CREATE-X, in partnership with the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s (EI²) Medellín Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (GTMC), has rolled out its first international program in Medellín, Colombia, taking its mission to instill entrepreneurial confidence abroad.

EI² and CREATE-X staff travelled to Medellín in August to lay down foundations, identify faculty and program managers who could implement the CREATE-X program, and equip facilitators to carry the program forward. The week-long training took place at Universidad EIA. For the training, 80 students, faculty, and other interested facilitators gathered to learn.

“We had great participation from the local ecosystem, local corporations, local universities, and faculty and students who are excited about the opportunity that CREATE-X could bring to not only their city, but their country,” said Nakia Melecio, VentureLab principal, senior research faculty member at EI².

In March, the Georgia Institute of Technology, in partnership with twelve companies, four universities, and two economic development agencies, opened the first comprehensive innovation hub in South America. The center is led by EI², which has the goal of bringing private industry, higher education, and economic development organizations together to help grow economies. With the Medellín Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, Colombia joins Georgia Tech’s other international research activities including in Panama, Singapore, and China.

“Our goal with the Center is to be a nexus of collaboration and bring together the public and private sectors to support sustainable economic growth,” said Juli Golemi, director of EI2 Global, which oversees the Medellín Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center operations. “Bringing CREATE-X to Medellín will be critical to creating an ecosystem in which startups can flourish and thrive.”

Daniel Constable, program manager for CREATE-X wasn’t shocked by Medellín being chosen for the center.

“I lived in Medellín for six months several years ago, so I was already kind of familiar with the city. So, when I heard we were bringing our program there, I was excited to be involved in it. Even seven years ago, it was already becoming a place for digital nomads,” Constable said.

The main goal for the next five years is to create sustainable structures and programming, said Santiago Henao Restrepo, director of operations for the Medellín Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.

“To boost the startup ecosystem, we have to do it from different fronts,” Henao said. “Working with CREATE-X and other Georgia Tech programs will help us achieve that goal by giving our students the tools to create local capabilities through these universities in Colombia to boost the ecosystem.”

Brandy Stanfield-Nagel, program manager for EI², said the program in Medellín won’t be a copy and paste of the program on Georgia Tech’s Atlanta campus.

“We have to understand the local community, how things are taught, what are the values of the community and then adapt our methodology and pedagogy to the local community. One of the aspects that's unique about Medellin is that CREATE-X is not being taught on just one campus. It's pulling from several campuses.”

After training the future facilitators, CREATE-X opened applications for the first group to participate in Startup Lab, which aims to teach participants entrepreneurial essentials. It is part of the beginning segment of CREATE-X programming, Learn. The course in Medellín would be taught in English. Students wouldn’t be able to earn credits for the course, but they wouldn’t have to pay for it. Any student of any Medellín university could participate. Over 400 students applied to take the 9-week course. Out of that, 100 students were accepted.

Melecio stressed the importance of student entrepreneurship, which aligns with Georgia Tech’s principle surrounding championing innovation. 

“I think when you look at student entrepreneurship activity across the campus and not just across our campus, but across the country, I think everyone is seeing that the future has to be created, not discovered,” Melecio said. “I think that students play an extreme catalyst in creating the future versus waiting for it to be discovered.”

Viviana Montenegro, program manager for EI² and EI² Global, spoke of the wide-ranging impacts of the student’s entrepreneurship and their eagerness to do the work.

“The program is feeding the pipeline. It has an impact to many stakeholders,” said Montenegro. “It’s been rewarding for me to meet students that are so passionate and have so much potential.

“These startups can bring solutions to the community, but also can hire, or can have partnership with the corporate world and bring innovation to the universities,” Henao said.

In the future, CREATE-X plans to continue to expand outside of Georgia Tech.

“We are a thought leader in entrepreneurial education now, and we want to help everyone be able to provide entrepreneurial education to their respective campuses and achieve the type of success we've seen with CREATE-X,” Saxena said. “What Georgia Tech can help other schools understand is how to create in entrepreneurial culture on campus. I think the playbook on how to instill entrepreneurial confidence in students hasn't been written yet and is one that I think Georgia Tech has shown that it can do better than others.”

Eventually, Medellín students could have their own Demo Day to showcase their products or visit CREATE-X’s Demo Day on Georgia Tech’s campus. Looking forward, the Medellín program aims to launch 100 startups and to expand programming to contain the other segments of CREATE-X, Make and Launch, where students are developing prototypes and then bringing viable products to market. Outside of CREATE-X, the GTMC will also have professional courses, bootcamps, and an invention studio, among other things. And the students themselves are expanding beyond their borders. Even now, students are making connections with contacts in Atlanta through the GTMC.


For those interested in supporting the work being done in Medellín through volunteering, visit the GTMC website.