La Idea Incubator Project
Funded and initiated by the United States Department of State, the La Idea Incubator Project 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).
United States Department of State
In partnership with:
Program objective: Develop and Support Promising Central American Entrepreneurs
The La Idea Incubator Project 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. 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 Project 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 Project Informational Webinar
The La Idea Incubator Project 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.
Click below to view our previous webinar describing the La Idea Incubator Project.
Catapulting high-potential Central American entrepreneurs
The La Idea Incubator Project 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 closed for both entrepreneurs and soft landing sites for the following cohorts:
Includes small businesses that either provide business to business solution services or business to consumer services in creative fields such as art, graphic design, writing, fintech, advertising/PR, digital media, ITC, etc. (Cohort launches in spring/summer 2020)
Includes Central American small businesses that commercialize innovative technologies to improve manufacturing processes and/or systems OR small businesses that utilize advanced manufacturing techniques in the processing, fabricating, assembly, or disassembly of items for commercial or consumer use. (Cohort launches in spring/summer 2020)
Tourism & Culture
Includes small businesses involved in the sale of goods and services focused on a local/regional tourism market with export potential or goods and services that emphasize the local culture. (Cohort launches in Spring/Summer 2020)
Farming & Agriculture Technology
Includes small businesses that develop innovative technologies and products that improve the production capabilities or quality of products in the farming, agricultural and food production industries. (Cohort launches in Spring/Summer 2020)
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 but will not be limited to:
Creative Services Potential Topics:
- Invoicing/financial management for creative services/independent contractors
- • Identifying customer pipelines and industries
Advanced Manufacturing Potential Topics:
- Innovative production process
- Using advanced materials in manufacturing
- IP protection in manufacturing
Tourism & Culture Potential Topics:
- Understanding the US tourism market
- Trends in the US tourism market
- Supply chain management
Farming & Agricultural Technology Potential Topics:
- Food safety standards in the US
- Innovations in farming and agriculture
- Agriculture distribution channels in the US
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 creative services, advanced manufacturing, tourism & culture, or farming & agriculture technology industries, the U.S. Department of State and its partners, encourages you to apply to the La Idea Incubator Project. 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 project 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 project. (Please see full selection criteria instructions and expectations of participants to the right).
Applications are currently closed.
For any applicants interested in future cohorts, applications will resume soon.
Selected participants will be notified by email if they have been accepted as a finalist. This process may take several weeks, but will enable them with enough time to complete and fulfill necessary Visa and/or passport processing prior to attending their relevant boot camp in the US.
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 Project. 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 $1,000 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:
- Creative Services (planned cohort timeframe: spring/summer 2020)
Includes small businesses that either provide business to business solution services or business to consumer services in creative fields such as art, graphic design, writing, fintech, advertising/PR, digital media, ITC, etc.
- Advanced Manufacturing (planned cohort timeframe: spring/summer 2020)
Includes Central American small businesses that commercialize innovative technologies to improve manufacturing processes and/or systems OR small businesses that utilize advanced manufacturing techniques in the processing, fabricating, assembly, or disassembly of items for commercial or consumer use.
- Tourism & Culture (planned cohort timeframe: spring/summer 2020)
Includes small businesses involved in the sale of goods and services focused on a local/regional tourism market with export potential or goods and services that emphasize the local culture.
- Farming & Agriculture Technology
Includes small businesses that develop innovative technologies and products that improve the production capabilities or quality of products in the farming, agricultural and food production industries.
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 Project?
New applications for upcoming cohorts will open soon.
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.
Train the Trainer Program
The Train the Trainer program, Forming Catalysts, seeks to develop business support skills through a virtual and face-to-face program in order to inspire, educate and prepare the next generation of entrepreneurs in Central America. The program offers the opportunity to boost entrepreneurship in the region through the empowerment of new generations of change agents.
A new generation of entrepreneurs stimulates and generates confidence in economies, helps address unemployment and fosters innovation in all industries and sectors. The leadership of new entrepreneurs becomes the inspiration for others, inspiring further entrepreneurship and creating meaningful societal impact.
The Forming Catalysts program will be carried out throughout 2020 and 2021 and consists of both virtual and face-to-face training, with four cohorts of 35 participants each:
- Honduras – May to August 2020
- El Salvador – June to September 2020
- Guatemala – December 2020 to March 2021
- Costa Rica – April to July 2021
Currently, applications for the Honduras (May – August 2020) and El Salvador (June – September 2020) cohorts are open.
MSME Care Centers (CAM), business development service providers, advisors and mentors of entrepreneurs from all Central American countries are eligible to participate in any cohort.
The content of the program will focus on:
- Techniques that enable efficient facilitation and mentoring
- Business skills development
- Cultivate the business and innovation mentality
For more on eligibility and selection criteria, or to apply before March 27:Click Here