service for clients, but in speaking with the leadership, we soon realized that the need of the hour is a long-term strategic plan. This is where I come in: to identify market opportunities for growth in-line with Arizona’s vision to be the leading marketing services company.

My stint at Arizona has been very rewarding not least due to the amazing camaraderie and the belief bestowed upon me by the leadership at Arizona. The Endeavor Entrepreneurs, namely Guilherme Bruno, Alexandre Hadade, and Marcus Hadade, are people who passionately care about Arizona and work tirelessly to strengthen the company and take it to new heights. Patricia Osorio, who heads Marketing and Innovation at Arizona, is a fantastic person to work with on a daily basis because she ensures that I have all the resources and help I need to succeed at Arizona and in Brazil. The fast pace and continuous idea generation at Arizona and can seem disorganized to some. For me, however, it is a wonderful challenge to work on as I try to channel these ideas towards my project objectives. I am midway through my internship and I am enthused about the possibility of making a significant impact on Arizona’s future strategy in the coming weeks.

I cannot possibly end this blog without mentioning that I have been exploring Brazil. Rio de Janerio is truly a paradise and the most beautiful city I have seen. The food in Brazil is rich in variety with its feijoada, solgados and yes, the acai. I speak broken Portuguese, but I am amazed at how patient people are and willing to help me. Already, I can clearly state that these weeks are taking the shape of an unforgettable life experience as I look forward to more exciting work and travel. Muito Obrigado Endeavor, Arizona e no Brasil!

Endeavor network member shares thoughts on Investor Network event in London

Reprinted from Ahmad Takatkah’s blog. Original post here.

On my way to San Francisco to join Kauffman Fellows Program, I stopped in London as I was invited to become a member of Endeavor Global Investor Network, and participate in both: a round table discussion about the VC industry in the MENA Region, and in several speed dating sessions with global Endeavor Entrepreneurs to mentor and advise. The Investor Network event was held immediately following Endeavor’s International Selection Panel in London.

There were startups from: Brazil, Argentina, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, South Africa, and Indonesia. While investors were from USA, UK, Spain, Mexico, Turkey, Argentina, Morocco, Saudi, and Jordan.

From Jordan, there were only two investment firms participating: Oasis500 for Seed Stage, and Sinbad Ventures for Early Stage, while from Saudi there was a representative from Abraaj-KSA for High Growth and Late Stage investments.

The round table discussion was really great, the speakers gave insights about the VC and PE industries in the emerging markets they come from. Some of the investors shared with us their success and failure stories. I learned a lot.

Regarding the mentorship, actually this was not my first time to mentor global entrepreneurs. At SeedStartup, the seed accelerator of Dubai, I mentored entrepreneurs from Italy, UK, and even from Tanzania. The new thing about this experience is having growth stage global entrepreneurs not only seed/early stage ones. Mentorship is a two way learning experience, and I have to admit that I have learned new things from the high growth entrepreneurs I met — especially from Lebanon and Turkey. So I guess this is one more step towards becoming a global VC.

During this week, a few more startups were selected to join the Endeavor network as well. And I am happy for all of the Jordanian and Arab entrepreneurs who were selected this time: Curlstone, Altibbi, At7addak, and ElementN. Congratulations guys, you deserve it.

eMBA field report: mobile media in Monterrey; the right place at the right time

Nuno Neves studied business at ISCTE Business School in Lisbon, Portugal and New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. He is interning with Naranya in Monterrey, Mexico, through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

I am currently working at Naranya. It has the true entrepreneurship spirit that I was looking for! Everyone in the company lives intensely the moment and is always pushing forward in order to achieve excellence. The key for the incredible results at Naranya is the team spirit. Everyone is involved.

Naranya is in Mobile Media & Commerce company and it is developing new products/markets in order to build a mobile ecosystem for Latin American markets. Currently, it operates in seven countries and it plans to expand its market and extend its offerings to become the leader in Latin American Mobile Media & Commerce.

I am currently developing a strategy for new business and products to be marketed in Latin America. It is clearly a challenge and an opportunity. I feel that I’m at the right place at the right time. My days are fascinating. I spend them brainstorming with the CEO, Financial, Product, and Innovation managers in order to create a winning strategy.

These few last weeks have been amazing. I have attended Endeavor’s local events and met local business people. Monterrey has an atmosphere of entrepreneurship that fascinates me. Above all, this has been an opportunity to fully experience the local culture.

Endeavor Entrepreneur shares tips on using 2.0 tools to foster government-citizen collaboration

Reprinted from Opinno. Original article here.

By Jorge Soto, an Endeavor Entrepreneur since 2011

Interaction between governments and citizens through digital media and tools like mobiles and social networks create opportunities for transparency, accountability, participation and collaboration. With these, people are understanding democracy beyond voting every once in a while and are becoming citizens involved in their communities in a local and global way.

Just as Facebook and Twitter create ecosystems, each government has the opportunity to become a platform that encourages citizens to connect and engage to its community, collaborate and find innovative solutions.

The impact these kinds of initiatives have is not yet understood by governments, nor by citizens. In a broad view, a government that embraces and encourages transparency and accountability will involve citizens in the governance process, building the foundation for innovation. New technologies provides a space where these interactions can happen and a real time dialogue is established. The data obtained will be current and will reflect real needs. In this way, governments can make more effective and efficient decisions.

Data by itself and without context does not tell a complete story and provides little actionable insight. The more data a city or a decision maker has does not necessarily lead to more knowledge nor an accurate vision of real needs. In order to separate noise from signal, information must be meaningful. We should not focus on just aggregating data, but in curating it so it can be useful.

That is why data becomes information when put into context, which, when acted upon, brings the identification of patterns that will tell us what, where and when problems occur. Once this happens, it will lead to predictions to better allocate resources in a more efficient way, execute effectively and result in the satisfaction of real needs. Report and information management, two-way communication, real-time visual and relative analysis, transparency and open data makes governments more effective and efficient.

The true power of these types of initiatives may be its effect on the public imagination. With the combination of the wisdom of the crowds, data visualization and real-time information, every citizen becomes a sensor and governments are capable of evolving while making accurate and informed decisions thus providing citizens with what they really need.

For technology to be used by citizens, simplicity is key. Most don’t feel the need or have incentives to participate with their government and engage with their community; but if the correct tools are available, and citizens feel there is someone on the other side of the line, it will encourage them to participate.

The internet has a democratizing effect. New tools and media have made the expression of individuals and their interaction with their governments easier, as well as allowing governments to use that information to address real needs. It is no longer a technology problem, but an anthropological one.

Jorge Soto is the founder of Citivox, an Internet platform dedicated to linking citizens with their governments to solve common problems. A graduate of Columbia’s University’s Columbia Business School, Jorge is passionate about eliminating the divide between people and their governments. He is also a winner of 2012’s TR35 Mexico competition. Twitter: @smjorge22.

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