“We believe that the next economic revolution will come from innovation promoted by the entrepreneurs,” says Ezequiel Calcarami, a mobility/transportation entrepreneur and the Vice President of non-profit, ASEA (The Association of Entrepreneurs of Argentina). “But in Argentina’s government instability, lack of funding, societal attitudes and mountains of red tape are getting in the way.” ASEA saw this as an opportunity to gather all entrepreneurial communities and entrepreneurs – no matter the industry or stage, to act as one-voice and address government issues. “The only way we can change circumstances in Argentina is if we join together,” affirms Ezequiel.
ASEA is a quasi-entrepreneurial lobby started in September of 2014. Already, they’ve gathered 1,200 entrepreneurs and by year-end they expect to reach 10,000. By joining together, ASEA hopes to show the value of entrepreneurs to the Argentine community and economy. In Chile, ASEA’s sister organization ASECH, has already cut down red tape and increased funding for entrepreneurs. For example, in Chile you can now open a business within 24 hours (as opposed to several months). Here in Argentina, ASEA is still young but is looking to make a huge impact fast.
For example, they’ve created the ASEA Bill that addresses barriers to entrepreneurs in Argentina including a simplified model for limited companies, the entrepreneurial corporation that can be created with one partner and the endorsement of limited taxation for the first five years of the company’s existence. “We’ve had meetings in government to get it passed and have been discussing our cause with all presidential candidates (general elections occur in October 2015),” notes Francisco Torres Vidal, COO of ASEA. “We are trying to generate value for entrepreneurs and Argentina as a whole.”
While Ezequiel notes that Argentina is an important country in terms of generating new and creative entrepreneurs, “it’s not pro entrepreneurship.” Bureaucracy is a huge problem. For example, to form a company, the government makes entrepreneurs jump through hoops to receive clearances and some activities are double or triple taxed. “It could take months to form a company,” says Ezequiel. “It’s tough and it’s distracting for an entrepreneur who needs to focus on his business.” Furthermore, lack of available funding from both private investors and the government makes it difficult to accelerate or even start a company. “Just getting a credit card or checking account at a bank as an entrepreneur can be tough. The banks don’t want to take the risk,” states Ezequiel.
And it’s not just the red tape and lack of funds that inhibit entrepreneurial growth; it’s also the society’s attitude towards failure. “In the US, failing in business is part of the entrepreneurial process,” says Ezequiel. “You still cheer for failures because you know that the entrepreneur will be better prepared for success next time. But in Argentina, that’s far from the case. Argentines love to flock to the winners but run away at the sign of failure. To fail is to also fail socially.”
Over the next five years, ASEA hopes to be at 100,000 members. “At 10,000 members the government and the people might listen to us. But at 100,000 members the government and people MUST pay attention,” says Ezequiel. “We are an ecosystem of entrepreneurs. We are trying to change Argentina for the better. It is not going to be easy, but together we can change things.”