High-Impact Entrepreneurship

eMBA field report: endorsing public transportation at Chile’s fourth “great place to work”

Santiago Cordillera

Mariana Torres-Montoya is pursuing a Masters in City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley.   She is interning with Grupo Alto through Endeavor’s eMBA Program.

“I created, in collaboration with other entrepreneurs, the Association of Chilean Entrepreneurs (ASECH). Today we are 1,000 entrepreneurs. I am sure we can reach 100,000 by 2014.” These were the words of Endeavor Entrepreneur Jorge Nazer, the brain behind Grupo Alto and one of the leading entrepreneurs in Chile, as we walked toward the first annual meeting of ASECH. The drive and ambition reflected in his comment is the same one that envelops Grupo Alto, a company dedicated to the protection of organizations’ assets from fraud and robbery through an integrated model focused on education, dissuasion, and legal action. Jorge and his team have taken Alto from a small, provincial business to a holding of five companies that, combined, make the Alto model robust and replicable abroad. The company now has a presence in Colombia and Mexico in addition to its Chilean headquarters. As the company evolves and shapes its identity, it continues to innovate by creating new products and entering to new markets in order to stay relevant. The Santiago office is a young crowd, all entrepreneurs in their own way, and the sense of contentment and camaraderie amongst them is truly unique. It’s no surprise that Grupo Alto was voted one of the best places to work in Chile last year.

As an eMBA intern, I came to Alto to help Jorge realize his next ambitious goal: breaking into the public transport market as the leading company to help bus operators reduce Transantiago’s high level of fare evasion. During my time at Alto I have been absorbing as much as possible of the enthusiasm and entrepreneurial skills that Jorge and his team display while informing the project with my knowledge of the transportation sector. The project is not short on challenges. On one hand, there is the complex nature of a highly regulated business whose success hinges on the government and a series of other actors doing their part. On the other hand, the project involves changing the mindset of a population deeply scarred by an inefficient, expensive, and slow-to-improve public transportation service. This past week, we made our pitch to a couple potential clients as we continue to strengthen our value proposition.

Chile has far exceeded my expectations, offering the best of the developed world and the warmth and joy of the Latin American character. I am constantly amazed by Santiago’s high-frequency metro system, its automated urban highway tolls, and its sophisticated retail sector. The city enjoys a level of safety unknown to its Latin American peers and provides great pockets of culture and open space. In a very interesting way, Santiago feels like a small town despite its respectable size. My new set of Chilean friends inside and outside Alto are proof of Chileans´ friendliness and their interest in showing foreigners a good time in their country. The nonstop nightlife entertainment in Santiago, be it after-office parties in hidden parking lots or the famous “asados” at friends’ places, demonstrates just how much Chileans like to enjoy themselves. Of course, I am constantly aware that I am seeing just one side of the city. There is much work to be done to lessen the city’s income disparities, a problem which plagues all Latin American metropolises, and improve the quality of life of the majority of its residents.  Through their commitment to innovation, progress and social responsibility, I am confident that Grupo Alto and the rest of Chile’s entrepreneurial community will be invaluable contributors to the sustained development of this beautiful country.

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