Ana Escalante

Ricardo Teran of Agora Partnerships Identifies the Marks of a Successful Entrepreneur

Last week WRI hosted a meeting of the International Private Enterprise Group (IPEG), featuring a guest from Agora Partnerships. Ricardo Teran, Managing Director of Agora Partnerships in Nicaragua, delivered a presentation focused on venture finance and small business development in Central America, specifically Nicaragua. Fifty audience members from development organizations around DC attended and participated in the discussion.

Agora Partnerships is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing talented entrepreneurs in emerging markets with the tools, aspirations, networks, and financing necessary to launch successful, socially responsible businesses. Ricardo J. Teran is co-founder of Agora Partnerships and an Aspen Institute fellow on the Central American Leadership Initiative. Ricardo found inspiration to establish Agora while working with Technoserve on a business plan competition in Nicaragua where he found that he shared the vision of business as a driver of social change with other entrepreneurs.Agora made its first investments in Nicaragua in 5 firms and contributed 400 to 500 man-hours of consulting. He argues that now there is more liquidity than ever, but questions whether there are enough investment-ready projects.

The projects that Agora serves are all early-stage, high-risk ventures. Agora works intensively with the companies in its portfolio and provides comprehensive consulting services. Ricardo stressed the need to mold Agora’s consulting services to different companies? operating environments. In his own words, ?We are like a chameleon and a slinky–we need to blend in, and yet be flexible.?

Ricardo observes that the entrepreneur’s profile is the key to a successful business. Agora works with first-class entrepreneurs who can demonstrate that they have the motivation, vision, and tenacity to succeed. Ricardo attributes 80% of a business? success to the entrepreneur’s skills and 20% to business elements.

Agora has worked with 30 companies that fit its entrepreneur profile, including Bamboos Casa, a company that takes waste bamboo from Nicaragua and converts it into social housing building materials, and Santos Reyes’ Shoe Factory. Ricardo showed the following video to explain Santos Reyes? work:

Santos Reyes, the story of a former shoe cleaner who becomes a shoe factory owner, is very compelling as an example of the kind of investment opportunities as yet undiscovered. A handful of SME development organizations?Agora, Acumen, Aavishkaar, New Ventures?are working to bring these businesses to market, but there are innumerable high-potential entrepreneurs and SMEs still to be found.