Ignacio Castro: Director, Community Leader, FinTech Executive, and SBW 2020 Speaker
Ignacio joins our Featured Startuper series this week, where we are excited to introduce you to some of our speakers and the work they’re doing in the space. Read on for a glimpse into the conversation at our upcoming Startup Boston Week 2020 event: Evaluating Entrepreneurship: Is Starting a Company Right For You? Ignacio is the Managing Director of the Boston Office at Founder Institute, where he coaches and mentors founders to help them shape their company's vision, go-to-market and business strategy, customer validation, MVP development, and fundraising. Ignacio is also an entrepreneurial technology professional with a successful track record of delivering complex large project portfolios for global organizations.
Ignacio radiates knowledge and passion for startup ideas. He is an expert information technology in the financial services industry and has a great deal of personal experience with building companies, honed into a superpower-level skill in evaluating entrepreneurship. While speaking with him, I was curious to find out more about his passion for helping entrepreneurs and how to determine if a venture is a right match for you. Alicia: What would you say has been the driving force behind your success? Ignacio: Entrepreneurship and technology have always been passions of mine. I’m originally from Costa Rica. I moved to Boston in 2010. While living in Costa Rica, I had a few different businesses—or let’s say startups. I was already bitten by the startup bug before I moved to Boston. However, being an entrepreneur is not necessarily for everyone and the timing wasn't always right upon moving to the United States. However, I continued to be involved with the startup community. I wanted to help entrepreneurs and startups in their journey and I did that by starting a small nonprofit back in Costa Rica. I started engaging with entrepreneurs and founders and tried to figure out how I could be of assistance. Eventually, I realized that I needed to help change their mindset and introduce them to different frameworks and tools which I was introduced to in Boston. While I was trying to figure out how to solve problems and introduce new frameworks and tools, I became aware of the Founder Institute. I engaged with them and together we launched in Costa Rica around 2014, and eventually, we launched in Boston. Now, we are about to start our sixth cohort! On success, it goes back to being an entrepreneur and being persistent. Persistence is knowing what my goals are, what outcomes I am looking for, and incentives at every stage of the process. In my case, I have an incentive that drives me. I want to build communities and to build a network to ultimately give back to my community.
Alicia: What is it about working with startups, specifically with startups launching technology-based companies, that excites you?
Ignacio: That’s where my skills lie and where I can give back and contribute. The other element that excited me is more around community building. When the Founder Institute launched in Boston, there was a lot of skepticism and people had different ideas of how things should be done. It’s interesting to see how the community reacts to startups. There might be skepticism but once you prove as an organization that you are serious and that have good intentions, a lot of doors start to open and the community starts to embrace you.
Alicia: Shifting gears a little, what are some of your hobbies outside of work? Ignacio: Well I love to spend time with my family. During the pandemic crisis, we have picked up kayaking as a new hobby. Otherwise, another hobby of mine is practicing martial arts and Jiu-Jitsu.
Alicia: What are some challenges you’ve seen individuals face when evaluating the viability of becoming an entrepreneur? Ignacio: As I mentioned before, entrepreneurship is not for everyone. At the Founder Institute, we run a pre-seed accelerator program that is geared to first-time founders. You may be a good candidate if you have great expertise in a specific industry and are eager to go out and do something on your own.
What our program does is immerse these first-time founders into what the startup life looks like. There, they can quickly realize if being an entrepreneur is right for them. It’s quite a hard program to go through but for us, we like to say that success is achieved if the person can realize what is right for them. It’s extremely hard when a person dwells on a dream of starting a company and they end up procrastinating or keep a certain level of frustration without knowing what they want. Our program helps entrepreneurs get a taste of what the startup world is right so they can adjust their strategies.
Alicia: What advice would have liked to have given to yourself at the start of your career?
Ignacio: I can admit that I was one of those people that dwelled on a dream for too long. When I was starting my career, I should have done right in even if there was a possibility to fail. I should have been one hundred percent committed. My advice to younger me would be, you just have to try! You have to do it. Go for it. Try to seek advice, try to learn as much as you can, and then take action. Nowadays, there's no excuse because there are so many resources. And even if you fail, it’s like they say: failing is just a lack of trying. So being able to learn from mistakes and improve as you go along is crucial.
Catch Ignacio at @icastrocr and Founder Institute @founding, and sign up for the Startup Boston Week 2020 lightning talk Evaluating Entrepreneurship: Is Starting a Company Right for You? at 2:00pm on Monday, September 21. See you there!