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 and the Regional Center for the Promotion of MSMEs (CENPROMYPE).
Quicklinks On This Page:Entrepreneur RFP Soft Landing RFP
United States Department of State
In partnership with:
Program objective: Develop and Support Promising Central American Entrepreneurs
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 twelve 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 companies should be developing products and/or services in one of the available cohorts (see below for additional details of current and upcoming cohorts).
We will be covering benefits of the program, eligibility requirements, how to apply, and through a series of webinars.
Please check back often for an updated schedule of upcoming webinars. We will be hosting webinars pertaining to the entrepreneur and Soft Landing open RFP’s.
Upcoming webinars will be held on:
February 19th, 2019 at 3pm EST – Register Here. This webinar will focus on the overall La Idea program and the entrepreneur RFP.
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 twelve 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 ten (10) cohorts, of a maximum 10 entrepreneurs each. RFP’s are currently open for both entrepreneurs and soft landing sites for the first 3 cohorts:
Includes small businesses that either provide business to business solution services or business to consumer services in technical fields such as Software, IT, fintech, engineering, architecture, digital media, etc.) (Cohort launches August 2019)
Includes Central American small businesses that involved in the processing, fabricating, assembly, or disassembly of items for commercial or consumer use. (Cohort launches September 2019)
Food & Beverage
Includes small businesses that produce food and beverage products or services. NOTE: Alcoholic beverages are not eligible. Illegal substances or food/beverage products containing illegal substances designated by United States law are ineligible as well. (Cohort launches October 2019)
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:
Technical Services Potential Topics:
- IP Protection
- R&D Opportunities in the US
- Understanding the US technical services markets
Light Manufacturing Potential Topics:
- Material Sourcing
- Break-event analysis for manufacturing
- Value chain management
Food & Beverage Potential Topics:
- US Food manufacturing and processing trends
- Food Safety Requirements
- Food value chain management and materials sourcing
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 technical services, light manufacturing and food & beverage industries, the U.S. Department of State and its partners, encourages you to apply to the 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 TECHNICAL SERVICES (July/August 2019) COHORT must submit complete applications by March 31, 2019. Selected participants will be notified by email of their acceptance in May 2019, 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 LIGHT MANUFACTURING (September/October 2019) COHORT must submit complete applications by April, 30 2019. Selected participants will be notified by email of their acceptance in June 2019, 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 FOOD & BEVERAGE (October 2019) COHORT must submit complete applications by April 30, 2019. Selected participants will be notified by email of their acceptance in July 2019, 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 100 participants (up to 10 per cohort) will each receive a (up to $2,800 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 twelve 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
- 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
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:
- Technical Services (planned cohort dates: July/August 2019)
Includes small businesses that either provide business to business solution services or business to consumer services in technical fields such as Software, IT, fintech, engineering, architecture, digital media, etc.)
- Light Manufacturing (planned cohort dates: September/October 2019)
Includes either Central American small businesses that are involved in the processing, fabricating, assembly, or disassembly of items for commercial or consumer use.
- Food & Beverage (planned cohort dates: October 2019)
Includes small businesses that produce food and beverage products or services. NOTE: Alcoholic beverages are not eligible. Illegal substances or food/beverage products containing illegal substances designated by United States law are ineligible as well.
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 $15,000 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, 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.