LATAM IN GERMANY: meet Andres Felipe Macias
LATAM in Germany is a new interview series and section, especially designed to highlight the EMERGE21 platform, both aiming to support Argentinian, Chilean, & overall LATAM founders and startups to strive their scaling into new markets, with a focus of having Hessen and Germany as an entrance point into Germany, Europe and the world.
Frankfurt Valley as a Media Partner, will highlight different leaders and founders, whose stories and records should inspire and motivate other LATAM stakeholders to join us.
Today, we bring to our virtual stage Andres Felipe Macias — Andres Felipe Macias heads the start-up center of the Goethe University Frankfurt and is the founder of the EdTech StartUp Whinker. He is also a mentor of various start-up projects in the Rhine-Main region as well as Latin American start-ups.
Andres, could you let your reader know what your roots are? Where are you actually from?
I´m from Yopal — A midsize city in Colombia but I also lived a couple of years in Bogota, the capital city of Colombia and now I live near Frankfurt.
What brought you to Frankfurt — Hessen?
While studying economics in Bogota I realized that the offer of language courses and cultural exchange programs was very small. This is how I decided to start my own company: Interaktiv Explora el Mundo. The company provides culturally immersive education through language, travel, cultural exchange and academic programs.
The first program we offered was the Au Pair program. The Au Pair program is an international cultural exchange that gives the possibility to young people to spend some time abroad, learn more about a different culture, and improve their skills in a foreign language in exchange for help with duties related to childcare. Explora el Mundo was one of the first agencies in Colombia offering the Au Pair program.
While working at Explora el Mundo I had the opportunity to meet people from different countries and get in contact with new cultures. One day I wanted to have a cultural exchange experience myself and so I decided to travel and live in Europe for 12 months. After this experience I was fascinated by the European culture so I decided to move to Frankfurt and continue there with my studies. And I’ve been here since then.
What are you currently working on? Do you think our region is the perfect spot for you right now?
I am the Head of the Entrepreneurship centre of the Goethe-University Frankfurt (Goethe-Unibator). The Unibator Startup Program serves to systematically foster and accelerate accepted startups. Our program combines elements of successful startup accelerators with the longer-term perspective of established incubator concepts for up to 18 months. Furthermore I am also involved in other ventures like Whinker. With Whinker we aim to “close the gap” between developing and developed countries by widening overall access to education.
For 10 years the Rhine Main Region has been my home and I always felt very welcome. I have to say that the best part about living in Frankfurt is that I’m right in the middle of Europe. I can drive to a lot of countries within a couple of hours! It’s amazing!
How much have you been involved in Innovation and Entrepreneurship locally and globally?
As I said before I am the head of the Goethe-Unibator. We work closely together with other universities, initiatives and institutions like the TechQuatier to promote Entrepreneurship in the region and to provide support for entrepreneurs to achieve their goals. I also support different Entrepreneur networks in LATAM like the case of Mango Casanare.
As an Expat or Foreigner — how was your experience and things you overcame to be where you are today?
I came directly to Frankfurt and started to study at the Goethe University, where I met very interesting people, who helped me to start my own network. I think the most difficult thing in Germany is the bureaucracy. You have to learn to deal with it and be patient. Another adjustment was to remind me to do grocery shopping on Saturday because nothing is open on a holiday or a Sunday (some restaurants and gas stations are open on Sundays, but that is all.)
If you could mix the best of both worlds, what would be the top skills you would mix from both sides of the Ocean (LATAM and Germany)?
I would combine the German discipline with the Latin American flexibility and passion for entrepreneurship.
Can you share some tips or stories with other LATAM Founders that are about to take the leap to start business in Germany-Europe?
Be patient. You may find it tough at times in Germany. The culture can seem closed, the people reserved and the weather can feel very hostile. But hang in there, the people are very genuine and you will eventually make great friends. Another advice: learn German beforehand. Most people speak English, but it’s really helpful to have a basic level of the language at the beginning.
To close the interview, we invite all our readers to discover the initiative fromAHK Argentina — Cámara de Industria y Comercio Argentino-Alemana together with Mainstage Incubator and Hessen Trade & Invest GmbH: