A number of Argentine entrepreneurs who have managed to crystallise their projects into successful companies – even "unicorns," in some cases – share the same cradle. In Buenos Aires, it’s known that many of these game-changing businessmen were trained at the Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires (ITBA), a great developer of local talent.
Luis Paolini directs Business Management at ITBA. During an interview with Perfil, he analysed a phenomenon that helped to shape the entire founding group of Tiendanube and the developers of Mural and Auth0. Many of the top names at Ualá and Mercado Libre are also products of ITBA.
“What I think we do well is having a profile of students who think and are especially curious,” said Paolini, adding that every year many want to enter the course but do not always make it.
“It’s not an academic question because there are top students with very high grades who do not get in, indeed 50 to 65 percent don’t,” assured Paolini.
Of course, this number is pretty limited, especially in relation to other universities.
“A course might have 30 students, which is very few compared with elsewhere, but the 30 who graduate are monsters,” he said proudly.
As for what is offered at an academic level, Paolini indicated that “this year, for example, we have added Cryptoeconomics, something which does not exist in Argentina nor in the region. You have to prepare these people to be in the vanguard. That adds value,” he asserted.
A boom of unicorns?
In relation to the new boom of Argentine "unicorns"(privately held startup firms valued at over US$1 billion), many of which emerged from ITBA, Paolini explained that the trend is not only local but worldwide, and that’s not only due to any one phenomenon but to a series of variables.
“There is a critical global cycle leading states to relieve the situation with enormous masses of money flowing from central banks. Some spend and others save. When in the form of savings that money flows somewhere, very probably often ending up in investment funds," explained Paolini. "In the last 15 years the entire world has not been profitable with interest rates rock-bottom and even negative, making people seek profitability in startups."
The academic assured that investment is in fashion in Latin America, highlighting: "Important funds are looking here as a region of the future because they see greater potential in terms of consumer markets or economic growth, in other words, the funds which have been making the difference since last year are placing their focus on the region."
"There are cumulative factors and also an element of luck," said Paolini, who previously worked in the Mural startup which he helped found. “Neither Tiendanube nor Mural would have been what they are without the pandemic," he said, when speaking of their success.
Paolini lists those factors as vast volumes of money in the world, a lack of investment opportunities (with very depressed interest rates), the focus on the region and an element of luck.
"The one thing behind all these startups beyond their different founders, is their ultra-resilience and their technical excellence," he considered.
Asked as to the whys of their local birth, he added: "Argentina is a test market, serving to see how ideas work and including the ingredient of being able to work with excellent human resources, even the best in the region. It’s like a test track before going out to the region," he said while recognising that in order to be successful in Latin America launching out into Brazil, the "great [regional] market", will be necessary at some point.
ITBA: Finding out more
The Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires (ITBA) has just announced that registration for its Licenciatura en Gestión de Negocios business management degree, as from next March, is now open.
According to Paolini, the proposal combines the business world with technology and a flexible study plan: "The plan places its focus on business and technological training with 30 percent of the content selective throughout the programme. The students can thus deepen their knowhow in areas like technology and data, finances and cryptoeconomics, entrepreneurship, product and service management, marketing and public relations.
“The degree recognises the current nature of business with technology present as an integral component. It is levered on the prestige and teaching style which distinguishes the ITBA with the idea of training the business protagonists of the present and future, professionals with a global, holistic, systematic and adaptable outlook on different cycles.”
ITBA also offers degrees in Business and Social Analysis, Bio-engineering, Electronic, Industrial, Computer and Mechanical Engineering, Shipbuilding and Petchems.
For more, visit https://www.itba.edu.ar/.