Q&A: Facundo Garreton, Argentine Congress Member & Serial Entrepreneur

December 4, 2017

Facundo Garreton has always known one thing – success comes from believing in your dreams. This belief led him to where he is today: a Yale World Greenberg World Fellow, a member of the Argentine Congress, a founder of Latin America’s largest online brokerage, and the director of a social platform for entrepreneurs in Latin America.  To kickoff the launch of our new Q&A speaker series, Garreton shared his thoughts on navigating politics, finding purpose, and deciding between favorite startups with Yale’s Program on Entrepreneurship: 

Given the complex nature of Argentine politics, what do you think are the biggest challenges preventing the Argentine Congress from being more effective? 

This complexity is not just about Argentina, it's about the world. We are citizens of the 21st century yet we have 19th century institutions. To top that off, the Argentine Congress continues to operate on 15th century systems, like using a written system to vote. 

The world needs a new political, economic and social system. We have many pressing global challenges such as climate change, health issues, migratory problems and increased inequality and racial and religious tensions. Yet, current leaders are not confronting these challenges head on. When institutions are outdated and leaders are unable to solve widespread problems, people lose faith in their leaders and in the system. Effective democracy is an evolutionary process that can only be improved if we continuously work to change our system.

This is why I believe that we need to develop a concept of Global Governance and Local Policies. To develop such a model, we need new leaders who not only understand complex global challenges, but also understand that we need innovative network structures for an increasingly globalized and interconnected world. 

In your experience, what are the pros and cons of practicing entrepreneurship in a developing country?

In developing countries, there are a lot of barriers to starting a new venture. These often include bureaucratic and funding barriers. On the bureaucratic side, in some countries, it can take over 10 months to open a new company, and there might be little tax relief. On the funding side, raising funds is an extremely complicated process where a culture of angel investing and venture capital infrastructure does not exist. 

On the other hand, emerging and growing markets present significant opportunities for scaling a startup. For example, there are more than 650 million people in Latin America and the population is growing at 11%. Therefore, startups have can leverage this access to a large and growing population, and replicate some proven existing models from developed countries in emerging economies to build potentially successful early stage companies.

Ultimately, I believe that there are significant hurdles for entrepreneurs in developing countries, but there are even more opportunities.


Where do you see yourself after politics?

I plan on spending the next decade in politics. Two years ago, I decided to become involved in politics with a mission to increase the quality of life for Argentine citizens. I hope that my work as a politician will create opportunities and scalable solutions for our citizens. As a “political entrepreneur,” as long as I am creating value for society, I will continue working for the people as a politician. When I feel like I am no longer being effective as a politician, I’ll leave to work at an NGO or in the private sector. 

How do you see yourself being effective in the private sector?

Something that I’m developing at Yale is “Ingenieria Politica” (Political Engineering), an organization that uses technology based on artificial intelligence in social networks to influence voters to choose people with more tools, knowledge, experiences and projects that can add value to society. We have been developing a technology that uses big data and machine learning to understand voter behaviors. The technology allows us to segment voters and trigger specific messages to influence them to vote for the best option. Organizations that I’m involved with like SociaLab or ImpulsoNorte are also tools to generate impact if I were to return to the private sector. 

“Try to start a new venture with a purpose. Try to find your passion, your mission, your vocation and your profession,” is something that you live by. Did you always follow this motto? What helped you find and define your passion and mission?

I found this framework some years ago on a trip to Japan. I’ve been applying this to my life ever since and continue to share it with my organizations. Passion is the intersection of “what you love” and “what you are good at.” Mission is the intersection of “what you love” and “what the world needs,” but, in practical terms, it’s also about “what you can be paid for.”  I think that my “Purpose” is in the middle of my Passion, my Mission, my Vocation and my Profession – and I try to find a balance there.


What is your favorite technology and/or startup?
 
There are so many interesting companies doing incredible things that it's really difficult to chose one. My favorites companies are ones that are developing Artificial Intelligence and/or focusing on biotech using CRISPR/Cas9 technology. We are living in an incredible period of time and have the opportunity to become protagonists of the global future. 

Belinda Lei is a first year MBA candidate and Silver Scholar at the Yale School of Management.


 

About the author

Belinda Lei