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Message from the Faculty Director
Columbia Business School
Director of the ECLA program
Back in 2007 when we first began thinking about a program for Latin American entrepreneurs at Columbia Business School I didn’t realize I was embarking on one of the most exciting trips of my career.
ECLA was generated by a group of professors who were interested in Latin America and entrepreneurship. It took us a couple of years to put it together, but in January 2009 we welcomed at Columbia 17 companies with 37 entrepreneurs coming from seven different countries. All these companies were different in size and scope and all 37 entrepreneurs were from different backgrounds, but they all shared two strong interests: Latin America and the desire to grow across borders, which are the essence of the ECLA program.
Columbia Business School has three focal points: entrepreneurship, internationalization and the implementation of theory with practice. Through ECLA we have embraced these focal points to create a program tailored to Latin America and to the entrepreneurial spirit. We have succeeded in fusing theoretical knowledge with concrete practice. Yet recognition is also accorded to the fact that entrepreneurs live and breathe their companies. They can’t be separated from them.
Now four years into the program and with two ECLA classes graduated, we are certain of the very positive impact the program has. ECLA companies are growing faster and advancing beyond their original markets, they are transforming themselves into highly competitive companies, they are continuously improving their businesses and are ready to expand across borders.
From the start, we knew we were launching something innovative and rewarding, but what none of us involved in the design of the program would have anticipated is that, as well as an exceptional program, we were also creating a large family. We haven’t merely provided a networking environment, but we have given birth to a family in which people don’t compete but help each other. ECLA is now about to form its third class and I am very pleased to see that the two first ECLA classes have strong ties, not only within each class but also across the two classes. Furthermore, they are now getting involved in the new class we are about to form. We have entrepreneurs from ECLA doing business together, helping each other to expand into new markets, investing into each other’s’ businesses, and, of course, building strong friendships.
The success of the program has motivated us to continue improving it. We have formed a knowledgeable advisory board with senior people from industry, faculty members, and successful entrepreneurs. With their feedback and enthusiasm, we are about to launch yet another unique initiative that will take ECLA a few steps further and will benefit both the school and the entrepreneurs.
For the faculty at the school, ECLA has become an energizing source of new ideas for teaching and research. Furthermore, it provides a challenging opportunity for professors to work with real companies and to develop cases and examples relevant in other classes.
We are very proud of what has been achieved with ECLA so far, and we very much look forward to continuing this wonderful program and expanding our ECLA family.
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