La Idea Incubator Program
Funded and initiated by the United States Department of State, the La Idea Incubator Program is a powerful initiative focused on strengthening entrepreneurship and job creation across the Western Hemisphere. La Idea especially encourages trade and commerce between Central America and the United States. The program is a collaboration between InBIA, the Small Business Network of the Americas (SBNA), CENPROMYPE, University Texas San Antonio, and America’s Small Business Development Center.
United States Department of State
In partnership with:
Program objective: Forming new center-to-center partnerships
The La Idea Incubator Program provides a framework that allows entrepreneurs in Central America to directly connect with US-based InBIA Soft Landings designees. These designees provide advanced incubation services to guide their entrepreneurs’ businesses towards revenue generation, investment successes, and capital-efficient operations. InBIA’s Soft Landings designees have been validated through rigorous application and peer-review processes to ultimately serve foreign companies interested in expanding out of their domestic markets (for more information on the Soft Landing application process, and to apply, click here. The Soft Landing sites selected for La Idea have been found as ideal, industry-specific matches for those Central American entrepreneur applicants to the program, interested in expanding their business into the United States.
The key objectives of the La Idea Incubator Program are two-fold:
- To provide entrepreneurs from Central American countries with access to advanced incubation services in the United States, resulting in investment opportunities, customer interactions, mentorship from subject matter experts, and additional guidance for successful business launches.
- To establish a network of quality entrepreneurship centers across the Western Hemisphere that can support La Idea participants upon their return from the United States, so the above activities are further enabled up to six months after their return home.
Join us for an informational webinar
La Idea Incubator Program Informational Webinar
The La Idea Incubator Program is seeking business to business or business to consumer small companies from throughout Central America who are providing a variety of services to their clients. Eligible service-based businesses include but are not limited to: consulting; lifestyle or fitness coaching; creative or art services; business development or marketing services; technical, architecture and/or manufacturing services; event planning; real estate services; or tourism/travel agencies.
We will be covering benefits of the program, eligibility requirements, how to apply, and through a series of webinars.
While we have no more scheduled webinars at this time, you can view one of our most recent webinars describing the program in detail by clicking below:
Catapulting high-potential Central American entrepreneurs
The La Idea Incubator Program provides Central American entrepreneurs with a suite of resources to conduct business or launch a subsidiary of their business in the US. At the heart of this initiative is an intensive 5-day boot camp for entrepreneurs, immersing participants in unprecedented networking opportunities and a curriculum that will help them succeed with their launch. At the conclusion of this boot camp and up to six months after, participants will return to their home nations while still receiving mentorship, guidance, and additional opportunities from their host Soft Landing site, as well as from entrepreneur support centers in their community. InBIA will host three (3) cohorts, of a maximum 10 entrepreneurs, in the following (3) industry classifications (and is currently seeking entrepreneurs who own or operate small businesses in the following sectors to apply):
Includes either Central American small businesses that develop manufacturing equipment/processes, or which require heavy manufacturing operations to produce their product. (Launches November 13, 2017)
Includes small businesses that either provide business to business solution services (i.e. financial, marketing, consulting, etc. professional services) or business to consumer solution services (i.e. travel, personal development services, lifestyle consulting, etc.). (Launches February 2018)
Food & Farm
Includes small businesses that either produce food/beverage products, or that provide agricultural/agriscience products/services. (Launches June/July 2018)
What participating entrepreneurs can expect
The Soft Landing incubators will provide a baseline training curriculum for the first two days of the boot camp that covers:
DAY 1: Expanding Small/Early-Growth Businesses Intro the US Markets – Is My Business Ready? Topics for this course will include cultural nuances, common business entities, tax and liability issues, support programs and funding, establishing pricing, and intellectual property.
DAY 2: Legal, Regulatory and Compliance Issues for Foreign Small Businesses Entering US Markets Topics for this course will include logistics and issues around imports and exports, potential markets, pricing, customs and border control, shipping concerns, immigration laws and practices for small businesses, and employment issues.
After two days of “Conducting Business in the US” content, the Soft Landing sites will provide individualized curriculum around the industry sector themes their programming thrives in. Participants of La Idea will have exclusive access to a mix of industry-specific lecture-style and workshop-style curriculum, as well as exciting visits to specialized facilities where they will network with a variety of experts across each industry’s supply chain.
Sample topics/offerings include:
Manufacturing Potential Topics:
- Advanced Manufacturing Platforms
- Lean and Six Sigma Tools
- Supply Chain Management and Problem Coaching
- Inclusion of Robotics/Autonomous Systems
Service Potential Topics:
- Marketing for Business to Business Services
- Service Businesses to Scale
- Services in the Tourism Industry Trends and Growth
- Marketing for Consumer Points of Views and Pricing Strategies
Food & Farm Potential Topics:
- US Food and Ag Industry Trends and Growth
- Food Safety Requirements in 2016 and Beyond
- US Regulatory Requirements for Food or Ag Technologies
- Growth Channels in Specialty and Prepared Foods
Request for Proposals (RFP) for Central American Entrepreneurs
If you are an entrepreneur residing in the Central American countries of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama who is developing innovative solutions in the manufacturing, services, or food & farm industries, the U.S. Department of State and its partners, encourages you to apply to the Small Business Network of Americas (SBNA) La Idea Incubator Program. La Idea Incubator recipients will have the unprecedented opportunity to connect with peer innovators, create lasting relationships with entrepreneurship centers in the US, learn to navigate the complexities of international trade, and explore best practices in sales and operations. Upon selection for La Idea, you will be sent an invitation letter to support your Visa application, should you not have one at the time of applying. Due to any rejected Visa applicants/other issues, La Idea program staff have the right to select alternate applicants to attend the boot camps.
While it is not mandatory to apply, applicants who already have an active Visa will have expedited application for the program. (Please see full selection criteria instructions and expectations of participants to the right).
- Applicants interested in the MANUFACTURING (NOVEMBER 2017) COHORT must submit complete applications by August 25, 2017. Selected participants will be notified by email of their acceptance by October 1, 2017, enabling them to have time to complete and fulfill necessary Visa and/or passport processing prior to attending their relevant La Idea Incubator boot camp in the US.
- Applicants interested in the SERVICES (FEBRUARY 2018) COHORT must submit complete applications by December 8, 2017. Selected participants will be notified by email of their acceptance by December 21, 2017, enabling them to have time to complete and fulfill necessary Visa and/or passport processing prior to attending their relevant boot camp in the US.
- Applicants interested in the FARM & FOOD (JULY or AUGUST 2018) COHORT must submit complete applications by May 4, 2018. Selected participants will be notified by email of their acceptance by May, 30 2018, enabling them to have time to complete and fulfill necessary Visa and/or passport processing prior to attending their relevant boot camp in the US.
Are you eligible for the La Idea Incubator Program?
To learn more about eligibility and other expectations:
Why should you apply?
Benefits to Central American entrepreneurs:
Up to 30 participants (up to 10 per cohort) will each receive a (up to $2,500 USD) stipend to cover travel to the United States to participate in the La Idea Incubator Program. Each five-day program, a boot camp, will be hosted at a US-based InBIA Soft Landings Incubator Designee that specializes in the identified industry and offers unprecedented customer networking opportunities, mentors who are subject matter experts, useful market trend analyses, and additional relevant resources. Additionally, once participants return to their home countries after completing the boot camp, they will be provided with more mentoring (especially provided from their local/nation’s CENPROMYPE entrepreneur-serving partner) and other follow-up resources for the next six months.
While La Idea Soft Landing Sites will provide breakfast, lunch, transportation to/from their sites and other program elements to your hotel, and coursework supplies, the travel stipend for participants will cover:
- Airfare up to $1,000
- Lodging up to $1000 for 5 days
- Per diem (for dinner/snacks) up to $100 per day, for 5 days
Participants will have access to the following resources during and after the boot camp:
- Two days of training from industry experts and legal counsel in general topics of conducting business in the US such as incorporation of subsidiaries, import/export regulations, immigration laws, taxation, US business cultures, federal and other resources to non-US businesses, etc. (translation services will be available at all times)
- Three days of extensive, industry-themed curriculum that includes lectures, workshops, and tours of specialized facilities relevant to each cohort (translation services will be available at all times)
- Access to live mentoring on business as well as industry-specific matters during and post-boot camp, including assigned mentors from your nation after you return from the boot camp
- Access to virtual business mentors through CENPROMYPE/InBIA partners around the world, and the use of InBIA’s Exchange online social networking platform, with an area exclusive to the La Idea initiative
- Networking opportunities both live and virtual throughout the entire program with potential customers, investors, and other strategic partners
- An opportunity to try out the facilities/resources of a potential Soft Landing facility for US expansion in the future
- Access to extensive translation services and/or support to assist with the communication and marketing of your product/service in the US
Showcasing InBIA’s Soft Landing Designees
Incubators, SBDCs or other entrepreneurial support organizations (ESOs) with brick and mortar facilities are invited to host a cohort of up to 10 Central American entrepreneurs for a five-day training boot camp. ESOs that have earned InBIA’s Soft Landings designation and that can demonstrate domain expertise in one or more of the following focus industries are sought:
- Manufacturing (planned cohort dates: Start on Monday, November 13, 2017)
Includes either Central American small businesses that develop manufacturing equipment/processes, or which require heavy manufacturing operations to produce their product
- Services (planned cohort dates: Start on a Monday in February 2018)
Includes small businesses that either provide business to business solution services (i.e. financial, marketing, consulting, etc. professional services) or business to consumer solution services (i.e. retail, travel, personal development services, financial services, etc.)
- Food & Farm (planned cohort dates: Start on a Monday in June/July 2018)
Includes small businesses that either produce food/beverage products, or that provide agricultural/agriscience products/services
Please note: Prospective ESOs must have access to a proficient Spanish translation services available for the dates of the boot camp to apply for this grant.
Incentives for Applying to host a La Idea Incubator Soft Landings cohort
Each participating La Idea Incubator Soft Landings recipient will receive up to $20,000* (some expenses must be paid to pre-selected vendors) in funding to cover costs associated with hosting the Central American entrepreneurs.
Interested in being a host Soft Landing site for the La Idea Incubator Program?
To learn more about eligibility and other expectations:
Additionally, La Idea Incubator Soft Landings recipients will have the exclusive opportunity to build relationships with high-potential Soft Landing clients – Founders/CEOs from throughout Latin America seeking to expand their business into the United States. These entrepreneurs, selected from a highly competitive vetting process hosted by key leadership from the Small Business Network of the Americas grant program, will ensure high quality participants are selected to participate in the La Idea Soft Landings cohorts. Selected participant entrepreneurs from Central America will be vetted on their product’s or service’s commercial viability, demonstrated tangible assets (IP, inventory, equipment, etc.), market opportunities for their products/services in US markets, strong management team, etc.