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What would you advise a college freshman who's looking to develop startups in the IT sector?

I'm a college freshman studying information systems and I have always been fascinated by the things many I.T. companies do and how they've changed the face of the business world. I see a huge market in e-commerce in Latin America and am curious how can I go about this order to make it real. Also what kinds of problems do you see in the I.T. world that should be addressed. I know I'm young and have a lot to learn. Any advice will be greatly appreciated

6 Replies

Paul Morris
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Paul Morris Entrepreneur
Director Global Accounts at Berry Plastics
you could have great products that consumers want, and the same for an IT e-commerce platform. But your biggest challenge in Latin America will be distribution, as the infrastructure is in poor shape and very strained. Keep that in mind before your invest. Or outsource that to a logistics firm who is well established in each country or region.
Jonathan Hercules
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Jonathan Hercules Entrepreneur
Student at University at Buffalo
Interesting, latin america is mostly made up of small businesses too and I think that if the small businesses have a platform where they can connect with other businesses or sell their products then they can grow more as well.
Joshua Adams
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Joshua Adams Entrepreneur
Instructor Saint Leo University
Jonathan, E-commerce has such a potential in society. The ability for a local community that manufactures small trinkets to access a global market is amazing. The first thing to do is identify a need in that area. Ask, is there something you can provide (service or product) that someone needs or wants and then do it more effectively and efficiently than someone else. For example, if it is rural area, can you provide goods to a hidden community that doors not venture out... There are some many possibilities. However what ever you do, security of days if essential. It is important to identify what you consider sensitive data and the worth of that data. Hope this helps. There's so much more we could talk about. Josh
Warisul Islam Sohel
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Warisul Islam Sohel Entrepreneur
Founder insprivo.com
Jonathan,
I am also a student. Living in Bangladesh. I also have same plan like you but not interested in latin america. As Mr #Paul Morris
said it will be difficult for distribution. security issue, all things you have to keep in mind. I am planning to target in europe zone. Not same thing that other people sells. Different but daily usable products will be the best option
Paul Garcia
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Paul Garcia Advisor
President at TABLE
Jonathan,
As a region Central and South America face many challenges for e-commerce that aren't present in North America. The biggest difference is that only 1 in 5 adults has a credit card, and even then most prefer to pay with cash. Transaction approval rates are around 75%. And fraud is 40% higher than in North America. Reliable delivery is an even bigger challenge. Many companies refuse to do business where packages are stolen, lost, or not delivered because of the cost. Currencies have also fluctuated wildly in many of these countries which means that between the date of the transaction and the date of settlement, there can be significant losses just due to shifts in currency. These are all huge disincentives to e-commerce.

E-commerce works best when all systems are reliable and everyone uses them, but in countries where 80% of people still keep money in their mattress, e-commerce is still a huge risk and dream.

Soooo, rather than David's one-word response "don't" I'm offering you more reasons why not to pursue this particular risk fraught path. Instead, try your ideas somewhere there's infrastructure to support you and you don't also have to build and dominate the infrastructure.

If you plan to build a business somewhere outside the US, live there first, get to understand the local economy and uniqueness of shopping habits, and then consider how you might tackle the endeavor. Outside looking in you will more than likely fail because you must rely on assumptions that are only anecdotal.

As a freshman, get yourself on a path to improve the following skills of writing and accounting. Those are typically two shortcomings for new entrepreneurs. If you know your numbers well, and can articulate your thoughts clearly in writing, you have a better chance of getting any idea noticed.
Joseph Wang
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Joseph Wang Entrepreneur
Chief Science Officer at Bitquant Research Laboratories
Try to start your own business. It could be doing anything, but if you want to work with startups, it helps a lot to have at least try to do a startup.

Get local knowledge. If you've lived in Latin America for a long time, and you see a missing niche, then go for it. If *don't* have deep knowledge of a location then get deep knowledge of a location. One problem that people have in doing business in China is that people assume that it "should" work the same way as the United States, and it just doesn't.

This is true for any part of the world, and you shouldn't go in with the notion that things "should" work in a certain way. First understand why things do work the way that they do. It turns out that language skills become critically important, and if you don't understand the language of a place, then learn it. Also courses in history and the politics of a region are also useful.

The other thing is that any global exposure is good even if it's not Latin America. For example, if you spend two years living in Japan, you'll find that people just do things in a different way, and that will help if you are doing business with Latin America because at least you know that types of questions that one can ask.

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